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$5 Million Allocated to UMass Amherst for R&D Center at Westover

CHICOPEE — Gov. Deval Patrick recently released a business plan on growth opportunities at Westover Airport, outlining numerous steps the Commonwealth and Greater Chicopee region can undertake to grow the economy in Western Mass. and to support the mission of Westover Air Reserve Base (ARB), the joint user of the military and civilian airfield.

As a result of the plan’s findings, Patrick announced four initiatives to benefit the Westover region, including the proposed creation of a UMass Amherst Research, Development, and Training Center in Chicopee.

“Westover Airport and Westover Air Reserve Base are two stellar assets with so much potential for smart growth,” said Patrick. “To support the region’s economy and potential for more private and commercial air service, I commissioned this report to look at a wide variety of options. I’m pleased with the team’s effort and with UMass Amherst’s plan to open a research, development, and training center in Chicopee to tap into the innovative minds in the city and region.”

Patrick has allocated up to $5 million to UMass Amherst to support the creation of a research and development partnership program at Westover ARB. This funding would be used to lease and renovate a vacant Westover ARB building to establish a National Aeronautics, Research, Development, and Training Center with UMass Amherst as the lead institution.

UMass Amherst is in the process of partnering with NASA on several innovative research projects leveraging promising new technologies to promote efficiencies, safety, and economic growth in aviation. This research would be performed at the proposed center by UMass Amherst and its industry partner M2C Aerospace, a Massachusetts-based, woman-owned small business.

The Commonwealth’s funding leverages $15 million in private investment and sponsored research to be conducted by UMass Amherst and benefiting federal agencies. This site would also host a school to train air-traffic controllers and pilots and provide aviation-related courses for the next generation of researchers and engineers to develop future technologies. The proposed aeronautics center will also serve as a nexus for government and industry to collaborate on future aviation initiatives. The Westover site will house state-of-the-art laboratories, including a high-fidelity, 3-D, simulation-based training capability that meets the FAA’s requirements for certifying air-traffic controllers at U.S. aviation facilities.

A significant number of air controllers in the New England region are expected to retire in the next 10 years, which will increase the demand for a modern educational facility. This approach could be adapted for new civilian controllers, which — in combination with the transitioning military controllers — would help alleviate the FAA’s shortage of certifiable controllers and allow for joint military training with Westover’s staff.

It is estimated that this partnership could generate millions of dollars annually in research, education, and training from a combination of government agencies, such as the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as the aviation industry. This fall, Patrick celebrated the grand opening of the UMass Center in Springfield, and the Chicopee site will add to its already-strong educational assets in Western Mass.

“This partnership involving UMass Amherst, NASA, and industry will address vital national needs in the aviation sector and help revitalize the Western Massachusetts economy,” said UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, who also serves as a member of the Military Task Force. “This is a perfect match for our role as one on the country’s top research universities, applying our expertise to enhance the safety of air travel and foster economic opportunity.”

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