Midland College’s Maintenance and Aviation Program is the fourth-ranked Federal Aviation Administration certified school in the nation.
Students involved in this fast track 18 month program meet Monday through Thursday from 8a.m. to 3p.m. in the AMT Hanger out at the Midland International airport.
“We get you in, get you out and you go to work,”said Thomas Branon,
Aviation Maintenance Program chair. 95% of students in the program finish, 97% attain their FAA Airframe and Power plant license, and 100% go to work in the aviation field.
In order to receive a license, a student must pass an oral, practical and written exam.
There are three places in the area that readily hire MC’s well trained aviation maintenance students: the Midland Airpark Airport, Midland International Airport and the OdessaAirport-Schlemeyer Field.
“People call needing entry level mechanics and I put an ad on the bulletin board or send students right to them,” said Branon.
In the 1900 hours of instruction students are required to receive by the FAA, Branon says the students learn to overhaul piston engines, propeller engines and jet engines, then put all the pieces together and put it on either an aircraft or a run stand and run the engines.
“We get our parts mostly from Deerhorn Aviation, and we reuse a lot of our parts. The students just need a hands-on experience taking apart and putting together the pieces so we don’t need A1 grade one parts,”Branon said.
Although the program enrolls a new class every semester, the aviation program currently only has 10 students.
“Our program is really hurting for students. The oil boom is hurting us but once the boom levels off, we’ll get more people wanting to change careers. It’s a big help that the aviation family around here is starting to pay the equivalent to what the oilfield is paying. Go to school here, finish up, get your license and go to work and they are going to start you off between $18-25/hour and you go on up from that,” said Branon.
A former graduate of the program started off at $25/hour working at a major overhaul plant.
She called last year to inform Branon she had been promoted to a supervisor position and is now making $47.50/hour and can work up to 80 hours a week.
Branon received his training from 7 years in the Coast Guard and explained that the job market is in the Vietnam Era.
Most of today’s mechanics were trained in the military,and many will soon begin to retire.
“The latest numbers we’ve seen estimate a need for 157,000 mechanics in the next 4-5 years,” said Branon. “There are 147 schools similar to MC’s Maintenance and Aviation Program in the nation. Some of these schools are located in the metropolitan area and graduate a lot more students but lack the percentages we have.”
“There are jobs everywhere,” said Branon. “Sometimes we run out of jobs here in the area when all our maintenance facilities reach their employee quotas and we’ll have a class graduate that they don’t need, but we’ll always find them a job. Mechanics and engineers are an essential to the job market.”