Aviation careers can begin here

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 2, 2014

Instructor David Craft discusses repair techniques to potential dual enrollment student.

Instructor David Craft discusses repair techniques to potential dual enrollment student.

If you know someone who is interested in aviation, loves to work with his hands, and is naturally curious, David Craft has a career for that person.

Craft, who is the instructor and coordinator of the Alabama Aviation Center’s Andalusia campus, located at the South Alabama Regional Airport, said many people don’t understand that they can take eight of the nine courses required for an airframe certificate right here.

The local campus was developed primarily as a dual enrollment center, meaning high school students can take classes there and simultaneously earn high school and college credits. But the campus also is open to adult students.

“There’re 1,800 jobs out there today,” Craft said. “That’s across the United States. Probably half of those are airframe, so that’s about 949 very strong jobs people with this certificate could qualify for.”

An airframe certificate, Craft explained, is certification from the Federal Aviation Agency that a person has been through an aircraft maintenance tech program and can work on airplanes.

“This certificate is airframe only – everything by engines,” he said, adding that students can continue their educations at the Ozark campus to earn a power plant certification, making them qualified to work on planes and engines.

And right across the SARA runway, there are industries looking for employees with these certifications.

Located in the incubator building at SARA, the local campus recently expanded, adding 2,000 more square feet.

“It’s a nicer facility for this area,” Craft said. “We’ve installed and upgraded computers, added high speed Internet, and tried to make everything about the learning environment better.”

Asked what skills a student needed to be successful in this course, he said, “This is good for somebody that really is intrigued by aviation. Someone who loves to work with their hands, but yet is able to understand a lot of concepts; they are dealing with physics and electronics and mechanical things.

“I tell people it is quite an achievement to get a certificate,” Craft said. “You have done something. You have passed every course required, taken all the written tests, oral tests and practical evaluation.”

The beauty of his program is that high school students can complete a good portion of this certificate with their tuition waived. High school students do have to provide their own transportation.

“This is great because it helps students decide if they’re really interested,” he said. “It’s like a free chance to open the door, look through and say, ‘Am I really interested in that or not.’ You get to see something different than a traditional high school curriculum, and try to apply skills at working on airplanes.”

Tuition for a typical five-your class would be $850, so high school students have the potential for significant savings on their educations.

At present, there are 10 dual enrollment students in the program. Students attend classes at SARA from 7:30 a.m. until 9:15 a.m., then return to their high school campuses. Each semester, they earn five hours of college credit.

Read more about the instructor, here.