WATERTOWN, S.D. (KELO) — The old Watertown Regional Airport terminal used to be filled with travelers and luggage.
Today, you’ll find students and backpacks inside the facility.
That’s because it now houses part of Lake Area Tech’s Aviation Department.
Student Kendall Fogarty is on the professional pilot track.
“I really like it. Before we were on campus and we moved out here a few weeks ago,” Lake Area Tech student Kendall Fogarty said.
The college is leasing the space from the city.
“It’s really cool to think about all the flights that came out of here too and also seeing all the airplanes leaving in the mornings,” Student Kendall Fogarty said.
“That’s the neat thing about it. We’re in an old terminal building. It’s just fun,” Aviation Department supervisor Greg Klein said.
The move comes as the college is seeing growth in its aviation program.
Aviation Department supervisor Greg Klein says this year brings the largest class of first-year professional pilot students ever for the college.
The aviation maintenance program is also seeing strong numbers.
It’s a good time to get into the industry too.
“There’s so many opportunities right now. I mean there’s big companies like Boeing and the airlines and places like that that have been predicting the shortage and the shortage is here. There’s a shortage of pilots and there’s a shortage of mechanics,” Klein said.
Students like Fogarty and Trey Stroup will help fill that need.
They both want to be airline pilots someday.
Stroup took an interest in aviation after going to Disney World with his family as a kid.
“When we came back I remember just looking out the window, looking at the wing thinking, ‘That’s pretty cool.’ So I came home and started doing a little research on airplanes and years later here I am,” lake Area Tech student Trey Stroup said.
Meanwhile, Fogarty drew inspiration from her parents who are both pilots.
“It’s truly a unique experience, being able to do it. You gain a lot of confidence during it too, being able to realize that you can do that on your own too,” Kendall said.
Klein says they won’t be in the terminal permanently.
He says the plan is to eventually have a new facility.