Bill Scanlon mug

Bill Scanlon

Some time ago, before COVID, I toured the Moore Norman Technology Center (MNTC) campus on Franklin and 12th Avenue NW.

I did so as a newly-minted City Council member, and at the invitation of Center Superintendent Brian Ruttman. I was impressed at the variety of courses available at the Center, and was most impressed with the personal attention given students (and prospective students) by counselors and administrators.

After a tour of the facility, Brian and I got to talking about his plans for the future direction of MNTC. A part of this strategic plan: an aviation curriculum. Brian invited me to a kickoff meeting on that subject — a meeting to consider the objectives and challenges involved.

We met, then COVID hit. Fast forward to current times.

Brian and his staff have not been idle. Plans we talked about pre-COVID are nearing fruition. MNTC has formally announced: “Get Ready — Aviation Classes Are Coming to MNTC in 2022!”

I ran across Brian at a Chamber of Commerce function, and he invited me back to see what “progress” looks like. It was my privilege to meet Mr. Lee Dow, now the director of Aerospace and Transportation at the facility.

Lee took me on a “magic carpet ride,” including a tour of expansive new classrooms dedicated to the program, and a large facility, once a bus garage but now being equipped to replicate an aircraft maintenance hangar. Some pieces of equipment were on hand (including an aircraft wing); other equipment is on order.

“The plan” is to offer courses in sheet metal and composites (ergo, the aforementioned wing), aviation maintenance technician (engines: both reciprocal and turbine) and unmanned aerial systems (drones). The unmanned systems are particularly interesting, due to applications in agriculture and in hazardous materials situations.

Course outlines are in development. Most important: Lee and staff are in close coordination with the Federal Aviation Agency, whose certification must be gained prior to the beginning of classes. Program plans are to support a class size of approximately 75 students. and as with so many MNTC programs, the Center will assist in placing graduates in jobs — liaison with Tinker Air Force Base personnel has already begun.

While I was touring the aviation classrooms, I was introduced to Mr. Jerry McConnell, MNTC’s director of public safety. Jerry was bubbling with enthusiasm over new initiatives regarding police and fire training.

It seems that MNTC has purchased acreage across 12th Avenue NW, and is developing it into a training laboratory for first responders. Jerry recently escorted representatives from both Norman and Moore Fire Departments to an integrated facility in Owasso, and carried the plans of that facility back to Norman.

Discussions between Norman Police and Fire, along with representatives from Moore and Cleveland County, are ongoing, hopefully leading to integrated training at MNTC. In Norman’s case, this will relieve local departments from a heavy training burden (particularly regarding staffing dedicated to training).

In addition to classrooms, the new 12th Avenue NW complex will include roads (police car maneuvers), several buildings of differing construction (both police and fire can benefit) and a training tower for high-rise applications in fire fighting and evacuations (the current training tower at Westheimer is obsolete).

This new training complex will be built in several phases, beginning in the next few months. Available in the very near term is a training pad for heavy vehicle operators, just across the street from Norman North High School. It was intended to provide training for students pursuing commercial drivers licenses, but will serve as a training facility for drivers of fire apparatus, who currently train on Norman city streets.

Brian Ruttman is a true visionary, complemented by a dynamic, hard-working staff. The actions of these dedicated educators will directly contribute to the economic health and growth in Norman by providing trained technicians for growth industries, while ensuring quality instruction and hands-on experience for first responders.

Good neighbors, in every sense of those words.

Bill Scanlon is a former Ward 6 city council member who volunteers in support of the Norman Police Department and Norman Fire Department, and serves multiple city committees. Prior to his work in Norman, Scanlon served 26 years in the U.S. Air Force — where he last worked as chief of mission analyses under the assistant chief of staff for the Air Force, Studies and Analyses at the Pentagon — and worked for Northrop Grumman in Washington, D.C.

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