BANGOR — A new aviation maintenance technician school does not yet exist at United Technologies Center on the Hogan Road, but students are already asking Director Fred Woodman when they can start taking classes.
And when the program begins, he foresees no difficulty in filling the classroom.
Maine Aero Services and UTC are jointly developing an aviation maintenance technician school to train high school students and adults to become FAA-certified airframe-and-powerplant (A & P) technicians. Woodman has already heard from students interested in the school.
So has Gene Richardson, the MAS president. In fact, parents have contacted him “and asked me when their students could start.”
Located at 154 Maine Ave. at Bangor International Airport, Maine Aero Services operates a flight school and an FAA-certified repair station for general aviation aircraft and helicopters weighing less than 12,500 pounds gross weight. The company “is an authorized Cessna service center,” said Richardson, who bought MAS from Wisconsin-based Aircraft Cargo Carriers in April 2010.
Richardson said that a strong demand exists for aircraft maintenance technicians.
“A recent Boeing study has revealed that over 300,000 new aircraft maintenance technicians will need to be hired in the next 20 years,” he said. “Currently there is already a large shortage of FAA-certified technicians; the number of technicians certified each year for the last five years has been dramatically lower than the number of positions available.”
About 18 months ago, Richardson and MAS General Manager Ray Lane contacted UTC, where officials had previously discussed creating an A & P school in conjunction with a Maine college, but that effort “just didn’t pan out,” Woodman recalled.
The concept shifted to a back burner “until Gene [Richardson] called and asked if we could meet,” Woodman said.
During the meeting that included Lane, Richardson outlined the demand for certified aviation maintenance technicians. “Can you help us get a class started?” he asked Woodman.
The answer was “yes.”
According to Lane, the aviation maintenance technician school “will be under the United Technologies Center name. We will be a satellite classroom.”
United Technologies Center has filed paperwork with the Federal Aviation Administration to establish the aviation maintenance technician school. The FAA has sent representatives from Portland to tour the school. “They told us they were very pleased with what they saw,” Woodman said.
The school will feature two components: adult education and a day school for high school juniors and seniors, the educational sector that UTC already serves with other programs. “If we can get FAA approval by this summer, we would like to start the adult ed program in September at the latest,” Woodman said. Although no opening date for a day school has been set, he hopes it can open in September 2014.
The aviation maintenance technician school will challenge students. Classes “will be strictly airframe and powerplant,” Woodman stressed, “and general courses they would have to take somewhere else.”
All technical training will take place at the MAS hangar, which is divided into a north hangar and a south hangar; “we have been working with Gene and Ray as to how we’re going to set up the school” inside the south hangar, Woodman said.
Construction will be handled by UTC students already training to be carpenters, electricians, or plumbers. “Students will be building ‘tool cages’ and any other type of building that we might need,” Richardson explained.
Qualified MAS employees, including Ray Lane, will be among the instructors.
According to Lane, a student must complete “1,900 hours [of schooling]” to test for A & P certification. The joint MAS-UTC school will be structured so that students would take 350 hours their junior year and 350 hours their senior year, then spend a year at Burlington Aviation Technology in Burlington, Vt. or at a similar school elsewhere in New England.
“We can get our adult ed program up and running pretty quickly,” Woodman said. “We know there is a call for this.”
Representing the Air Force and Army, National Guard technicians respectively maintain KC-135R Stratotankers and HH-60M Black Hawk helicopters at Bangor International Airport. However, despite their extensive training and experience, these technicians do not automatically qualify as FAA-certified A&P technicians, Lane indicated.
“They would need to take the training” to learn how to maintain general aviation, corporate, and commercial aircraft, he said. Some Guard personnel have already expressed interest in attending the new school, Lane noted.
According to Woodman, UTC officials are pleased to be involved in the school’s development. “It is our job to support business,” he said. “If we have a highly trained, skilled workforce, business will come.
“This is the way that business and we work,” Woodman said. “We want to make sure our kids get to explore jobs they might want to do after they graduate.
“I think it’s going to be a great program,” he said.