Published March 26, 2012
The first Cecil Spaceport Development Summit, held Monday, March 26, to familiarize aerospace executives and elected officials with Cecil Airport’s advantages, featured a keynote speech by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and panel discussions on workforce and industry issues.
Cecil Airport on Jacksonville’s Westside is one of the first in the nation designated a Spaceport and will be at the forefront in developing the private and commercial space industry.
Here are condensed remarks from Dr. Juan Merkt, director of the Davis Aviation Center at Jacksonville University, who answered questions as part of a panel on issues related to Northeast Florida’s workforce and educational resources:
What educational resources are needed to develop workers with the skills needed to support the space industry at Cecil Airport’s Spaceport?
The space industry, even more so than aviation, is high-risk, with narrow safety margins and razor-thin profit margins. At Cecil we will need to determine the skills the space workforce must have to maintain high standards of safety, reliability and efficiency. Education must address professional competency; regulatory compliance; the “triple” bottom line of people, profits and planet; and critical thinking.
What industry training partnerships can be brought in by local educational institutions to support Cecil Spaceport?
These partnerships will be critical in developing the workforce for the space industry at Cecil. They provide hands-on learning via internships and other industry agreements, and they offer advanced training that would otherwise not be available.
Jacksonville University’s aviation program is a good example, offering the following partnerships and intern programs:
- Aerosim Flight Academy: A unique training partnership between a private university and an airline academy that lets us offer an airline-standardized training program for future airline pilots. Aerosim, the parent company, is a global manufacturer of aerospace and airline training equipment and simulators. It is building a $500,000 state-of-the-art passenger jet simulator for JU. The Bombardier CRJ700 simulator will have similar performance characteristics to the Space Shuttle Training Aircraft, a modified Gulfstream II business jet used by shuttle astronauts for re-entry and landing training.
- Southern Aero Medical Institute: This allows students to participate in high-altitude physiological training in a hypobaric chamber.
- Airline Training Orientation Program: This lets students experience flying Boeing and Airbus full-flight simulators at several airline training centers.
- European Business School/Lufthansa Airlines: This exchange program provides students top-notch aviation management courses at one of Germany’s premier business schools. They can also conduct research projects at Lufthansa Airlines headquarters.
- Tshwane Technical University, South Africa: JU is helping the largest university in South Africa set up its first aviation management program, which will be essential in training aviation professionals needed to support the growing tourism industry in South Africa.
- Multiple agreements with major and regional airlines to provide internship opportunities for students.
What critical assets does your agency or institution offer to enhance the economic development of Cecil Spaceport?
- The Davis Aviation Center has expertise in risk management and business management education, and offers an aviation curriculum founded on the four core competencies referenced earlier (professional, regulatory compliance, triple bottom line, and critical thinking).
- In 2006, the Davis Aviation Center developed a successful undergraduate course on Aerospace Business Management, drawing from the collected experience of executives in local aerospace businesses in North Florida and Georgia. In 2007, due in part to the success of this initial effort, Jacksonville University became a member of the Lean Aerospace Initiative, a volunteer consortium between industry, government and labor participants working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to research, develop and promulgate knowledge, principles, practices and tools to enable and accelerate the transformation of the greater U.S. aerospace enterprise to reliably and efficiently create value and rapidly adapt to change. In 2010 we had some early conversations with Space Florida to develop a joint Center for Aerospace Business Management. In addition, Jacksonville University is interested in developing a master’s degree in aerospace business management tailored to provide business knowledge and skills to engineers working in management positions in the space industry.
- In addition, JU’s new Sustainability degree program draws from multi-disciplinary expertise and assets needed for conducting environmental impact studies.
More information: Dr. Juan Merkt, director, Davis Aviation Center at Jacksonville University, (904) 256-7894, firstname.lastname@example.org