State and local officials at Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts celebrated the opening of the UMass Transportation Center’s Aviation Research and Training Facility, which is equipped with the technology that creates new research opportunities in a variety of fields including unmanned aircraft operations and air traffic control.  Attendees celebrated the completion of the project to reconstruct Runway 05-23, a critical piece of infrastructure that will ensure Westover will remain a key facet of the US Air Force’s network of bases for the long term.

“As the industry continues to evolve, this center will provide the next generation of aviation professionals with the best we can offer in training and research, and will serve as the model for how we can embrace new technology in order to accelerate the creation of new opportunities for both employment and innovation,” said Governor Charlie Baker.    

The new 8,500-square-foot facility was built in part through the support of a $5 million grant provided to UMass Amherst by the Massachusetts Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force (MASS-TF). In addition to the Commonwealth’s financial commitment, the Buehler Foundation provided $500,000 to procure the Air Traffic Control Simulator.  

The simulator, which has 360-degree capabilities, will provide opportunities for aviation research and training programs with military and civilian applications. In addition, the center will serve as the training hub for the northeast region for people pursuing careers in air transportation including air traffic control.  

Governor Charlie Baker, Congressman Richard Neal, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, and MassDevelopment President and CEO Dan Rivera attended the opening of the training center. Following the event, officials also celebrated the completion of the complete reconstruction of Westover’s Runway 05-23. Spanning the distance of approximately 2.2 miles, Runway 05-23 is the third longest military runway on the east coast of the United States. The reconstruction project was critical to Westover’s successful shift in operations to accommodate the C-5M, the model aircraft used by the Air Force’s 439th Tactical Airlift Wing. The complete reconstruction was accomplished as a result of approximately $31 million in federal funding.

Westover is the nation's largest Air Force Reserve base and is home to more than 5,500 military and civilian workers. According to a recent UMass Donahue institute study, the base contributes over $380 million to the Commonwealth’s economy and accounts for over 8,000 jobs.

“By creating the Aviation Research and Training Center, the UMass Amherst Transportation Center is educating the next generation of scientists, engineers, and aviation professionals.  We’re conducting critical aeronautical and Unoccupied Aerial Systems research. And we’re engaging with society by providing training for air traffic controllers, pilots, and airline operators," said UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy.  "The university continues pioneering discovery to advance the common good and this center will be felt throughout the commonwealth and beyond. In celebrating this exciting facility, we witness the power of bringing together infrastructure funding from the state; academic talent from the university; and steady and growing sponsored research support from Washington.