CENTENNIAL, Colo. – Like California’s Silicon Valley, Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum is looking to develop “Aerospace Alley” at the Centennial Airport.
A 15-acre campus is under construction, with a completion date of Summer 2018, into 2019.
The idea of this aerospace "mecca" was recently backed by Governor John Hickenlooper, Harrison Ford, and Boeing.
Denver7 spoke with Wings Over the Rockies President and CEO John Barry about what the new campus would entail.
“The new facility, called ‘Exploration of Flight,’ will be focused on the present and the future for air and space,” Barry said. He added the Air and Space Museum would continue to explore the history of aviation.
The new campus would include two new galleries. Namely, the Boeing Blue Sky Aviation Gallery and the Ozmen Black Sky Gallery.
The first phase of the ambitious $24 million project by Wings will be the 18,000-square-foot Boeing Blue Sky Aviation Gallery.
This interactive gallery has a summer 2018 completion date and will showcase the present and future of aviation.
One major draw to the Blue Sky gallery includes the potential for real-life airtime. But plans would require guests to make reservations in order to take a ride in the sky.
The second phase will likely be completed sometime in 2019. The Ozmen Black Sky Gallery will focus on the final frontier, the solar system and space travel. The Black Sky gallery is estimated to take up 12,000-square-feet when completed.
Roughly 50 people will be employed, either part-time or full-time, once the two projects are completed.
Aside from the galleries, opportunities for education, flight operations, and certification possibilities are also expected.
“This is going to be a wonderful opportunity to continue to have Colorado at the leading edge of aerospace development,” Barry said.
He said a major piece of the project is the independently operated aerospace-focused charter schools that would occupy the space as well.
He explained both middle and high-school students would be served through on-site classes.
“This is not an elitist, ok, profession,” Barry said. “Any child, at any grade level, any kind of poverty background or socio-economic challenges can be part of this.”
Currently, Colorado is already the second highest employed aerospace state in the nation, only behind California.
Exploration of Flight would be a Launchpad for the younger generation to continue that trend.
“You may not know this, but you can get your pilots license before you can get your driver's license,” Barry added.
“You can be a pilot, you can be a mechanic, you can be an air traffic controller,” he said. As the saying goes, “The sky’s the limit!”
Barry continued to talk about the campus’s national and international implications, and highlighted the problems we’re seeing across both.
“Our problem that we have in this country -- and it's not just the U.S., it's international -- is the shortage of pilots, and aircraft mechanics, and air traffic controllers, and engineers and even flight attendants,” he said.
Barry credited Boeing when he added that 32,000 pilots are going to be needed on an international level by 2019 alone.
He said the lack of aviation personnel is directly connected to baby boomers retiring.
“Our 15-acres is not going to stop the incomplete shortage of aircraft pilots, aircraft mechanics, air-traffic controllers. But what we can do is we can serve as a model, that this whole thing can be replicated in any city and any state,” he said.
For more information on the project, or to donate to the Exploration of Flight campus expansion, click here .
“We're going to make history for the state of Colorado for aerospace,” Barry added.