Flying Tiger Aviation will expand in Northeast Louisiana, creating a contemporary flight training center for aerial applications in agriculture and other industries. As part of an $847,000 capital investment, Flying Tiger Aviation will relocate from Rayville, Louisiana, to the Morehouse Memorial Airport in Bastrop, Louisiana.
At the Bastrop airport, the company will construct 20,000 square feet of hangar space, a 5,000-square-foot maintenance hangar and a 150,000-square-foot expansion of the tarmac. The project will create 21 new direct jobs. In partnership with Louisiana Delta Community College’s campus in Bastrop, located near the airport, the project will create the Louisiana Aerial Application Center of Excellence.
“Flying Tiger Aviation is a leader in agricultural aviation training, with 90 percent of its students coming from other states and even international locations,” said Kelsey Short, Executive Director of Louisiana Economic Development’s Business Expansion and Retention Group. “With the establishment of the Louisiana Aerial Application Center of Excellence at Louisiana Delta Community College in Bastrop, this facility will be poised to become a pre-eminent provider of aerial application flight training, not only in the field of agriculture, but also in other emerging sectors. Louisiana’s talented workforce and strong business climate continue to encourage companies to invest in our state, where today more Louisianians are working than ever before.”
Construction at the Morehouse Memorial Airport in Bastrop will begin in November 2014, and Flying Tiger will begin the relocation to Bastrop from Rayville in March 2015. The company expects hiring to begin soon after the relocation, reaching full employment by the end of 2016. Operations will begin in Bastrop by mid-2015, but LAACOE will begin coursework earlier, in September 2014.
Flying Tiger is one of only two major agricultural flying schools in the U.S. Founded by Co-owner Edwards Barham in 1998, the school provides aviation training, FAA certification, ratings and endorsements for row-crop, forestry and other applications, such as firebombing to control and contain fast-spreading fires. The company offers courses for beginning as well as advanced pilots.
“Northeast Louisiana has the demographics that make it an ideal location for the intersection of agriculture, aviation, engineering and information technology,” said Flying Tiger Aviation owner Mo Rolfs, who also serves as COO. “The region has a rich history in all of these areas with the first aerial application flight occurring here. The largest concentration of aerial application pilots in the world is in the Delta Region. There is simply no better place for the end-to-end development of the science of aerial application to include the use of unmanned aircraft for precision agriculture.”
Louisiana Delta Community College, combining with Flying Tiger Aviation’s resources as an agricultural aviation leader, will partner with company leaders to develop standardized instructional courses for pilots. LAACOE will be the first program of its kind to feature training for manned and unmanned aerial application systems that support agriculture and other fields, such as the oil and gas industry. Unmanned aviation vehicles, for instance, can be used for pipeline safety and surveillance work.
Louisiana Economic Development began working with Flying Tiger on a potential expansion project in May 2014. To secure the expansion, LED offered Flying Tiger a competitive incentive package, including a $575,000 Economic Development Award Program grant that will be used by the airport to complete $275,000 in new hangar construction and $300,000 in tarmac upgrades for the project. Flying Tiger Aviation also is expected to utilize the state’s Enterprise Zone program.
“It is great to see individuals recognize the value of assets that we have available to aviation-related business,” said President/CEO Kay King of the Morehouse Economic Development Corp. “Flying Tiger Aviation will facilitate our airport in becoming a viable asset in the development of technology-based jobs for Bastrop.”