A new flight academy will be constructed at Texas Southern University, and Houston City Council members have approved a $5.5 million investment into the facility.

What happened

At a Dec. 13 meeting, Houston City Council members unanimously approved the use of $5.5 million for the Texas Southern University Flight Academy, with the funding coming from the city's Airport Improvement Fund. The move comes roughly seven months after Houston City Council approved a memorandum of agreement between Houston Airports and Texas Southern University for the facility that spans five years.

The 2-acre school will be located at Ellington Airport, 11602 Aerospace Ave., in southeast Houston. At the Dec. 13 meeting, council also approved a lease agreement with TSU at the site for a period of five years. In recognition of TSU's standing as an academic institution, the city is charging a reduced rent of $60,000 per year, according to agenda language.

At the Dec. 13 meeting, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said TSU's pilot program has already attracted students from all over the U.S.

Zooming in

In a Dec. 13 news release following council's approval of the funding, TSU officials said the new school will seek to "address our nation’s critical aviation needs," forecasting a need for 60,000 airline pilots by 2035. In a separate forecast, the management consulting firm Oliver Wyman has estimated a shortage of 13,305 pilots in North America by 2032.

In the release, Mario Diaz, director of aviation for Houston Airports, referenced how Ellington Airport has been used for training in the past, including as a training airport for pilots during World War I and for NASA astronauts.

The details

TSU offers a professional pilot program and has nine aircraft available, according to the release. The new facility will feature:
  • A 24,000-square-foot aircraft hangar that will be able to accommodate 15 Class 1 airplanes with future room for Class 2 airplanes
  • 11,000 square feet of aircraft apron
  • 4,200 square feet of office, training and classroom space
  • An 8,000-gallon above-ground aviation fuel tank
  • An area for vehicle parking
What they're saying

“This new facility is a major step toward Texas Southern University becoming the premier destination for training pilots and aviation professionals of the future,” TSU Interim President Mary Evans Sias said in a statement. “We look forward to the future aviators who will come through these doors and leave prepared to seize the opportunities in aviation, which we know are only increasing. We are deeply appreciative of the city of Houston for making this investment into TSU, and we know the return on this investment will be worthwhile.”

What's next

Following council's approval of the funding, TSU officials announced a ceremonial groundbreaking will take place at the site at 11 a.m. Dec. 19 at 11210 Blume Ave., Houston.

Under the contract approved by council, construction will begin in May 2024 and is slated to run through May 2025, according to the release. The project will be carried out by Flintco Construction.

Council member Martha Castex-Tatum said she hopes the city's investment emphasizes the importance of the project to state officials as TSU seeks state funding.