Transportation Education Center halfway completed

By Gus Bode

Nick Carter, left, of Evansville, Ind., builds a water tank Tuesday alongside Aron Wright, of Jasper, Ind., on the construction site for the SIUC Transportation Education Center, a new building which will serve students in aviation management and flight, aviation technology and automotive technology. The construction is 50 percent complete. — Lauren Leone | Daily Egyptian

As a construction observer surveyed the partially completed Transportation Education Center roof, he said he is ready for the project to be finished.

Mike Capelle, the project’s construction observer, said he has worked on the project even before breaking ground in Dec. 2009. He said the TEC is now 50 percent complete and construction for the project has used 50 percent of the money. He said the two often don’t match up.


Paul Sarvela, vice president for academic affairs, said the building will bring the departments of aviation management and flight, aviation technologies and automotive technology to one location. The automotive technology program is currently located in Carterville, the aviation technologies program is at the airport and the flight and management programs are on SIUC’s campus.

The center will be a group of buildings that shares a common site, each designed for specific purposes. It will include classrooms, offices, laboratories, office buildings, a fleet storage building, an auditorium and a detached test cell structure.

Capelle said the $65 million facility, funded by the state capital development budget and located at Southern Illinois Airport in Murphysboro, is on track to be substantially completed by July 17, 2012, when aviation and automotive faculty and students will be allowed to use the center. He said a majority of the workers involved are from the southern Illinois area.

“It is always good to keep business close to home,” he said.

Sarvela said one reason the center was developed was to help with the southern Illinois area’s economic development.

“There will be so many trained technologists and people in the aviation and automotive programs that we hope will attract local industries as well as big companies such as Boeing Company or one of the airlines or also large car manufacturers that might want to build a parts plant here,” he said.

Sarvela said it is hard to get Federal Aviation Administration approved airframe and power plant technicians, but the university has more than 160 students training to do that now. He said with the addition of the TEC, companies could bring their planes to the area and have student workers do repair and maintenance.


Capelle said the center has also incorporated many green qualities so they can receive incentives from the state. He said the goal is to reach a certified silver classification from the state. During the project they have been recycling materials and using geothermal energy, there are skylights over the classrooms and a white roof was used to reflect solar radiation.

Terry Owens, dean of the college of applied sciences and arts, said a majority of the main building will be used for automotive technology.

The new building is substantially more advanced than what the automotive technology department is housed in now, Sarvela said. The facilities for the department were built in 1938. The portion of the TEC will have demonstration rooms where the cars can be lifted up and the students can view underneath.

A detached building can store up to 92 cars, Capelle said, while the rest of the departments estimated 150 cars will be used in class work.

Owens said the main building, hallway to hallway, is measured equivalent to the length of five football fields.

Owens said there are rooms in the main building for simulation for the aviation flight program and weather dispatch areas. He said air traffic control is a new specialization added this semester to the aviation management program because their will be additional air traffic control simulators in the new center.

A building specifically for test cells of the aviation departments will allow for an aircraft engine to be put on a rack and run inside the cell in a safe area, Sarvela said. He said the engines are currently put in a hanger and, although that works, the test cells will be a safer environment.

“These tests cells are going to enhance our teaching significantly and will increase our research for aviation technology,” Sarvela said.

He gave the example that if faculty in agriculture work on biofuels with colleagues in chemical engineering and come up with a  new biofuel, it would be a good aviation fuel and could be tested on the ground first before taking a plane up to test it.

Capelle said the center used to be just farmland and over a short period of time it was all changed.

“We are right on schedule of where we need to be,” he said.