January 6, 2016 : By Drew Menard
Liberty University is the new owner of New London Airport, a public-use airport located just over 10 miles from campus in Bedford County. The university closed on the property Dec. 22 at a price that met the objectives of both parties.
The airport opened in 1958 on a site shared with the New London Dragway, and races are scheduled to continue this year.
Liberty plans to operate the site as a general aviation airport, maintaining an environment where veteran pilots can trade stories while younger ones learn to fly. The university also plans to utilize the airport to support its School of Aeronautics.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to grow and develop our academic program in order to provide exceptionally qualified professionals to meet the ever increasing demand of the aviation industry,” said Dave Young, Liberty’s assistant provost for aeronautics education.
Plans include relocating the headquarters for Liberty’s Flight Training Affiliate (FTA) program to the New London Airport. The FTA program — wherein students across the country can log flight hours at a qualified FTA location while earning a Bachelor of Science degree online — currently includes over 40 affiliates across the nation. The site may also be used to host regional, state, and national conferences and seminars.
“We see this as an opportunity to craft an environment that not only supports general aviation in Central Virginia, but will attract aviation-related businesses to the region and support economic development,” Young said.
The airport will serve as a lab-type environment where students can receive hands-on opportunities to employ aviation skills. These experiential opportunities will help grow and develop the School of Aeronautics’ Aviation Maintenance Technician and Unmanned Aerial Systems programs.
Though the facility will be used primarily for aviation, Liberty is also exploring opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration with departments such as the School of Engineering & Computational Sciences and the School of Business. Plans are to create a “center for excellence” where students from different departments can collaborate within the context of a functioning business.
“We will be able to create a learning environment where students are able to practice the skills they learn in the classroom, making them even more sought after to fill critical aviation positions,” Young said.
Liberty owns and operates its own fixed-base operator, Freedom Aviation, which brings in revenue for the school and gives aviation students access to industry experience.