Northeast State to offer aviation maintenance degree

Rick Wagner • Updated Jun 2, 2016 at 7:27 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Northeast State Community College’s Advanced Technologies Division has announced the addition of a new associate of applied science degree program in Aviation Maintenance Technology. The two-year degree was approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents this spring and is driven, in part, by the increasing use of drones.

Northeast also is to offer drone classes starting this fall.

“With the continual growth of air travel in airlines and corporate aircraft, the need for mechanics and pilots will follow,” Richard Blevins, director of Northeast’s Aviation Technology Department, said in a news release. On Wednesday, he said 16 to 20 students likely would finish the program, based on the first-year certificated program, with 22 enrolled for the two-year major. 

Created through a partnership with the Bell Helicopter aeronautics company, Northeast’s Aviation Technology program seeks to fill the demand for aeronautic mechanics in the regional and national workforce. The two-year degree program requires students to complete 63 credit hours of core curriculum courses and aviation-specific courses. The college began offering a 29-credit-hour technical certificate program in Aviation Technology in the fall of 2015. It announced plans for the degree in August of 2015.

Students entering the program learn skills associated with the repair and installation of aviation electronics, aircraft structures and aircraft mechanical systems. Students also develop core skills in fuselage and sheet metal repair, electrical systems, hydraulics and aircraft repair. Blevins said students could get an edge by adding a second degree in Industrial Technology to broaden their skills in the disciplines of mechanics, metal fabrication or engineering design.

“Students should pair the Aviation Technology degree with a dual degree in Industrial Technology program,” Blevins said in a news release. “Those skill sets parallel, and students who do well in Industrial Technology would succeed in the Aviation Technology program.”

The program also equips students to understand the human factors involved in decision making, especially in aviation maintenance. The program also emphasizes Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) history, regulations, aircraft documentation and maintenance records.

Aerospace industry giant Boeing expects a significant increase in demand for maintenance technicians in their Market Outlook report for 2013. According to the Boeing study, more than 500,000 new aviation technicians will be needed worldwide for the airline industry between 2015 and 2032.

The growth of aviation mechanical technology follows the booming drone industry. Blevins said the many applications for drone platforms used for aerial photography, public safety, construction, weather, transportation and other uses would require skilled technicians to operate and maintain these aircraft. He said economic forecasters expect the drone industry to become an $80 billion industry by the end of the decade. Long-range plans include a possible drone major at Northeast.

Continuing education drone classes will be offered at Northeast this fall, and Blevins said one-hour programs on those will be offered at the Kingpsort, Johnson City and Bristol campuses next week. The Kingsport program will be Wednesday, June 15, from 7 to 8 p.m., at Blazier-Wilson Hall, 222 W. Main St. He said they will focus on things like real estate, agriculture, home delivery, search and rescue and insurance, as well as FAA regulations for commercial operators, with continuing education classes on drones likely starting in August.

“There will be so many business off-shoots from the drone industry, it will be incredible,” Blevins of Northeast said. “The future applications for drone technology are limited only by our imaginations.”

Students interested in admission to the Aviation Technology degree program may contact Blevins at (423) 354-5350 or rablevins@NortheastState.edu or the Office of Admissions and Records at (800) 836-7822 or e-mail admissions@NortheastState.edu.