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On November 21, 2016, Centennial College officially broke ground at the historic site of former aircraft manufacturer de Havilland Canada with the help of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and federal Hon. Minister of Science Kristy Duncan, who wielded shovels in a time-honoured turning of the soil.

The site will soon serve as the new home of Centennial’s Centre for Aerospace and Aviation and is seen as the first step towards creating an aerospace training and research hub for the development of new technologies in Ontario – an ambitious goal that was first outlined in the 2012 review of the Canadian aerospace industry by the Honourable David Emerson. The Canadian government has contributed $18.4 million in Strategic Investment Funds towards the project, and the Ontario government provided $25.8 million.

Led by MJMA | Stantec (Architects in Association), the $72-million project involves repurposing the historic de Havilland building, located at 65 Carl Hall Road, with selective demolition and new construction. The historic facility is renowned for having built the Mosquito, a light bomber that was one of the fastest aircraft of the Second World War, able to attain 425 miles per hour at 30,000 feet. It was one of the few front-line aircraft of the era constructed almost entirely of wood, primarily balsawood, spruce and Canadian birch. De Havilland Canada’s 7,000 employees assembled 1,134 of the remarkable “Mossies” to help in the war effort.

The new campus will anchor the Downsview Aerospace Innovation and Research (DAIR) consortium, which is working to maintain Canada’s ranking as a major aerospace supplier to the world. DAIR is endeavouring to bring together the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies, Ryerson University and York University, as well as industry partners Bombardier, Safran Landing Systems, MDA, Canadensys, Pratt and Whitney Canada, FlightSafety, Honeywell and UTC Aerospace.

Excitement filled the air at the site almost a year later on October 11, 2017, as students, staff, dignitaries, and guests were on hand to sign a steel I-beam before it was hoisted and incorporated into the new hangar that forms the central feature of the rejuvenated former headquarters of de Havilland Canada.

Centennial’s newest campus will officially open in the winter of 2019, offering classrooms, laboratory space, workshops, a hangar large enough to accommodate today’s commercial jets, offices, a library and food service under one roof. Students will be able to walk to the new Downsview Park TTC subway station, which opened in December.

Centennial’s School of Transportation currently trains approximately 300 aircraft and avionics technicians annually at Ashtonbee Campus. The move to Downsview will provide a much larger teaching space with access to working runways for the first time. Enrolment is expected to grow to more than 900 students as a result. Program graduates find employment across Canada and around the world.

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