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Centennial College Centre for Aerospace and Aviation at Downsview Campus progressing well

by Gord McNulty, with files from Centennial

A state-of-the-art Centre for Aerospace and Aviation on an iconic site at the Downsview Campus of Centennial College continues to make impressive progress. On Oct. 11, a CAHS contingent including Toronto Chapter President Sheldon Benner, CANAV Books publisher Larry Milberry and I were among guests who attended an exclusive reception and tour of the $72-million project.

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In a “topping off” ceremony, students, staff, dignitaries and guests were on hand to sign a steel I-beam before it was hoisted and incorporated into a new hangar that forms the central feature of the rejuvenated former headquarters of de Havilland Canada.

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The project includes a hangar large enough to accommodate today’s commercial jets, as well as new classrooms, laboratory space, workshops, offices and a library. The campus is slated to open in the fall of 2018, giving Centennial access to working runways for the first time in its 51-year history.

Centennial currently trains about 300 aircraft and avionics technicians at its Ashtonbee Campus hangar in Scarborough. By comparison, the 138,000-square-foot Centre for Aerospace and Aviation will have enough instruction space to accommodate 900 students annually.

The project, designed by MJMA/Stantec (Architects in Association), involves repurposing the historic de Havilland building, at 65 Carl Hall Road, with selective demolition and new construction. Training and research facilities at the campus will include structural labs (sheet metal/airframe assembly), a composites lab, two aircraft hangars, and engine shops (turbine/piston).

Funding support included the federal government contributing $18.4 million in Strategic Investment Funds; the Ontario government provided $25.8 million; Centennial College and its partners and donors contributed $11.2 million.

Centennial views the project as the first step towards creating an aerospace training and research hub to develop new technologies in Ontario --- an ambitious goal that was first outlined in a 2012 federal review of Canada’s aerospace industry.

The new campus will anchor the Downsview Aerospace Innovation and Research (DAIR) Consortium, which is working to maintain Canada’s ranking as a major aerospace supplier to the world. DAIR brings together the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies, Ryerson University and York University, as well as industry partners Bombardier, Safran Landing Systems, MDA, Canadensys, Pratt and Whitney Canada, FlightSafety, Honeywell and UTC Aerospace.

The historic de Havilland Canada facility built 1,134 examples of Britain’s remarkable D.H. 98 Mosquito light bomber, photo reconnaissance aircraft and night fighter, the versatile “wooden wonder” that was instrumental during the Second World War. The company then produced its famous line of post-war civil and military aircraft, from the DHC-1 Chipmunk through to the Dash 8 series which evolved into today’s highly successful Bombardier Q400.

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Downsview Site

As speakers noted during the reception, Centennial could not have chosen a better location for its newest campus in building on the rich aviation heritage of Downsview. There is palpable excitement as the Centre will soon open new opportunities for high-tech employment and innovation in aerospace and aviation, helping among other things to make the next generation of aircraft lighter and more efficient.

The CAHS is linked to Centennial through the Douglas MacRitchie Memorial Award presented to a deserving student in the College’s Aviation Technician (Aircraft Maintenance) program. We extend best wishes for the success of the Centre as Centennial builds on an incredible tradition of Canadian aviation excellence.

For information: Jim Passant, Program Co-Ordinator, jpassant@centennialcollege.ca / 416-289-5000, ext. 7510