New Chukchi Campus aviation wing to provide regional workforce development

Photo by E. Robert Mackey
Chukchi College director Asik Pauline Harvey and Pete Pinney, acting vice chancellor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, try out the new flight simulator that will be used to train pilots in the Northwest Arctic region. The flight simulator is housed in Chukchi’s newly constructed aviation wing.

John Creed and Susan Andrews

Chukchi Campus, the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ community campus in Northwest Arctic Alaska, could be training new pilots as early as this January after completion this fall of a $1.8 million construction and renovation project that includes a brand-new aviation wing.

Chukchi officially opened its newest addition earlier this month with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Kotzebue. The new facility includes a flight simulator, additional classroom space, and alternative energy systems designed to conserve energy for the college while delivery locally centered alternative energy education.

The new wing’s main focus is regional workforce development.

Alaska’s Northwest Arctic Borough, a mostly roadless, remote region about the size of the state of Indiana, relies heavily on small private and commercial aircraft for its in-region transportation needs.

“We will be training local pilots for aviation jobs in this region,” said Asik Pauline Harvey, director of Chukchi College.

“As for homegrown pilots, they know the local terrain and weather conditions,”
Harvey said. “And we also badly needed new classroom space on this small campus.”

UAF’s Chukchi College works closely with local partners, including the Alaska Technical Center, a postsecondary institution administered by the Northwest Arctic Borough School District, Maniilaq Association, NANA Regional Corp., and the local business community, said Harvey.

“The University of Alaska is moving forward in workforce development here on many fronts, not just in aviation,” she said.

The U.S. Department of Education underwrote the $1.8 million expansion as part of “Title III” grant monies designed to increase academic quality at higher education institutions serving low-income students nationwide. Renovations include a new ventilation system and upgrades of the aging facility’s electrical system.

In addition to a flight simulator and other added classroom space, the funding also helped install renewable energy systems. Chukchi will continue to sponsor community training in cutting-edge renewable energy techniques, according to UA officials.

To date Chukchi has installed 16 solar panels to reduce Chukchi’s electricity costs, along with a climate-controlled room for battery and other alternative energy equipment storage, Harvey said.

Chukchi’s alternative energy project is experimenting with alternative energy systems tied to existing grids with battery storage as well as off-grid systems with battery storage for eventual use at, for example, outlying, off-the-grid subsistence camps, according to Harvey.

Lead contractor for Chukchi’s latest improvements was UIC Construction, which specializes in remote building projects in Alaska. Project designer was Nvision Architecture Inc. of Anchorage.