Selma's Craig Field could get flight training program - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Selma's Craig Field Airport could get flight training program

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SELMA, AL (WSFA) -

Selma's Craig Field Airport could come buzzing back to life as the home of an introductory flight training center if a new contract is secured.

Friday, Science and Engineering Services, LLC., which is in the bidding process for the International Pilot Training contract, announced that it has selected the airport in Dallas County as its preferred pilot-training site. The corporation contracts with government agencies and international Allied countries.

The International Pilot Training program will provide flight screening and support services for up to 300 students annually, according to a release issued by the Selma and Dallas County Economic Development Authority.

"It was big for us for a lot of reasons. Number one, it'd be 300 students going through the program and probably close to another couple of hundred support jobs, people training the pilots, up to 75 airplanes and helicopters to do this. Craig will become a very busy place," said Wayne Vardaman Sr., Executive Director of the Selma & Dallas County Economic Development Authority.

Known as Craig Air Force Base until its closure in 1978, the property was once the home of the 29th Flying Training Wing, which trained Air Force pilots. After the base's closure, it was renamed Craig Field Airport and converted to civilian use.

"This was an Air Force pilot training base beginning in 1941. During WWII, this was sort of an induction center or tent city. You'd come here and get your shots and equipment and then head to basic training. As the Army air corps evolved, it became a training base and it was until 1977 when the government chose to close it. In 1978, the city and county government and local citizens came together and we were able to obtain the property from the federal government. Since then, we're the largest industrial park in Central Alabama," said Menzo Driskell, Executive Director of Craig Field Airport and Industrial Authority.

SES is headquartered in Columbia, MD but its main business sector is located in Huntsville. The company employs 750 people and says it is "engaged in design, maintenance, repair, overhaul, training and integrated logistics support on aviation and ground system and services."

The contract is expected to be awarded in fall 2014, and if SES wins the bid, Craig Field will be the single location for the program.

"It could be a game changer for Dallas County and Selma. It has the scope of work and the amount of capital investment," Driskell added.

Pilots in the program would be trained on fixed wing and rotary aircrafts- helicopters, jets and prop and cargo planes. 

If the SES corporation and Craig Field Airport are chosen for the international program, officials say training could start as early as January of 2015. 

"We feel good about being selected in the end and it would mean a lot to the community," Vardaman told WSFA. "It will be good for the community in terms of economic impact and I think it will be great for this area because of the symbolism of having a training facility again."

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