Major agricultural flying school to expand in Northeast Louisiana with state incentives

A major agricultural flying school is expanding in Northeast Louisiana, state and school officials announced Monday.

Flying Tiger Aviation plans to create a contemporary flight training center for aerial applications in agriculture and other industries, said company owner Mo Rolfs and Louisiana Economic Development executive Kelsey Short.

Rolfs said the company will relocate from Rayville to the Morehouse Memorial Airport in Bastrop as part of an $847,000 capital investment.

"Northeast Louisiana has the demographics that make it an ideal location for the intersection of agriculture, aviation, engineering and information technology," Rolfs said in a news release. "The region has a rich history in all of these areas with the first aerial application flight occurring here."

At the new site, Flying Tiger will build 20,000 square feet of hangar space, a 5,000-square-foot maintenance hangar and a 150,000-square-foot expansion of the tarmac. The project will create 21 new jobs with an average salary of $61,000 and retain 14 existing positions, Rolf and Short said.

Construction in Bastrop will begin in November, and Flying Tiger will begin its relocation in March 2015, they said. Rolf said the company expects hiring to begin soon after the relocation.

In partnership with Louisiana Delta Community College's campus in Bastrop, located near the airport, the project will create the Louisiana Aerial Application Center of Excellence, which will feature training for manned and unmanned aerial application systems that support agriculture and other fields.

Short said the new facility will be "poised to become a pre-eminent provider of aerial application flight training, not only in the field of agriculture, but also in other emerging sectors."

Flying Tiger is one of only two major agricultural flying schools in the United States. It offers aviation training, FAA certification, ratings and endorsements for row-crop, forestry and other applications, such as firebombing to control and contain fast-spreading fires. The company offers courses for beginning as well as advanced pilots.

To secure the expansion, Louisiana Economic Development offered Flying Tiger a competitive incentive package, including a $575,000 Economic Development Award Program grant that will be used to complete $275,000 in new hangar construction and $300,000 in tarmac upgrades. Flying Tiger Aviation also is expected to utilize the state's Enterprise Zone program.