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February 22, 2024 | In The News

Steube supports building an aerospace program at Charlotte High School

YOUR SUN — U.S. Rep. Greg Steube promised $2 million in federal support for an aerospace hangar and classroom at Charlotte High School.

On Thursday, Steube pledged to support the Charlotte County School Board, Charlotte County government, the Charlotte County Airport Authority and economic development officials for a one-of-a-kind aviation program at the school campus.

The Charlotte County School Board recently asked Florida legislators for $1.5 million toward the aviation assembly and fabrication project on the CHS campus.

Once built, high school students will learn aerospace, aircraft manufacturing, quality control, Federal Aviation Administration regulations and other avionic skills.

They can earn three credit hours toward an associate of science degree in professional pilot technology, and nine credits toward an AS degree in aerospace technology.

Charlotte County School Superintendent Mark Vianello said the program would actually begin at the middle school level, where younger students could begin learning about aviation to help “spark interest.”

Steube said this collaboration should become a national pilot program. He said using federal funds to help build the hangar on the school campus is an example of being a “good steward” of taxpayer dollars.

“I haven’t seen programs like this, which I think are great,” Steube told a crowd of about 50 administrators and Charlotte County dignitaries during the presentation at Charlotte High School. “Kids in high school would have the opportunity to to do this type of training.”

Given the current political environment in Washington D.C., Steube said, it’s going to be a challenge to obtain the earmarks for construction funding.

Steube said the program will bring high-paying jobs for students when they graduate with an aviation background. The average salary for an aircraft mechanic is $64,150.

“Our students can immediately enter the workforce equipped with highly sought-after skills,” Vianello said. “This flexibility ensures our students can navigate their individual path to success while helping build the talent pipeline at various exits.”

Vianello said it would take up to two years to complete the hangar/classroom on the campus once all funding is in place.

“Our vision of the airplane hangar is not merely about teaching students,” he said. “It’s about preparing them for a world that increasingly relies on aviation and space exploration. By investing in this project, we are investing in our country’s future — offering students a world-class education that open doors to high skill, high wage and high-demand careers.”

Punta Gorda Airport CEO James Parish said the airport is growing with nearly 2 million passengers a year, driving the need for pilots and airline mechanics.

Those jobs, he said, can eventually be filled by students who graduate from this program once it is up and running in Charlotte County.