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Aerospace Centre flies past constraints

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by Warren Frey

A new aerospace centre will give students a chance to reach for the skies, thanks to some ground-level engineering know-how.
The new BCIT Aerospace Technology Campus will be located at the gateway of the Vancouver International Airport and will span 300,000 square feet.
The new BCIT Aerospace Technology Campus will be located at the gateway of the Vancouver International Airport and will span 300,000 square feet.

Aerospace

The BCIT aerospace centre’s proximity to Vancouver International Airport demanded engineering ingenuity

Staff Writer

A new aerospace centre will give students a chance to reach for the skies, thanks to some ground-level engineering know-how.

The British Columbia Institute of Technology’s new Aerospace Technology Campus, currently being built on 12.2 acres at the gateway of the Vancouver International Airport, will span 300,000 square feet and will expand training and skills development. Current demand for skilled graduates in BC’s aerospace industry has created a lengthy enrolment waitlist, and the new centre will take some of the pressure off while providing a venue for industry partners to engage in applied research.

But before the new centre could be built, a number of engineering challenges involving the location had to be resolved. “We had a number of constraints in the site, including being right under flight paths for Vancouver International Airport,” campus planner John Wong said.

Along with height restrictions, the building had to be built on a slope, he added. “That’s why one part of the building is higher than the other,” he said. The project also had to put the soil in the area through a densification process, a standard procedure around the airport lands and throughout the City of Richmond, which resides below sea level.

The campus will feature more than 40 classrooms, “smart” labs with training computers, equipment and wireless technology, and a lecture theatre with global teleconferencing capabilities. An integrated research and resource library, as well as laboratories and classrooms are being built to support new air traffic management, homeland security and ambient intelligence programs.

But the showcase of the new campus is a 40,000 square foot hangar, home to BCIT’s fleet of 20 helicopters and aircraft.

The hangar will be located in the middle of the campus, and since the planes and helicopters are all stationary, no runway is required.

“We’ve got an apron to run them up to, but we don’t need to fly them and they aren’t flight worthy. The planes and helicopters are there for our maintenance courses,” Wong said.

The new campus will also be the first post-secondary institution in Canada to feature a tower simulation, a feature until now only found in a select few schools in the United States.

The virtual control tower displays 3D graphics out of a simulated window, as well as using a virtual radar simulation to mimic an air traffic control environment.

“It’s basically a glorified video game, but it can simulate air traffic control at YVR and other airports,” Wong said.

While no decision has been made whether the building will be LEED certified, some LEED standards will certainly be adhered to, Wong said.

“It’s not really a sophisticated building, but we will be using geothermal power, because of our proximity to a river,” he said. The B.C. provincial government committed $16.4 million in funding to the ATC in 2003.

Earlier this year, BCIT announced $6.8 million in additional funding had been secured from other partners, including the Government of Canada, Western Economic Diversification Canada, Honeywell Aerospace, Raytheon Canada, WestJet and the YVR.

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