Monday, June 13, 2016

Cape college's aviation program taking off

Shannon Dugan, who plans to attend the new aviations program at Cape Cod Community College, looks over the Pratt & Whitney V2500-A1 engine students will be able to study and work on at the college's Aviation Maintenance Technology Facility at Plymouth Municipal Airport where a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Monday. 

PLYMOUTH — Against a blue backdrop framed by an open hangar door at Plymouth Municipal Airport, Cape Cod Community College President John Cox on Monday predicted clear skies for the college’s new aviation maintenance program.

“We’re celebrating one of those moments in the history of our college” that people will remember decades from now, Cox said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the program that is scheduled to start accepting students in September.

The 12-month certificate program will allow graduates to sit for the Federal Aviation Administration’s certification exam in airplane mechanics, known as airframe and powerplant, Cox said.

The program is getting off the ground with about $5.6 million in state and federal grants, including money for financial aid, Cox said.

Plymouth Municipal Airport “ended up being the most cost effective” of airport space that went out to bid, beating out Barnstable Municipal Airport and New Bedford Regional Airport, he said. Students will progress through the program in “cohorts” of 25, with about 65 full-time equivalent students being enrolled in the program at any one point.

The facility in Plymouth includes classrooms for all aspects of the aviation program, according to college spokesman Michael Gross.

The college is still working with the FAA, which requires facilities and staff to be in place before giving its approval, to get final sign off for the program, Cox said.

Monday's ceremony opened with Cox calling for attendees to remember the victims of the Orlando shootings and their families.

“It was a very unsettling thing coming here today to celebrate anything,” said U.S. Rep. William Keating, D-Mass.

But the promise of a bright financial future for young people is a weapon against terrorism and radicalization, he said.

What Cape Cod Community College is working toward “is so important on days like this,” Keating said.

Legislators, educators and aviation industry executives said the mechanics program will result in good-paying jobs and help address a worldwide shortage of aircraft technicians.

“There are very few programs like this in the state and in the country,” said Sheila Vanderhoef, chairwoman of the Cape Cod Community College Board of Trustees.

“We are going to train the next generation,” said board Vice Chairman David Bushy, a pilot and retired airline industry executive.

With the age of aircraft mechanics now averaging 51 or 52, there will be a need for hundreds of thousands of mechanics around the world, Bushy said.

Eric Goeldner, 35, of Dennis, plans to be one of them.

A chef for 20 years, Goeldner said he was planning to make a career change when he heard about the aviation maintenance program and took a tour of the new facility, which includes two hangars, classroom space with state-of-the-art computers and, as of last week, a massive jet engine donated by Pratt & Whitney Aircraft as a hands-on learning tool.

“It’s just fantastic,” Goeldner said. He said he intends to get his aircraft mechanic’s certificate as well as an associate’s degree in applied science and then go on to Bridgewater University.

With the bank of skills he is building, his future could include a career in aviation — or with the MBTA or drones in California , Goeldner said.

“The opportunities are endless,” he said.

The college's aviation mechanic program is “creating another avenue for people to get real jobs,” said state Sen. Viriato “Vinny” deMacedo, R-Plymouth. “This is a collaborative move like none other.”

After two years, aircraft mechanics earn about $50,000 a year, Bushy said.

Shannon Dugan, of Yarmouth, plans to start attending classes in September.

“I’ve been excited since January” after first learning about the program, Dugan said.

“We’re so lucky to have this nearby,” said Susan DeWitt, of Sandwich, who attended the ribbon cutting ceremony with her son Sean DeWitt, who also plans to start the aviation program this fall.

“He can get out of here and get a job right away. It’s affordable, it’s gorgeous — very state of the art,” Susan DeWitt said.

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