Aviation program helps students fly high

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, April 18, 2012


The dual enrollment aviation technology program at the South Alabama Regional Airport has a new coordinator working to reach new heights.

David Craft, an Opp native and U.S. Air Force retiree, took the post in January. Now, he’s working to spread the message about a partnership with the airport and Enterprise-State Community College, which allows students beginning in the 10th grade, as well as adults, to take up to eight of the 18 courses needed to obtain a airframe and/or Powerplant licenses from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“When you talk about an A&P license from the FAA, what that means is not common knowledge,” Craft said. “And when people hear about jobs at the airport, they come to my door, and I have to ask if they’ve ever worked on airplanes before, and I have to tell them they need that license.”

And if there’s one person who knows what’s needed to work on aircraft, it’s Craft, a retired chief master sergeant with 27 years of experience in aircraft maintenance.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for aviation maintenance technicians will grow 7-13 percent annually through 2018.

“This is a sweet deal for our kids,” Craft said, speaking to members of the Andalusia Board of Education Monday. “It’s also a good opportunity for the people in this community to work toward a profession where the demand is steady and the pay is good.”

Craft said for high school students, there is currently no cost for the dual enrollment program, thanks to a state workforce development grant. For others, they could qualify for federal financial aid to cover the costs, he said.

Classes are held at the Alabama Aviation Center, located at SARA’s front entrance Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. until 9:15 a.m. for dual enrollment students. Adults may also attend those, but other classes are available in the evenings.

At present, there are 11 dual enrollment students from Straughn, Andalusia and Opp high schools.

Craft said he hopes program participation will increase once students learn about the earning potential of a FAA licensed technician. He also hopes to increase the number and frequency of classes held at the site.

“Statistics show that the median starting salary for an aviation mechanic is $40,000,” he said. “That pay speaks for itself.”

For more information about the program or to enroll, contact Craft at 334-222-0133 or by email at dcraft@escc.edu.