December 4, 2023

TSU is literally flying high

The Greater Southeast Management District is home to the only university in Houston that offers a bachelor of science degree in aviation science management.

At Texas Southern University, the Department of Transportation Studies has nine planes, which are flown from Ellington Airport. The most recent acquisition is a new Cessna 172S. The tail number is N927TS, which Terence Fontaine, TSU’s executive director of aviation points out, pays homage to the university. TSU was founded in 1927.

The degree program’s concentrations include aviation management, professional piloting and unmanned aerial systems.

The program began in 1986 and the pilot program started in 2016. It now has 156 students. It’s the only one in the state to earn international accreditation from the Aviation Accreditation Board — and only the second Historically Black College or University to be so accredited.

Black men only represent 2.4 percent of pilots and Black women only make up 0.6 percent of the industry, according to TSU.

At Ellington, the program will start early next year on construction of a 22,000-foot hangar and a 7,200-square-foot office building with classroom space. The two-acre space will also include a 12,000-gallon above-ground aviation fuel tank and a parking area. Houston City Council this year approved a five-year agreement with TSU for the expansion.

The city runs the airport.

“The City of Houston is proud of its partnership with Texas Southern University, and we are excited to witness the aviation students’ education and careers take flight,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
“The air transportation industry in Houston and across the United States is growing and provides career opportunities for those with the skills needed to succeed. This project also will transform lives and help students prepare for the future.”

The City will invest $5 million to build the facility and charge the university a reduced rate of $60,000 annually for operations during the five-year period. Beyond that, TSU will pay market rates for use of the facility.

“Houston Airports is honored to invest in and inspire the next generation of aviation professionals,” said Mario Diaz, Houston Airports director of aviation. “The facility at Ellington Airport continues the illustrious story of Houston’s aeronautical history. More than 100 years ago, farmers watched the U.S. Army carve runways through rice fields so the nation’s first pilots could train for World War I. Decades later, NASA chose Ellington Airport to train (astronauts) for the Apollo lunar landing. Soon, students at Texas Southern University will apply the crucial lessons learned at Ellington Airport to revolutionize the aviation industry.”

In addition to the city’s investment, “we appreciate the unwavering support our program has received from President Lesia Crumpton-Young, Regent James Benham and the entire board of regents to get us to this point,” Fontaine said. We are honored to be the first tenants in this new lease space. This opportunity provides an enhanced environment for student learning opportunities as we work to address our nation’s critical aviation needs. Furthermore, it provides space for our fleet of eight aircraft to be housed inside and protected from weather conditions, thus allowing us to preserve them for extended use.”

— by Marene Gustin