Wings Magazine

Leading Edge: Laying the foundation

When Centennial College broke ground on its new aerospace campus at the Downsview Airport in Toronto in late 2016, it marked the culmination of a vision that was years in the making. It also marked a brand new era for the future of aerospace in Ontario.

January 27, 2017
Matt Nicholls

The $72 million project at the former Downsview air force base will be the new home of Centennial’s aerospace technology programs. Located in one of the nation’s historic aerospace jewels – de Havilland of Canada – the campus will be a site to behold, sporting a sparkling new hangar large enough to accommodate a variety of modern aircraft.

Close to Toronto with easy access to public transportation, the influence of Canadian aerospace leader Bombardier and much more, it’s the perfect location for the development of an academic and industry hub of aerospace excellence.

Centennial currently trains some 300 aircraft technicians and avionics technicians annually at its Ashtonbee Campus in Scarborough. When the campus opens its doors in 2018, the new space will serve as a dynamic centre of innovation and research and development excellence, bringing industry and academia together to devise new products, technologies and solutions.

Academic partners and industry leaders including the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS), Ryerson University, York University and Bombardier will anchor the Downsview Aerospace Innovation and Research (DAIR) cluster. The DAIR consortium also includes industry players such as Honeywell, SAFRAN, United Technologies, Flight Safety International and MDA.


“If we’re going to punch above our weight, we’re going to have to innovate,” noted Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne at the groundbreaking event. “It will incubate and grow well-paying professionally rewarding jobs.”

Wynne’s remarks are precisely what the Canadian aerospace industry – and operators of all types – must consider in order to remain competitive. The benefits of the DAIR project – and aviation and aerospace initiatives nationwide that unite academia and industry to create new aviation products, processes and services – are critical to Canada’s future success.

The economic ramifications in maintaining a strong aerospace footprint are significant. According to “The State of the Aerospace Industry: 2016 Report” released last year by the Aerospace Industries of Canada (AIAC) in concert with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, the Canadian aerospace industry in 2015 contributed more than $28 billion to the GDP and generated some 211,000 jobs in the Canadian economy. Yet innovation can only occur through the development of a pipeline of talented, dynamic young leaders. Filling the talent gap in all facets of aviation remains a critical challenge for industry going forward.

Working to ignite the passions of future aviators and aerospace professionals is the goal of Wings and Helicopters annual Careers in Aviation Expos – grass roots events to help maintain a strong pipeline of aviation and aerospace talent.

This year’s events – Saturday, April 22 at the Jazz Aviation hangar at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and Saturday, May 6 at the Westjet Campus in Calgary – showcase dynamic companies, flight schools and educational institutions doing their best to lay the foundation for industry growth. Find at more at

Careers in Aviation and Aerospace 2017 in this issue is a tool that does precisely the same thing. It serves to help inform and ignite the passions of young aviation and aerospace professionals, setting them on the right path for future success.

As industry partners, we can all “punch above our weight” and help in the process of educating the next generation of aviation and aerospace leaders. Challenging economic realities notwithstanding, innovation and an eye to the future remain paramount; the future of our industry depends on it. 

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