airfram technician performs work

North Idaho College Receives FAA Approval on Aviation Maintenance Tech Program

NIC’s Aviation Maintenance Tech program, a return flight

Story by Tom Greene, NIC Communications Coordinator

To do its part in World War II, North Idaho College (then called North Idaho Junior College) trained hundreds of students as pilots and aircraft mechanics. After the war, when the need for aviation-related workers dwindled, so did the Aviation Mechanic classes, which gave way to automotive mechanic classes in the 1950s.

The NIJC Aviation Mechanics quarters circa 1947-48.
The NIJC Aviation Mechanics quarters circa 1947-48.

That need is back.

“With the upcoming certification from the Federal Aviation Administration, we’re opening – or, really, re-opening – Aviation Maintenance Technician training at NIC,” said Pat O’Halloran, NIC Aerospace director. “We’ve come full circle.”

airfram technician performs work
NIC Lab Technician Mike McGinnis performs maintenance on an aircraft at the NIC Aerospace Center for Excellence. The center is in the process of being certified by the FAA to be an Aviation Maintenance Technician school.

Students who commit to a 12-month training program through the NIC Aerospace Center can start Aug. 24 and become eligible to sit for the required FAA Airframe Mechanic exams by August 2016. O’Halloran said the program certification is the result of collaborating with the FAA for more than 18 months.

“This project came about because of industry demand. The Idaho Department of Labor and the industry group, Idaho Aerospace Alliance, showed the need. NIC listened, wrote the grant, and now this completes the set of programs that grant promised to deliver,” O’Halloran said.

NIC received a nearly $3 million federal grant in late 2012, which helped create the Aerospace Center in Hayden that has offered Advanced Manufacturing programs since the fall of 2013. To date, 87 students have been taught hands-on skills fabricating and repairing composite parts, operating a CNC mill, or learned about non-destructive testing methods in that program.

“At least 26 graduates that we know of are currently working in related employment.” O’Halloran said. “Between Airway Heights and here, there more than 70 manufacturers which do a percentage of their business in aerospace — even more when you look further north in Idaho to Quest, Aerocet, Cygnus and Tamarack.”

Kodiak on Aerocet floats
A Kodiak Aircraft takes off. This plane is an Idaho product built by Quest Aircraft Co. of Sandpoint on Aerocet composite floats made in Priest River.

By adding Aviation Maintenance, NIC is addressing another, complementary need of the industry.

“This program was long in the making because safety is rightfully a big focus in aviation, and therefor FAA rules for approving maintenance schools are very specific,” O’Halloran said.

The rewards for students look promising: According to the Idaho Department of Labor, Aircraft Mechanics in the state have a median salary of $22 an hour, with even higher average wages across the nation.

“Now we just need to fill those seats,” O’Halloran said.

There are still spots available to enroll in the year-long program, which begins Aug. 24.

“There are more than 200 Idaho companies serving the aerospace industry — an industry with an income average above $50,000,” O’Halloran said. “These are solid jobs with a bright future. Our faculty and staff are excited to be a part of bringing NIC back into serving this field.”

For story info:           Patrick O’Halloran, NIC Aerospace director, (208) 676-7145 or pcohalloran@nic.edu

Information: www.nic.edu/aerospace.