It gives the college the ability to teach the classes needed for students to take the tests qualifying them to be an airplane mechanic.
The college is one of only a handful that offer the intense program.
The program is 1,150 clock hours that includes 750 hours in powerplant (airplane engines) and 400 hours in general studies. It takes four semesters plus one 12-week summer session to complete the time. The certification is new to the college.
Students interested in the program can start as early as the summer going into their junior year as part of the dual credit program offered to Jones High students.
The course, taught be 34-year airplane mechanic veteran Raymond Carolan, has limited seating. He will only take 12 students per class.
“It’s not just a class; it’s a career,” Carolan said.
Upon completion of the entire program, students are qualified to test for their FFA certified mechanic test.
The students who start the program through dual credit classes begin with their general hours. Some of the things that are covered in the general hours include shop practices, identity hardware, nondescriptive inspection, weight and balance, ground operations, basic electricity, federal regulations and more. The students would go to high school during the day and then come to the class at the college in the afternoon and evening.
The other 750 hours needed to complete the program come from powerplant or the actual airplane engines. Students study both turbine and piston engines.
One of the things the students must do in the powerplant portion is read the manuals.
“The most important thing is you have to know how to open the manual,” Carolan said. “There are 10,000 ways to do something wrong and only one way to do it right.”
While reading the manual may seem tedious, he said it helps to teach proficiency.
“Following procedural methods for how to fix something is one of the most important things,” he said.
Once a student has read the giant and intimidating manual, he can get to work on taking apart a core, or engine, that doesn’t actually work – but not without one’s manual.
After that, a student can move onto pulling an engine out of a plane body. He has to set it on a stand, perform a hot and cold section inspection, electrical test, check all components and propeller and then reinstall it.
The students work on a Pratt Whitney PT-6 when studying jet engines. Carolan said it is one of the most common jet engines in the world. They also have a chance to work on an Allison C250 engine.
The shop also houses a wide range of different sizes and styles of propellers. The students learn propeller maintenance and overhaul.
“This (program) is not for everyone,” Carolan said. “It is not for the casual observer.”
He called the program very hands-on.
Despite the hard work and many hours in the classroom, he said he has no problem keeping the students motivated.
“Most of the kids are excited to be working on this type of equipment,” he said. “You find someone who wants to work on airplanes, and you have to beat them off with a stick to make them go home.”
Carolan currently has three students enrolled in his 12-hour summer class; two will be seniors, and the third graduated in May. He is planning on attending CBC full-time in the fall.
Student Granvell Coffey called the class “an adventure.”
Once students finish four semesters with Carolan, he sends them up the hill – as he fondly likes to call it – to get the rest of their basics required to finish their associate’s degree.
Upon completion of their associate’s, the students will have the choice to transfer into a four-year university and continue their education or take the FAA test.
Prior to the college being certified by the FAA, it relied heavily on Sikorsky to allow the students to get the experience they needed to take the test. An alternative to the 1,150-hour program is 18 months experience under a licensed mechanic, such as one at Sikorsky. After the 18 months, students would qualify to take their FAA test.
The new program means that the college won’t have to rely on Sikorsky, since the students can go directly through the college. Students can still work at Sikorsky, but it won’t be required.
Carolan is very proud that the CBC has finally been certified by the FAA. He wrote the entire manual that will be used for the course.
He now hopes to start working on getting the college its FAA airframe certification so that it can start teaching those classes as well. It will give the students another choice in their licensing. He hopes to have that program complete within a year.