BLOUNTVILLE — When it comes to a local community college, “A&P” is all about the aviation of today and tomorrow instead of a chain grocery store of yesteryear.
The Department of Aviation at Northeast State Community College recently received certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to enhance the aviation technology degree program for students.
The program received FAA Powerplant certification in February. With the Powerplant rating achieved, Northeastern State ranks as the only community college in the state with FAA Part 147 Airframe and Powerplant certifications available to students.
“This is an important milestone for our program, the college and the region,” said Richard Blevins, assistant professor and director of the aviation technology program.
“It’s been very challenging but also very rewarding,” Blevins said. “We are able to meet any airline’s qualification requirements for aviation mechanics.”
Airframe and Powerplant certifications are commonly known as “A&P” because most candidates choose to complete both. Certifications must be obtained from an institution certified by the FAA or by other means to perform all maintenance, repair, or test work on an aircraft.
A&P certified mechanics to perform many maintenance and modification tasks on aircraft, including engines, aircraft structure, avionics and various subsystems. General aviation courses as well as A&P certifications require 1,900 hours of training for students.
THE NEWS ARRIVED EARLY FEBRUARY
FAA officials notified Blevins of the certification during the first week of February. The FAA awarded the Airline Agency Certificate and Airframe Certificate Rating to the Aviation Technology Program in January 2021. The Airline Agency Designation and Airframe Rating granted FAA Part 147 Airframe certification to Northeast State as an aviation educational institution.
“It took a long time to get here,” said Blevins, who joined Northeast State in 2015 when the college launched the aviation technology program. “We have been through many FAA inspections; we had to write more than thirty courses and all the manuals were written to obtain the certification. »
Northeast State offers the Associate of Applied Science in Aeronautical Technology with airframe and powerplant concentrations. The program also includes a technical certificate in aircraft maintenance technology.
The FAA Powerplant and Airframe certifications give students the opportunity to become aircraft mechanics.
Students pursuing the AAS degree program learn skills associated with the repair and installation of aircraft electronics, aircraft structures, and aircraft mechanical systems. Students also develop basic skills in fuselage and sheet metal repair, electrical systems, hydraulics, and aircraft repair.
THE NORTHEAST HAS A NEW AVIATION CENTER
The Aviation Technology program operates in the Northeast State Aviation (NSA) Center at the Tri-Cities Airport, which is adjacent to the main campus in Blountville. The Aviation Center’s classrooms and labs opened to students in October last year.
Renovation and construction of the 13,000 square foot facility began in late 2020. The program previously operated classrooms and labs in Northeast State on the Gray campus.
The FAA awarded the Airframe Agency Certificate and Airframe Certificate to the Aviation Technology program in January 2021. The airframe qualification granted Northeast State FAA Part 147 Airframe certification as an educational institution of aviation.
Shortly thereafter, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) approved the Aviation Center as an official Northeastern State teaching site in the fall of 2021.
Students pursuing the AAS degree program learn skills associated with the repair and installation of aircraft electronics, aircraft structures, and aircraft mechanical systems.
The department filed the application for airframe companion powertrain certificate qualification shortly after SACSCOC approval. The Powerplant program requires FAA certification and the acquisition of the necessary educational equipment required for an educational institution.
“There’s no other grade our mechanics can get at this level to go into manufacturing,” Blevins said. “We can kick them out of almost any airline in the United States.”
INTEREST IN PROGRAM DESIGN
The program has attracted the interest of many. Appalachian Regional Commission President Gayle Manchin visited the facility in December. A PSA Airlines representative visited the Aviation Center earlier this year to meet and recruit students.
NSA’s lab space provides students with space to test the operation of turbine engines and gasoline engines used to power a variety of aircraft. The laboratory has a large work cell area. Teaching aids include a PT6A test engine, commonly used in helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, and a Lycoming 0-320 gasoline reciprocating engine.
Students learn about composite materials and metals used in aircraft frames.
AVIONICS COMING THIS FALL
In addition to the A&P pathways, the department will offer an Avionics certificate starting in fall 2022. This parallel certificate was opened to students in 2021 with courses starting last fall.
The term “avionics” refers to the aircraft instrumentation used by pilots in the cockpit. An airplane’s instrument panel includes instruments such as altimeter, engine running, vertical speed indicator, fuel level, and oil pressure readings, among others. An avionics certification allows a mechanic to disassemble these instruments and perform maintenance or repairs.
“The Avionics certificate combined with the A&P certification gives the student the mechanical knowledge of all aspects of an aircraft,” Blevins said. “Only a technician holding an avionics certificate can carry out the internal maintenance of these instruments.”
The program welcomed a new cohort of students to the five-semester course in fall 2021. Blevins said the program has a waiting list for students wishing to pursue further education. The first class of students earning AAS degrees with Airframe and Powerplant certifications are expected to graduate in August.
“For our students in our area, they have never had such an opportunity before because airframe and powertrain mechanics are in high demand across the country,” Blevins said. “Students who sign up for two years come out with a great career.”