The Alabama Aviation Center will give Connor White a chance to travel the world while making a living.
White is attending the AAC to become an aircraft mechanic and with the training he receives there he will likely be able to find a job just about anywhere on the globe.
“Overseas jobs with the military are among the highest paying,” he said. “And you get to work on something with armaments, not just commercial jets with passengers flying on them.”
For about a two-year investment of his time, it’s a great deal.
The Alabama Aviation Center, a unit of Enterprise State Community College, offers three degree options for students seeking a career in aircraft maintenance: an associate in applied science degree in avionics, an associate in applied science degree in aviation maintenance technology – airframe technology and an associate in applied science degree in aviation maintenance technology – powerplant technology. Graduates of the school’s airframe and powerplant technology programs undergo FAA testing to earn an FAA mechanic certification with airframe and powerplant endorsements.
The Alabama Aviation Center is intended to produce professionals for Alabama’s growing aviation industry. Aviation is big business in the Yellowhammer State, with more than 83,000 people employed in the industry. More than 400 aviation and aerospace companies operate in Alabama and the state is home to the second-largest research park for the industry. According to the Alabama Department of Commerce, in 2015 aerospace and aviation projects resulted in almost $500 million in new capital investment in Alabama, creating 1,500 jobs.
Aircraft mechanic jobs offer good salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for aircraft mechanics and service technicians in Alabama was $63,980. The average salary for avionics technicians was $62,000.
The current enrollment at the Alabama Aviation Center is 202 students, down significantly from its 2012 enrollment of 699 students. Enterprise State Community College dean of students Oliver Charles said the Ozark Aviation Campus serves a broad demographic.
“Our students range in age from 16 to 75,” he said. “Some of our students are recent high school graduates, others are members of the workforce who are seeking a career change or looking to improve their earnings.”
Jared Moring, 33, is a former military man who gained experience in working on aircraft while serving his country. The Alabama Aviation Center is providing him with skills to make a good living in the civilian field. Moring said he has been impressed with the quality of the facility and its instructors.
“They have more equipment than many of the major A&P schools in the country,” he said.
Brandon Ray, 28, is taking courses at the institution after a stint in the Navy. Ray’s parents were in the aviation industry and Ray said he believes it will also offer him a solid future. He said the short duration of the program was an important draw for him.
“My wife has a four-year degree and it was rough for her because she had to work while getting the degree,” he said.
Charles said student interest in the center should be boosted by the forthcoming addition of new programs to the school. He said that in the near future the institution will offer an advanced composites technology program that will be the only one of its kind in Alabama. The institution will also soon offer a new unmanned aerial systems program to train current aircraft mechanics on how to maintain unmanned aircraft.
“The technology that we’re training in is ever evolving and the knowledge necessary to work in the aviation industry is ever increasing,” he said.
Unmanned aircraft are expected to be a major area of growth for the industry, so having a training facility in Ozark is a major coup for the Wiregrass, Charles said. He said the Ozark-based school has many points of pride.
“Our programs at the Ozark Campus have continually passed all FAA inspections for many years,” he said. “We are very proud of the ATTC building that provides a very comfortable and modern environment for training. We have a very active student government association that has been able to complete several major projects in the last year, including the installation of the Cobra helicopter in front of the college and repairing our own runnable Cobra helicopter.”
The Alabama Aviation Center in Ozark was established in 1960 as a program run by the Ozark City Schools. In 1962, the center’s aviation maintenance program won FAA certification. In 1963, the center became a state vocational trade school by act of the Legislature. At the time the school was known as the Alabama Institute of Aviation Technology.
In 1970, the institution won accreditation by the Commission on Occupational Education Institutions of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. In 1973, the school changed its name to the Alabama Aviation and Technical College and a few years later the school opened a satellite branch in Mobile.
In 1991, the college was approved by SACS to offer an associate in applied science degree and the school was re-accredited in 1997. In the previous year, the college and the Mobile center merged with George C. Wallace Community College and the Ozark and Mobile locations’ names changed to the Alabama Aviation Center in Ozark and the Aviation Center at Mobile. In 2008, the center was under Enterprise State Community College and opened at the Aviation Technical Training Center on the Ozark campus.