Southwest Louisiana airport officials gathered Monday for a news conference at Chennault International Airport, declaring it Aviation Day in the region.
Proclamations were made by the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury and the City of Lake Charles.
“We’re very proud of the aviation industry in Southwest Louisiana,” said Mayor Randy Roach.
The event had updates from the regional aviation sector and was utilized as a promotional tool for the upcoming Chennault International Airshow, which is set for Sept. 28-29.
Randy Robb, executive director of Chennault, said expansions continue at the airport with construction well underway on the 118,000-square-foot Hangar H and the welcoming of AAR Corp.
Danny Martinez, AAR vice president of technical services, said the company has already begun hiring former Aeroframe workers.
“How appropriate is it that AAR begins its operations in celebration of Aviation Day ... remembering our anniversary here will not be difficult,” Martinez said.
Martinez said the company will begin processing the first 40 employees today with orientations to follow each subsequent day.
Robb mentioned one of the critical links to new jobs is the training of workers.
Dr. Neil Aspinwall, Chancellor of Sowela Technical Community College, talked about how the school will train workers and funnel future employees to AAR and other aviation companies. The state gave the Sowela $3.7 million in conjunction with AAR’s announcement to invest at Chennault.
“We’re gearing up to not only transform our aviation program but also transform it into something that is world-class,” Aspinwall said.
Heath Allen, executive director of Lake Charles Regional Airport, said Southwest Louisiana is fortunate “to have a great system of airports.”
Allen also touted the economic impact of Era Helicopters’ presence at the regional airport, home to more than 350 jobs.
DeQuincy Mayor Lawrence Henagan said people may forget how much an airport means to a small city.
“It enables us to have a lot of jobs and help bring jobs to the community,” Henagan said.
Michael McDougall, who has been director at Southland Executive Airport in Carlyss since January, said he was excited to be apart of the aviation community, especially since Southland celebrated its 25th anniversary over the weekend. The airport recently changed its name from Southland Field.
Martin Thompson, with Northrop Grumman, said he wants the public to remember that airplanes are built — not just maintained — in Southwest Louisiana.
“The vision of our corporation is to be the nation’s most trusted provider of systems and technology to help ensure the security of the United States of America and its allies,” Thompson said.
He said the more than 500 employees at Northrop Grumman take a lot of pride in what they do.
“What we do is important to the nation,” Thompson said. “We’re proud to be here.”