WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Back in May, Wichita State University’s (WSU) National Insititute for Aviation Research (NIAR) WERX and Erickson Precision Ventures LLC announced a collaboration agreement. The agreement states that they will perform as many as 24 conversions per year beginning in 2023. This includes modification, maintenance, and engineering of the aircraft.

On Thursday, Aug. 18, NIAR WERX and Erickson Precision Ventures announced that their first collaboration project will be to convert an Airbus 321 (A321) from a passenger to a freighter (P2F).

“The NIAR team, resources and facilities offer 321 Precision Conversions a unique opportunity to add an expansive mod center to our portfolio of installation facilities, said Gary Warner, Erickson Precision Ventures president. “The scale of the operations here in Wichita are truly impressive, and seeing the level of support from Wichita State University levels gives us all the confidence in the future of the program.”

“We’re thrilled to add another aircraft to the NIAR conversion portfolio,” said NIAR WERX Executive Director David Jones. “The agreement with Erickson Precision Ventures allows us to continue to train and prepare Wichita State and WSU Tech students for careers in aviation maintenance and engineering, while expanding the expertise and capability of the Wichita and Kansas workforce.”

Airbus 321 conversion plan (KSN Photo)

This conversion program will not only involve full-time engineers and engineering students at WSU-NIAR, but it will also involve the efforts of WSU Tech students through the Get to WERX program.

Get to WERX is an “earn-and-learn program” which offers full-time, paid employment with NIAR WERX through WSU Tech’s Aviation Maintenance Technology program. Students also earn credits toward their Bachelor of Applied Sciences degree in Organizational Leadership and Learning at WSU.

“We have seen the incredible impact made on students’ education when starting day one with employment and day two with their education,” said Sheree Utash, President of WSU Tech. “Through the Get to WERX program, they gain real-world, practical experience under the mentorship of experienced engineers and mechanics at NIAR WERX. This collaboration increases and diversifies the opportunities our students have to gain invaluable lessons, experiences and skills.”

This announcement was given in front of special guests U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson, and Erickson Precision Ventures founder Jack Erickson.

“Our workforce in Kansas is talented, energetic and eager to contribute to and support the ever-growing aviation industry across the country,” said Moran. “As NIAR continues to build Kansas’ premier air vehicle development and modification center, more partnerships and opportunities will land in Wichita.”

“The benefit to the State of Kansas from this agreement is significant,” said Masterson. “In addition to helping prepare WSU students for the real world through applied learning in the aviation sector, the program continues the trajectory of ensuring that the MRO infrastructure will be rebuilt and maintained in Kansas over the long haul.”

“Having been in the passenger to freighter conversion business since 2001, converting over 150 aircraft to date, we see the NIAR/ WERX relationship as truly unique,” said Erickson. “The opportunity to plan and execute maintenance and modifications for our businesses, collaboratively with NIAR WERX, offers the potential to meld their research, engineering and technical resources to better serve our customers for the next twenty years.”

Watch the full announcement below: