Officials gather at Chennault for Aviation Day

By By Lance Traweek / American Press

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 scheduled 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.

A representative from the newly relocated AAR Aircraft Services spoke at the venue.

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 at the news conference. On

Tuesday, the company will begin processing the first 40 employees with

orientations to follow each subsequent day, Martinez

said.

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 Sowela will train workers

and funnel

future employees to AAR and other aviation companies. The state

gave the school $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 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.

Mayor Lawrence Henagan noted that people may forget how much an airport means to a small city like DeQuincy.

“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

a part 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.”