July 6, 2023

Aviation training to expand at Nashua Community College.

Bolstered by grant funding and industry support, NCC plans new programming.


NASHUA – Nashua Community College is seeing a renaissance of aviation education with the revitalization of the original Aviation Technology program, and plans to launch air traffic control and airport management pathways by fall 2024.

“The bottom line is that it’s a growing program,” said Douglas Mitchell, professor and program coordinator of Aviation Technology at NCC. “We received federal grants, we’re hiring another full-time faculty member, we’re physically expanding in every way; we’re expanding programs, and expanding options for students.”

Earlier this year, NCC received a workforce development grant from the FAA for $459,000 in addition to a Department of Education’s Fund for Improvement for Postsecondary Education grant (FIPSE), earmarked by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, for $782,000.

“The funding has had a huge impact,” said Mitchell, adding that the money has allowed the program to update training equipment for students and create scholarship support.

“Previously, every student had to buy $3,000 worth of tools, and the FAA grant had $90,000 set aside for tools. With discounts, I was able to get 40 tool sets, which will arrive by the end of July. We will get the word out to all the student coming in that they don’t have to worry about tools,” said Mitchell.

The funds will also go toward 20 new computers with interactive virtual tools for aviation education. 

Industry Support

Mitchell and Vice President of Academic Affairs Robyn Griswold said industry partner support was crucial in bringing Aviation Technology back from its 1-year hiatus and getting new programs off the ground.

“We have a program advisory board with key industry players, and our partners have expressed interest in donating equipment and their time,” said Griswold. Program advisory boards typically comprise local industry representatives who help guide curriculum and keep training aligned with best practices.

Not only have partners contributed their time, but the program has received valuable donations. This spring, NCC received a wing and landing gear from PlaneSense out of Portsmouth, as well as a Cessna 172 from a private individual in Concord, Debby Tamborella, who inherited the craft and sought out a school to accept the donation.

Career Pathways for Aviation Technology

New talent is in high demand, said Mitchell, “There’s definitely a need – just about every type of maintenance is hurting, it’s a national shortage. It’s a matter of an aging workforce; there are fewer people going into it, but there’s a major need.” View local career opportunities online.

New programs

Last fall, NCC brought back the Aviation Technology degree and certificate that prepare students for maintenance careers and to test for their A&P (Airframe and Powerplant) License with the FAA. “Doug and his team totally revamped his curriculum,” said Griswold. “the new curriculum is much more innovative and integrated with FAA standards.” NCC is an FAA-approved training facility.

Coming up for fall 2024, NCC is preparing to offer Air Traffic Controller and Aviation Management associate degrees. On campus, the aviation team is setting up space for the air traffic control simulators, a glass cockpit, and a simulator for avionics. Avionics concerns the maintenance of electrical systems in aircraft.

“Right now, we’re adapting the four-year coursework from SNHU into a two-year associate degree,” said Mitchell. Southern New Hampshire University adopted the Air Traffic Controller program from Daniel Webster College of Nashua, which shuttered in 2016. As SNHU planned to move away from offering the program, NCC stepped up to offer the degree in Nashua.

The air traffic control pathway earns graduates a CTI (Collegiate Training Initiative) certificate, which reduces time students must spend taking their final FAA training in Oklahoma to earn their license. All prospective air traffic controllers undergo the FAA training in Oklahoma for certification.

“If you get a CTI certificate, it cuts down on the time you need to be in training, and it makes it more likely you will be hired by the FAA; it gives you a leg up,” said Mitchell.

The airport management associate degree is another high-need area, with career opportunities locally at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, and Logan Airport.

“The faculty are incredibly passionate, we couldn’t do this without the dedicated cadre of professors, retired air traffic controllers, who are passionate about the program, we’re so lucky,” said Griswold. “We’re envisioning NCC as the aviation training center of the region.”

Prospective Students

Students of all ages and backgrounds enroll at NCC, but one target audience is former military servicemembers and experienced civilian technicians who need to complete their credential. The NCC team is developing an abbreviated “bridge program” to get experienced technicians and servicemembers over the finish line.

“And then there’s folks who want to switch careers. They work all day, but want to take the entire program in the evenings. Currently, it’s a day program,” said Griswold.

“We’re thinking about bridge programs and evening opportunities, stay tuned,” said Mitchell.

Get Involved

Aviation Technology is enrolling students in its certificate and associate degree pathway now for fall 2023. Tour the aviation lab and meet faculty and staff during the Industry & Transportation Open House on Thursday, July 20 from 2-6 PM.

Youth enthusiasts can sign up for an Aviation Technology summer camp the week of July 24. The half-day camp is open to rising 6th-12th grade students. Scholarship funding is available, details at nashuacc.edu/summer-camps.

About Nashua Community College

Since 1970, Nashua Community College has been successfully meeting the educational needs of Greater Nashua by delivering a high quality two-year, post-secondary education. The college partners closely with area industries that provide students with a unique perspective in their fields of study, allowing for a real-world experience to further their academic journey. Students can choose from a variety of associate degree, certificate, and career training programs. Nashua Community College is a member of the Community College System of New Hampshire. The seven community colleges in the system are committed to working with businesses throughout the state to train and retain employees to develop a robust workforce across all sectors.  Learn more at nashuacc.edu.