New aviation maintenance program takes off

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) -What goes up, must come down...for repairs! And not just any type of mechanic can take care of today's modern airplanes.

For over a year we have tracked the progress of Arkansas Northeastern's Aviation Program.

Today was the second official day of class.

To some who have never been in aircraft maintenance it might seem a bit overwhelming.

There is a lot to cram in 18 months and this program expects a lot from their students.

Including one who is fulfilling an earlier obligation.

"He always used to buy me big planes and stuff to put together and a lot of it we never did. So I decided to take this class and I would go put it together on my own."

Clarence Williams is talking about his grandfather who was in the Air Force. Williams is one of 17 in the first class enrolled in Arkansas Northeastern's Aviation Maintenance Program.

When I visited the classroom at the Crisp Center they were working on math, one of the basic classes required by the FAA. They also have a huge building where they keep the engines and other training equipment including aircraft.

Tom Reik one of the primary instructors says there is a lot to learn in the program.

"Airframe, power plant in general. We'll basically teach you mathematics, physics, blueprint reading, up to..."

Learning what makes this landing gear go up and down and a whole lot more.

"...bend sheet metal, form parts, learn how to paint, learn how to totally disassemble and rebuild engines, how to troubleshoot aircraft."

Okay, lots of stuff to learn in how much time?  18 months, they call this an accelerated program.

Rodney Fulkerson used to be a welder now he is looking for a different career. One that will let him be near his stepson, an Air Force engineer stationed at Wright Patterson in Ohio.

"I'm hoping I can follow my step son in his Air Force career and move with him so I can be around the grandchildren and work as a civilian around Air Force bases."

As students advance in the program they'll actually get a chance to take engines like a continental apart. See what makes it work, put it back together again, mount it on the test stand and run it.

The school also has operating aircraft and a jet helicopter all of which the students will learn on including how to taxi the aircraft.

Tom Reik one of the instructors said A & P's are in big demand and it is a good career to pursue.

"There's jobs here, there's job basically any where you want to go."

I did a little research and found that on the average an A & P mechanic makes around 48 Thousand a year. It will depend on where you work, the type of aircraft you work on and experience level.

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