ALTUS — Helicopter maker Sikorsky Aerospace Services plans to open a flight training and maintenance academy here in the former Quartz Mountain Aerospace facility, adding more than 50 jobs to the local economy.
Expected to open in April, the Sikorsky Training Academy initially will focus on providing Black Hawk helicopter training to foreign militaries. The first group of students is from the United Arab Emirates, said Sen. Jim Inhofe, who spoke during the announcement Friday.
About 400 people attended the event.
“I see this as the beginning of something really good for southwest Oklahoma,” Inhofe said.
Sikorsky, based in Stratford, Conn., said Altus, near Fort Sill, provides several hundred square miles of operating space for the academy, certified landing areas and certified night vision routes. The weather in Altus is also well-suited to flight training schedules, Sikorsky said.
Paul Jackson, a spokesman for Sikorsky, said the company is hoping to tap into a pool of retired military pilots in Altus to fill instructor positions. The center will employ 75 to 100 people when fully operational and could be expanded in the future.
Sikorsky has partnered with Altus-based Aviation Training Consulting to operate the academy.
Hiring for the academy has begun and will ramp up next week, said Robert Cox, chief executive officer of Aviation Training Consulting. Instructor applicants are very highly qualified military retirees; the company also will be looking to fill aircraft maintenance, administrative and security positions.
The firm plans to lease the 100,000-square-foot hangar, located at Altus Quartz Mountain Regional Airport, from the city. He said $100 million worth of helicopters will be brought to the academy as well as full flight simulators made by Flight Safety International in Broken Arrow.