Aviation Maintenance Technology is a relatively new Career & Technical Education (CTE) program at Questar III—one of two State Education Department-approved programs to be added since 2010—and it has consistently drawn in students from school districts across the region since its inception.
Based at the Rensselaer Educational Center in Troy, Aviation Maintenance has been taught by John Mahony for the past five years. The program offers students the opportunity to earn an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certificate, which is issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and allows holders to work on specific parts of aircrafts such as frames and engines.
According to Mahony, the program could not have been introduced at a better time and is evidence of Questar III’s efforts to adapt to the changing needs of the economy.
“There is a big need for aircraft technicians because all the older mechanics are retiring,” he said. “The way the industry is heading, by the year 2020 we’re going to need hundreds of thousands aviation mechanics. That’s a lot of jobs to be filled.”
And it is not just commercial airplanes that need maintenance. Students in the Aviation Maintenance program explore commercial, large transport and military aircraft. “The goal is to look into the whole world of aviation so students can make a decision about where they want to be,” said Mahony.
The “whole world of aviation” even includes helicopter theory, although the program does not yet have a donated helicopter on which it can be applied. Even so, Mahony noted that an A&P certificate would qualify someone to work on helicopters.
Mahony added that the program is not just about maintaining aircraft. “There are also opportunities to build brand new airplanes, jet engines, etc. all over the place,” he said. “Students can go anywhere in the country with this A&P certificate and find a job.”
These days, computers are integral to the operation of practically all aircraft, so students in the Aviation Maintenance program learn about aircraft-specific electronic systems (called “avionics”).
“We have to understand not only how to fix the plane, but what the plane does and how pilots need to communicate with the systems,” explained Mahony. Students work with a flight simulator to practice takeoff and landing, then they get to climb into a real cockpit and do introductory flights with an instructor. “They have to understand the pilot’s side of things, too.”
As in most CTE programs, Aviation Maintenance students gain hands-on experience through internships. At sites such as Stratton Air Base in Schenectady, students participate in the disassembly and reassembly of aircraft. Internships are perhaps the most appealing aspect of the program, according to the students.
“I hate the idea of a desk job, and working with my hands every day is quite thrilling,” said Richard McCarthy, a senior from Columbia High School.
Josh Carlin, a senior from Maple Hill, likes the internships because they provide experiences he can’t get at traditional high school. When asked about the value of internships, Carlin said “you can’t put a price on working with actual aviation mechanics.”
View more photos of the students in the Aviation Maintenance workshop on our Facebook page.
Click here for more information about the Aviation Maintenance Technology program at Questar III.