Liberty University has announced preliminary plans to build a new facility for its school of aeronautics at Lynchburg Regional Airport to make room for its growing flight school.

The proposed facility would provide additional space for its pilot training program, which has grown from four to 300 students in the past eight years, said the school’s dean, Dave Young, on Monday.

It also would house LU’s aircraft mechanics training program, which was launched in January on property Liberty owned at The Plaza shopping center that has since been sold.

 “The university has experienced growth and we’ve been a part of that,” Young said of the school of aeronautics. “The demand for pilots and aircraft mechanics and other aviation jobs is on the increase and will continue … over the next 10 to 15 years.”

The proposed facility still is in its infancy. Liberty has not yet completed site drawings and does not have an estimate of how much the project will cost, Young said.  It is envisioned as a two-story structure with 40,000 to 50,000 square feet.

Once the designs are complete, Liberty must submit them to the airport commission for approval, said Lynchburg Regional Airport Director Mark Courtney. The project also must undergo a three- to six-month environmental assessment and gain approval from City Council before construction could begin, Courtney said.

Courtney said Liberty’s expansion would make a positive impact on the airport’s infrastructure.

“Any tenant that needs more space and wants to expand and grow by investing in additional hangar space like this is a very positive thing for everybody involved,” Courtney said.

In 2007, Liberty announced plans to build an aviation complex that never got off the ground, Young said. The plans were scrapped when Liberty decided to purchase the Falwell Aviation Jet Center early last year, a for-profit company that provides charter and fuel services at Lynchburg’s airport.

“When we designed the original facility, we had no inkling Falwell Aviation would approach us about purchasing the company,” Young said.

The purchase of Falwell Aviation included the lease of a 55,500-square-foot facility that provided extra classroom space for Liberty’s flight school.

“It was a great investment, not only because of the facilities but it gives us the uniqueness of being able to provide maintenance support for our aircraft … Then, in addition, it’s a for-profit company that gives students opportunities to learn in a real-world environment, and it’s a revenue source to support our flight school.”

Liberty already has outgrown its current facilities, prompting the need to expand, Young said.

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