HAYDEN - There were 20,300 commercial airplanes in service worldwide in 2012.
Air travel industry forecasters at Boeing predict the number of airliners flying the globe will swell to 41,000 by 2032, and 35,000 of those aircraft will be new, with a projected value of $4.8 trillion.
Many of those new airplanes will likely be manufactured, in part, by aerospace workers trained at North Idaho College.
NIC President Joe Dunlap shared those statistics Thursday with dozens of people, including Gov. Butch Otter, who gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new NIC Aerospace Center of Excellence. Classes at the Dakota Avenue facility, near the Coeur d'Alene Airport, began this fall, and there are 40 students enrolled. "This is just the tip of the iceberg... our goal over the next few years is to train 500 individuals for the aerospace industry," Dunlap said.
There are 25 aerospace businesses working in North Idaho already, he said, before sharing a few more statistics that show the aerospace industry outlook is bright. Passenger travel and air cargo transportation are each expected to increase by 5 percent annually over the next 20 years, he said.
NIC's aerospace program is being funded with a $3 million federal grant the college was awarded in September 2012 by the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative.
"This is the dream materialized," said Priscilla Bell, NIC's former president, who retired in June 2012. "We spent a year writing this grant ... I'm thrilled."
Dunlap and NIC Director of Aerospace and Outreach Kassie Silvas each said the development of the program would not have been possible without the support of "industry partners." Silvas said donations began coming in from the aerospace businesses before they began work on the Hayden facility earlier this year.
When Otter spoke to the crowd, he lauded NIC's leaders for developing the program, for "having faith," and for deciding to be the "architects of their own destinies."
He said that in most cases, a project like the aerospace education facility wouldn't attract industries to a region until after students are trained and graduated.
"But this happened in reverse, because they (the industries) also had faith. They had faith in the economic climate. They had faith in the regulatory climate. They had faith in the climate they found in North Idaho," Otter said.
He encouraged everyone present to "keep the faith" for themselves and for future generations.
"What you've handed them is opportunity. What they do with it is going to depend upon everybody in this room. I have every faith that you will do a tremendous job," Otter said.