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Interview with Prof. Wilmer Arroyo, IAAPR



Prof. Wilmer Arroyo is the Executive Director of the Aeronautical & Aerospace Institute of Puerto Rico.

Aeronautical companies established in Puerto Rico have an immediate opportunity to access the USA market and learn how to do business in an environment regulated by the FAA.


How did the idea come about to create the Aeronautical and Aerospace Institute of Puerto Rico?

As part of its socioeconomic development strategy, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has established as a priority the development and growth of an aeronautical and aerospace industry cluster. Even though there are important companies in this sector established on our island, the flagship project of the Governor Hon. Alejandro García Padilla is the project that is dedicated to the maintenance, repair and overhaul (“MRO”) with Lufthansa Technik as anchor company. Lufthansa Technik announced their first expansion in five years by establishing the operational division of Lufthansa Technik Puerto Rico. There are three main reasons for this expansion in Puerto Rico: the geographical positioning of the island, which stands it as a midpoint between three continents; the government’s commitment and the potential productivity of local workers; and the relation, prestige and commitment of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) system for establishing a specialized institution in aeronautical and aerospace technology.

In order to adapt its academic offer and being a national project, the UPR developed a partnership with the Department of Education (DE) and the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (PRIDCO) to establish an entity to handle all academic projects arising from this initiative, which creates an academic ecosystem that supports and helps to grow the aerospace cluster of the island in alliance with public policy and socioeconomic development strategies. This entity is the Aeronautical and Aerospace Institute of Puerto Rico (AAIPR).


What are the training needs that the AAIPR will provide for the future aeronautical professionals in the country?

The AAIPR will fulfill the training needs as required by the market and the aerospace industry cluster, including the companies currently on the island and those that will be established in the future. For this, the AAIPR develops academic partnerships with institutions of higher education to create leading degrees that meet the highest standards of professional accreditations. Also, the AAIPR develops specialized certification programs in technical, engineering and management topics related to aeronautical and aerospace companies.


How has the aerospace sector evolved in Puerto Rico? What are the short and medium term objectives to position it in the Latin American market, which is constantly evolving?

Currently, the aerospace sector is undergoing an impressive growth in Puerto Rico. To sustain this growth and positioning in the Latin American market, the AAIPR is in the process to obtain the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA), part 147 Certification to offer the Aviation Mechanic (A&P) Certification. This program should begin in early 2016. After obtaining this certification, the AAIPR will begin procedures to obtain the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Certification. These two certifications will be positioning the AAIPR as an alternative of study for those interested in obtaining employment in the USA market, regulated by the FAA and with the European market, regulated by EASA. For the Latin American market, the option that AAIPR presents is unique in terms of access to the USA market with the regulatory environment of the FAA in conjunction with the opportunity to learn English; simultaneously to being immersed in an environment where the Spanish language is spoken.   Furthermore, those interested will have the option of learning the rules of EASA, which the Latin American market selects for its processes.


What business opportunities and market niches does Puerto Rico offer to the aeronautical industry?

Aeronautical companies established in Puerto Rico have an immediate opportunity to access the USA market and learn how to do business in an environment regulated by the FAA. In Puerto Rico there is a growing industry in design, research and development in aerospace and related industries. Besides the geographical and geopolitical positioning of Puerto Rico, the island’s infrastructure provides a unique opportunity for development with the largest airplane landing track in the Caribbean, and at least nine regional airports available for the establishment of companies that require this infrastructure, such as Lufthansa Technik Puerto Rico.


In the words of the Governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro García Padilla, “Puerto Rico produces the largest number of engineers per square meter in the world”. Has aeronautical engineering changed over the last few years? Are young Puerto Ricans committed to this future profession?

Puerto Rican youngsters have always shown their talent and commitment to professional development that will provide alternatives to demonstrate and put at the service of the international community their creative ability and professional ethics. Like any high-tech discipline, aerospace engineering is a constantly changing field. In Puerto Rico, with the creation of the AAIPR, there are now different academic alternatives for prospects who are interested in the field of engineering, and want to have the opportunity to expand their theoretical knowledge and practical skills in this continuing growth area. The AAIPR unlocks an additional alternative for young people who want to explore the world of aeronautics to develop a professional career.


What measures are the government taking to support the aerospace sector?

The concept used to support the aerospace business sector stems from the creation of a cluster of industries involved in different focus of development. The first focus is to attract anchor industries of different areas and disciplines related to the aerospace industry. The second focus is centered on meeting the needs of these anchor industries, by developing a network of local suppliers able to fulfill those needs. If local suppliers cannot serve specific needs, then the focus shifts to attract companies that can meet those needs and settle on the island. The third focus is to integrate the academic ecosystem by providing the necessary human capital, and meeting the standards and preparation required either by the anchor companies or by the companies in the supply chain. Additionally, the integration of the academic ecosystem encourages students to develop as local entrepreneurs to meet the present and future demands and needs of these industries. The fourth focus is to provide an attractive financial environment for entrepreneurs established on the island who want to create and/or grow their businesses by serving these industries. The fifth focus is to provide alternatives of quality of life for diverse lifestyles and an infrastructure that provides the development of high-tech companies in a secure, stable and diverse environment for its employees.


How can you position the AAIPR at the forefront of aeronautical and aerospace education?

To support the establishment and expansion of the aerospace cluster in Puerto Rico, the AAIPR is focused on developing three components: innovation by supporting research, development and commercialization of products and intellectual property; infrastructure development; and the creation of an academic ecosystem with diversity of academic degrees, alternatives and certification programs in aerospace and related industries. The development of this academic ecosystem and the other components is possible using a co-creation development model. In this model, industry, academia and government create and nurture the growth of solutions together to benefit the socioeconomic environment of the island. This benefit generates value and opportunities in the short, medium and long term for all components of the various initiatives. The AAIPR, as the main driver in the implementation of this model, is positioning itself ahead of the curve of aeronautical and aerospace education in Puerto Rico.



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