An Inspiring Classroom Concept to Help Aerospace Careers Take Off

By Hennebery Eddy

aviation architecture

At the 2023 Oregon International Air Show, the famous Blue Angels did what they do best: put on an awe-inspiring show in the sky. Also at the airshow, a team of Hennebery Eddy designers did what they do best: conceptualize an inspiring, welcoming space to educate students now and for years to come. In this case, it was a hangar-sized classroom meant to house the next generation of pilots, aviation maintenance technicians, and avionics technicians, brought to life for the Oregon Aerospace Careers for Everyone (O-ACE) program.

aviation architecture

Aerospace Careers — for Everyone

O-ACE operates a specialized educational program sponsored by the Hillsboro School District, Portland Community College (PCC), the Oregon Air Show Charitable Foundation (OASCF), the Port of Portland, and Alaska Airlines. Operating out of a classroom at the Hillsboro Airport, the program aims to provide a path for local high school students to enter the aviation industry — encouraging them to dream big while diminishing roadblocks. The curriculum is led by PCC Aviation Science and Aviation Maintenance Technology faculty and allows for students to earn transferrable college credits. Hennebery Eddy Associate Principal Alexander Lungershausen, who has been integral to many of the firm’s projects at Portland International Airport, serves on the OASCF board of directors.

The Problem(s)

Demand for the O-ACE program has greatly exceeded the current classroom’s space. That is actually good news, as there is also huge need to place people in aerospace careers: It is estimated that 284,000 pilots and 402,000 technicians are needed by the industry in the next 10 years. Further, the industry has been dominated by white males, and cost remains a deterrent for many potential workforce candidates. The O-ACE program focuses primarily on women and minority students, helping create a larger pipeline to meet the industry shortfall. But, they need more space.

aviation architecture

The Solution

Through an intensive pro bono design effort, nine members of our firm’s aviation team planned a new space in just three weeks. They conceived a soaring new “classroom” for O-ACE to call home — an elevated space that sparks curiosity, instills pride, and embraces students of all backgrounds. This new Aerospace Engagement Center would be big enough to fit a Q400 aircraft (donated to PCC by Alaska Airlines) and flexible enough to evolve as the program grows and technology advances. With the larger space, the program could take on more students, potentially expanding beyond Hillsboro schools. This was the vision presented at the Oregon International Air Show.

Sky’s the Limit

With an organic, curved form, the conceived building has an inspiring presence along the main street it faces, to pull people in without intimidation. It is sited to give students optimal views to the airfield — and the very things that inspire them — from the mix of classroom and technician areas. Also included are flexible spaces that can be used for community events such as future air shows. Design decisions were driven by the inclusive goals of the O-ACE program and informed by our team’s technical expertise in aviation architecture as well as workforce development and career technical education. With a captivating engagement center concept, the O-ACE program is poised to reach new heights. Learn more about the fundraising campaign via the Oregon Air Show Charitable Foundation.

Hennebery Eddy’s conceptual design for a new O-ACE Aerospace Engagement Center, as presented at the Oregon International Air Show in fall 2023. Click here to enlarge.