When it comes to a local community college, “A&P” is all about aviation of today and tomorrow instead of a grocery store chain of yesteryear.
The Northeast State Community College Aviation Department recently earned a certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to enhance the aviation technology degree program for students.
The program received the FAA Powerplant certification in February. With the Powerplant note secured, Northeast State ranks as the only community college in the state with an FAA Part 147 Airframe and Powerplant certifications available to students.
Richard Blevins, the director of the aviation technology program at Northeast State Community College, will teach a free 10-week commercial drone webinar starting June 17. He graduated from the former Lynn View High School and spent 28 years in the Air Force before going to work for Bell Helicopter in Piney Flats and then coming to Northeast.
“This is a tremendous milestone for our program, the college, and the region,” said Richard Blevins, assistant professor and chair of the Aviation Technology program.
“It has been very challenging but very gratifying as well,” Blevins said. “We are able to meet any aviation company’s requirement qualifications for aviation mechanics.”
The Airframe and Powerplant certifications are generally known as an “A&P” because most candidates choose to complete both. The certifications must be earned at an FAA-certified institution or other means to perform all maintenance, repairs, or tests on an aircraft.
A&P licensed mechanics to perform many maintenance and alteration tasks on aircraft, including the engines, aircraft structure, avionics, and various sub-systems. The general aviation courses along with the A&P certifications require 1,900 hours of training for students.
NEWS CAME IN EARLY FEBRUARY
FAA officials notified Blevins of the certification during the first week of February. The FAA awarded the Air Agency Certificate and Airframe Certificate rating to the Aviation Technology program in January 2021. The Air Agency designation and Airframe rating granted the FAA’s Part 147 Airframe certification to Northeast State as an aviation teaching institution.
The FAA Powerplant and Airframe certifications give students coveted “A&P” option to pursue as aviation mechanics, according to Northeast State aviation program leader Richard Blevins.
“It took a lot to get here,” said Blevins, who joined Northeast State in 2015 when the college launched the Aviation Technology program. “We went through many FAA inspections; we had to write thirty-plus courses plus all the manuals were written to get certified.”
Northeast State offers the associate of applied science degree in Aviation Technology with concentrations in Airframe and Powerplant. The program also features a technical certificate in Aviation Maintenance Technology.
The FAA Powerplant and Airframe certifications give students the option to pursue becoming aviation mechanics.
Students pursuing the A.A.S. degree program learn skills associated with the repair and installation of aviation electronics, aircraft structures and aircraft mechanical systems. Students also develop core skills in fuselage and sheet metal repair, electrical systems, hydraulics and aircraft repair.
NORTHEAST HAS NEW AVIATION CENTER
The Aviation Technology program operates in the Northeast State Aviation (NSA) Center at Tri-Cities Airport, which adjoins the main Blountville campus. The aviation center classrooms and laboratories opened to students in October of last year.
Renovation and construction of the 13,000-square-foot facility began in late 2020. The program previously operated classroom and lab space in the Northeast State at Gray campus.
The FAA awarded the Air Agency Certificate and Airframe Certificate rating to the Aviation Technology program in January 2021. The airframe rating granted Northeast State the FAA’s Part 147 Airframe certification as an aviation teaching institution.
Shortly thereafter, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) approved the aviation center as an official Northeast State teaching site in fall of 2021.
Students pursuing the A.A.S. degree program learn skills associated with the repair and installation of aviation electronics, aircraft structures, and aircraft mechanical systems.
Students pursuing the A.A.S. degree program learn skills associated with the repair and installation of aviation electronics, aircraft structures and aircraft mechanical systems.
The department filed the application to earn the Airframe’s companion Powerplant certificate rating shortly after the SACSCOC approval. The Powerplant program requires the FAA certification and acquiring the necessary instructional equipment required for a teaching institution.
“There is no other rating our mechanics can get at this level to go into manufacturing,” Blevins said. “We can get them in the door of almost any aircraft company in the United States.”
PROGRAM DRAWING INTEREST
The program has piqued the interest of many. Appalachian Regional Commission chair Gayle Manchin visited the facility in December. A representative from PSA Airlines visited the aviation center earlier this year to meet and recruit students.
The NSA lab space provides students space to test the workings of both turbine engines and gasoline engines used to power a variety of aircraft. The laboratory features a large airframe workspace. Teaching tools include a PT6A test engine, commonly used in helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, and a Lycoming 0-320 gasoline reciprocating engine.
Students learn about the composite materials and metals used in the body frames of the aircraft.
AVIONICS COMING THIS FALL
In addition to A&P pathways, the department will offer an Avionics certificate beginning in Fall 2022. This parallel certificate opened to students in 2021 with classes beginning last fall.
The term “avionics” refers to the aircraft instrumentation used by pilots in the cockpit. An aircraft’s dashboard includes instruments such as the altimeter, engine function, vertical speed indicator, fuel level and oil pressure readings among others. An avionics certification enables a mechanic to disassemble those instruments and perform maintenance or repairs.
“The Avionics certificate combined with the A&P certification gives the student the mechanical knowledge over every aspect of an aircraft,” Blevins said. “Only a technician with an avionics certificate can perform internal maintenance on those instruments.”
The program welcomed a new cohort of students through the five-semester curriculum path in Fall 2021. Blevins said the program had a waiting list for students seeking to pursue the degree. The first class of students earning A.A.S. degrees with both the Airframe and Powerplant certifications are scheduled to graduate in August.
“For our students in our area, they’ve never had an opportunity quite like this before, because Airframe and Powerplant mechanics are in high demand all over the country,” Blevins said. “Students who commit themselves for two years, walk out with a great career.”