The UMass Amherst Transportation Center’s (UMTC) $4.75 million, state-of-the-art aviation research and training center officially opened at Westover Municipal Airport in Chicopee with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 26. In attendance were Gov. Charlie Baker, Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, UMass President Mary Meehan, UMTC Director Michael Knodler and a number of state and local officials. The facility’s aeronautical research capabilities, flight simulator and other features will help address needs critical to the future of air transportation.
A highlight of the 8,500-square-foot UMTC Aviation Research and Training Center is a high-fidelity simulator that provides a 360-degree, 3-D experience of being in an air traffic control tower. The simulator will provide opportunities for cutting-edge aviation research and training programs with military and civilian applications and serve as the northeast region’s training hub for people pursuing careers in air transportation, including air traffic control. Construction of the facility was completed in 2021 but its full use was delayed by the pandemic.
“As the industry continues to evolve, this center will provide the next generation of aviation professionals with the best we can offer in training and research and will serve as the model for how we can embrace new technology in order to accelerate the creation of new opportunities for both employment and innovation,” Baker said.
“This new aviation training center will support a critical workforce need in the air traffic control profession, as well as bring UMass students and faculty to this new vibrant airfield where future partnerships and research will flourish,” Knodler said.
The facility was built in part through the support of a $5 million grant provided to the university by the Massachusetts Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force (MASS-TF). In addition to the Commonwealth’s financial commitment, the Buehler Foundation provided $500,000 to procure the simulator.
“By creating the Aviation Research and Training Center, the UMass Amherst Transportation Center is educating the next generation of scientists, engineers, and aviation professionals. We’re conducting critical aeronautical and unoccupied aerial systems research. And we’re engaging with society by providing training for air traffic controllers, pilots and airline operators," Subbaswamy said. "The university continues pioneering discovery to advance the common good and this center will be felt throughout the commonwealth and beyond. In celebrating this exciting facility, we witness the power of bringing together infrastructure funding from the state; academic talent from the university; and steady and growing sponsored research support from Washington.”