Kansas Gov. Celebrates Growing Wichita Aviation Sector

September 8, 2021 by Dan McCue
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly delivers remarks at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita. (Photo courtesy the governor's office)

WICHITA, Kan. — Gov. Laura Kelly visited McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita on Wednesday to celebrate the latest development in the city’s historic and still rapidly growing aviation sector.

Hours earlier, Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research took possession of its first Boeing 777-300ER passenger aircraft, which students in the institute’s maintenance repair and overhaul program will now convert into a freighter for an unidentified e-commerce and express cargo client.

“There is no better state than Kansas to take full advantage of this project – the opportunity is tailor-made for our state and our aerospace assets,” Kelly said.

“My administration will continue to be a strong partner to NIAR and the Kansas Modification Center as they pursue this program that will strengthen our aviation sector and boost our economy. We’re excited to see this project move forward and become just one of the many reasons Wichita is known as the Air Capital of the World,” the Democrat said.

The work on the Boeing aircraft is being carried out in conjunction with the Kansas Modification Center, a newly formed business aimed at meeting the sector’s growing need for MRO and conversion programs.

It will own the aircraft supplemental type certificate and license each of the conversions that it carries out.

At the same time, the 777 conversion program will provide unique applied learning opportunities for WSU engineering and WSU Tech airframe and powerplant mechanics students.

“This is a rare opportunity for students to gain experience working on an industry program alongside and under the guidance of NIAR’s seasoned team of experts,” said Dave Jones, director of National Institute for Aviation Research. “Our engineers have the unique chance to pass their combined 7,500 years of experience in design, production and testing on to the next generation of aviation professionals.”

Wichita State University Tech President Sheree Utash called the project and those that will follow, “an exceptional chance for the students to gain practical, real-world experience, working under the mentorship of experienced engineers and licensed mechanics.” 

For Kelly, the collaboration is even more than that. She said it reflects the vision set forth in the state’s economic growth plan, and will “create new opportunities for commercial aviation while demonstrating the world-class sophistication of our state’s aviation experts.” 

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