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Facilities Update

New high school takes flight

Students at Houston ISD have a new place to receive aviation-related education
  • FLYING HIGH IN HOUSTON—The centerpiece of Sterling Aviation High School is its two-story, 7,100-square-foot hangar.
  • BOOKS WITH WINGS—The hallways at Sterling Aviation High School serve as flexible meeting and library space.
  • GET READY FOR LIFTOFF—A mock runway leads to the front door of the Sterling Aviation High School.

WHAT: Ross Shaw Sterling Aviation High School

WHERE: Houston ISD, Texas

Sterling Aviation High School, a magnet school, has taught aviation sciences, maintenance and operations, including flight certification, those interested in aviation careers for more than a half century. Now, a new facility designed around an airplane hangar prepares students for new heights.

CHALLENGE: Previously, the school grappled with transportation issues because it was spread out over four older buildings, and aviation maintenance students had to travel to nearby training facilities in Houston for hands-on learning activities such as rebuilding engines and planes.

And when the school’s longtime training partner shut down its business a few years ago, the aviation maintenance program was temporarily suspended.

“When we went to build the new building, we asked how we could prevent that from happening again,” says Justin Fuentes, Sterling Aviation’s principal. “Now if a partner leaves, we can find another one and they can send an instructor to us to teach these classes here on campus.”

SOLUTION: The 237,000-square-foot, three-story building accommodates classroom instruction and hands-on training for up to 1,800 students interested in aviation-related careers.

The centerpiece is a massive, two-story hangar—lined with large viewing windows and classrooms—where students get to work directly on a Cessna and a Skyhawk airplane, as well as various engines. Adjacent to the hangar are a welding lab, a paint room and an automotive lab, where students also work on engines.

The building also includes other state-of-the-art aviation science labs where students study the elements of flight; two full-sized flight simulators; and several learning common areas. The third-floor observation deck allows students to watch planes take off and land at nearby William P. Hobby Airport.

The school plans to connect to Hobby’s control tower audio feed so students can listen to live air traffic control and observe pilots reacting to the corresponding instructions.

“I’ve seen excitement in kids that I haven't seen before because we didn’t have the hangar,” says Fuentes. “Now the kids get to walk by the hangar every day, and they get to see the planes and the other kids working in there, using the tools, and now there’s more interest in those programs.”

COMPLETED: January 2017

COST: $72 million

PROJECT TEAM: Architects: SHW Group, Stantec (Houston); contractor: Cadence McShane Construction LLC (Houston); program manager: Heery International Inc. (Houston).


Ray Bendici is special projects editor.