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Thursday, April 1, 2004

Avionics Technicians: The Training, The Demand

James W. Ramsey

Where can one receive electronics/avionics training? What are the prospects after graduation? Here's a snapshot of the technician training landscape.

Despite a slow recovery in the aviation industry, the demand for avionics technicians in the United States appears to remain strong. A surprising number of junior colleges, technical schools and even universities are offering electronics/avionics courses, and one school, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, is scoring a high job placement rate for its trainees.

"Because aircraft are going in that direction-with avionics involved in everything, including engines and flight controls-the industry wants somebody with [aircraft electronics technician] skills," says George DeWees, manager of admissions and recruiting for Embry-Riddle's aviation maintenance technology programs. "The market for A&P (airframe and power plant) technicians is good. But it's even better for those who have taken the step to train in avionics. This is the biggest shift I have seen."

It is so big, if fact, that DeWees reports 100 percent placement for technicians with A&P and avionics repair instruction.

Avionics Magazine identifies at least 50 schools in the United States offering electronics/avionics programs. A few schools-including Western Michigan University, Vincennes (Ind.) University, and Florida Community College-are devoted to avionics training, but most offer a curriculum in aircraft electronics in conjunction with aviation technician or maintenance training, concentrating on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) A&P certification upon graduation. Those completing electronics/avionics courses receive a Federal Communications Commission (radio) license.

Despite the proliferation of civilian schools offering avionics courses, the U.S. military-Air Force, Navy and Army-provides a steady stream of candidates, some of whom brush up on their service training at the civilian schools before applying for jobs.

"The candidates that have turned out the best for me are folks that have military training-the Air Force and Navy seem to have some of the better schools," according to Spence McPherrin, avionics installations manager for Duncan Aviation in Lincoln, Neb. Most of these veterans offer six to 12 months of electronics/avionics training, and up to four years or more of experience, including working on actual aircraft."

Embry-Riddle graduates are going to manufacturers, airlines, fixed-base operators (FBOs) and service centers, such as the Cessna Citation center in Orlando, Fla. The school's hands-on avionics program-offered only at its main Daytona Beach, Fla., facility-is four months long. It provides 450 hours of advanced avionics training, which focuses on avionics repairs on the flight line. The avionics instruction is in addition to the A&P course, which commonly takes about two years to complete.

"The airlines require an A&P license, as do most corporate aircraft service centers, in addition to the specialized avionics or electronics training," according to Bob Kyle, CES Industries' aviation education consultant. CES, in Farmingdale, N.Y., provides avionics/electronics interactive training systems and devices for students at many of the schools.

Most avionics technician training is offered at two-year community colleges or technical schools, but some major universities offer it, as well. The University of North Dakota, for example, offers a major in Aviation System Management. Students with two-year degrees in aviation and aircraft electronics can advance to gain a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree, with an emphasis on management.

Service centers tend to hire from schools in their own areas. Duncan Aviation's Lincoln avionics section hires graduates from Southeast Community College's two campuses-in Lincoln and Milford, Neb.-and offers an intern program for selected students.

Embry-Riddle

Embry-Riddle, which has another residential campus at Prescott, Ariz., and 120 extended campuses across the United States and other countries, recruits some students directly out of high school. But most enrollees are students seeking a career change.

"They got out of high school, did not continue their education and picked up an hourly or trade job. Now they're looking to do something a little more substantial," DeWees maintains. On the average, graduates employed by airlines or FBOs and service centers make $14 to $18 per hour to start, he says. Repair stations may pay a little less. As they gather experience, avionics technicians can make as much as $40 per hour.

At Embry-Riddle, university students, including pilots and engineers, take technician courses, as well. "As a pilot, an A&P certification gives them the opportunity to fly corporate. An [A&P] license is a plus for them," DeWees explains, because a corporate pilot may have to fly to an area where no maintenance is offered. He must be able to troubleshoot or at least sign off (the maintenance) so the aircraft can be fixed.

Engineers, too, take electronics/avionics instruction, because they may want to understand the maintenance and service aspects of the products they design, according to DeWees. "But the majority of our students are here to be certified and go into industry and work as technicians," DeWees adds.

The job market was adversely affected by the disaster of 9-11, and as a result, some technical schools closed. Embry-Riddle had cut back before 9-11, and enrollment is holding fairly steady.

Duncan Aviation

Other than Embry-Riddle, "not many schools offer avionics installation-type programs," according to Tammie Burns, human resources manager for Duncan Aviation in Lincoln. "We've had some success with Westwood College of Aviation in Broomfield, Colo. [formerly Colorado Aero Tech], and our Michigan facility has hired some employees from Southern Illinois University."

The Duncan facility in Battle Creek, Mich., also hires from Western Michigan University. "Those are four-year programs," she explains. "Most programs we recruit from are technical or two-year programs."

Duncan has 196 employees in its avionics department at Lincoln, including 86 who install avionics systems. In Battle Creek Duncan employs 53 avionics technicians, and has satellite avionics shops in Las Vegas, Teteroboro (N.J.), Denver, Dallas and Van Nuys, Calif. Duncan's hiring was dramatically reduced during the past two years-limited to replacing employees who left or were promoted. In 2004, the company expects to add only two net jobs.

Garrett Aviation Services

On the other hand, Garrett Aviation Services says hiring at its Islip, Long Island, N.Y., facility has "picked up steadily since last spring. It was a great summer and (2004) first quarter," says Ed Green, vice president and general manager. Although its avionics department, which upgrades avionics systems on corporate jets, numbers only 12, the facility is adding three technicians.

In recruiting, Garrett looks for applicants with A&P and Federal Communications Commission licenses, some formal avionics systems education, and some electronics training. Preference is for those with two to three years experience in the aviation industry. About half of Garrett's new hires come from the military, Green says-primarily from the Air Force or Navy, although two Army veterans with helicopter backgrounds were hired recently.

Garrett also hires applicants from the College of Aeronautics at LaGuardia Airport in Flushing, N.Y., which has two- and four-year programs. "Many of our leaders came from there. They started as mechanics and worked their way up," Green says. He also has recruited from East Coast Aerotech at Hanscom Field, Bedford, Mass., and has graduates from Embry-Riddle in Florida.

While Garrett is adding three technicians in Long Island, Green says employment may not always coincide with the workload. In those cases, Garrett transfers people to its various facilities throughout the country, where they are needed. In addition to the Long Island facility, Garrett, which is headquartered in Tempe, Ariz., has avionics facilities in Columbus, Ohio; Augusta, Ga.; Springfield, Ill.; Houston, and Los Angeles.

Garrett stresses on-the-job training, and the Long Island facility boasts receiving the FAA's Diamond Award-bestowed when 25 percent of its eligible technicians have received desired training-for two years in a row.

The Schools

The following is a list of schools in the United States and Canada that offer electronics/avionics technician training. It is not meant to be a complete list.

ALABAMA

Community College of the Air Force
130 West Maxwell Blvd.
Maxwell AFB, Ala. 36112-6613
Ph: 334-953-5937
www.au.af.mil/au/ccaf

Wallace Community College
3405 South U.S. Highway 231
Ozark, Ala. 36361
Ph: 334-774-5113 or 800-543-2426
www.wallace.edu

ARIZONA

Chandler-Gilbert Community College
7360 East Tahoe Ave., Bldg. 1
Mesa, Ariz. 85212-0908
Ph: 480-988-9115
www.cgc.maricopa.edu

Cochise Community College
4190 West Highway 80
Douglas, Ariz. 85607-6190
Ph: 520-417-4029 or 800-966-7943
www.cochise.cc.az.us

ARKANSAS

Pulaski Technical College
1600 West Maryland College
North Little Rock, Ark. 72120
Ph: 501-835-5420
www.pulaskitech.edu

CALIFORNIA

Orange Coast College
P.O. Box 5005
2701 Fairview Road
Costa Mesa, Calif. 92628-0120
Ph: 714-432-5987 or 5176
www.occ.cccd.edu

Reedley College
995 North Reed Ave.
Reedley, Calif. 93654
Ph: 559-638-3641
www.reedleycollege.com

Solano Community College
4000 Suisun Valley Road
Suisun City, Calif. 94585
Ph: 707-864-7154
www.solano.cc.ca.us

San Diego Miramar College
10440 Black Mountain Road
San Diego, Calif. 92126
Ph: 619-388-7524
www.miramar.sdccd.cc.ca.us

COLORADO

Colorado Aero Tech
10851 West 120th Ave.
Broomfield, Colo. 80021
Ph: 303-466-3797 or 800-888-3995
www.coloradoaerotech.com

Westwood College of Aviation Technology
10851 West 120th Ave.
Broomfield, Colo. 80021
Ph: 303-466-1714
www.cat.tec.co.us

FLORIDA

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
600 South Clyde Morris Blvd.
Daytona Beach, Fla. 32114-3900
Ph: 904-226-6766
www.embryriddle.edu

Florida Community College
Aviation Center
13510 Aerospace Way
Jacksonville, Fla. 32210
Ph: 904-997-2821
www.fccj.org

George T. Baker Aviation School
3275 Northwest 42nd Ave.
Miami, Fla. 33142
Ph: 305-871-3143
www.allstar.fiu.edu

GEORGIA

Clayton College & State University
P.O. Box 285
Morrow, Ga. 30260
www.clayton.edu

INDIANA

Purdue University
Department of Aviation Technology
1401 Aviation Drive
West Lafayette, Ind. 47907-2015
Ph: 795-494-5782
www.purdue.edu

Vincennes University Aviation Technology Center
2175 Hoffman Road
Indianapolis, Ind. 46241
Ph: 317-381-6000
www.aviationtechcenter.com

IOWA

Iowa Western Community College
2700 College Road
Box 4-C
Council Bluffs, Iowa 51502-3004
Ph: 712-325-3200 or 800-432-5852
www.iwcc.cc.ia.us

KANSAS

Kansas State University
College of Technology
2409 Scanian Ave.
Salina, Kan. 67401
Ph: 785-826-2679 or 800-248-5782
www.sal.ksu.edu

MASSACHUSETTS

East Coast Aero Tech
150 Hanscom Drive
Bedford, Mass. 01730
Ph: 781-274-8448
www.eastcoastaerotech.com

MICHIGAN

Western Michigan University
College of Aviation
237 North Helmer Road
Battle Creek, Mich. 49015-1682
Ph: 269-964-6375
www.wmich.edu

MINNESOTA

Alexandria Technical College
1601 Jefferson Street
Alexandria, Minn. 56308-3799
Ph: 320-762-4546
www.atc.tec.mn.us

Minneapolis Community College
Aviation Center
13892 Airport Drive
Thief River Falls, Minn. 56701
Ph: 218-681-0829 or 800-959-6282
www.minneapolis.edu

Northland Community & Technical College
1101 Highway 1 East
Thief River Falls, MN 56701
Ph: 218-681-0860 or 800-959-6282
www.northlandcollege.edu

Winona Technical College
P.O. Box 409
1250 Homer Road
Winona, Minn. 55987
Ph: 507-454-4600 or 800-372-8164
www.rdw.tec.mn.us

MISSOURI

Central Missouri State University
Power & Transportation Department
TRG 210 Warrensburg, Mo. 64093
Ph: 660-543-4975
www.cmsu.edu

Maple Woods Community College
601 Lou Holland Drive
Kansas City, Mo. 64116
Ph: 816-929-7000
www.kcmetro.cc.mo.us

Parks College of Engineering & Aviation
P.O. Box 56907
3540 Lindell Blvd.
St. Louis, Mo. 63156-0907
Ph: 314-977-8333
www.slu.edu/colleges/parks

Trans World Airlines Technical Academy
P.O. Box 20767
Kansas City, Mo. 64195
Ph: 816-464-6822 or 800-TWA-TECH
www.twa.com

NEBRASKA

Northeast Community College
P.O. Box 469
801 East Benjamin Ave.
Norfolk, Neb. 68702-0469
Ph: 402-644-0405
www.alpha.necc.cc.ne.us

Southeast Community College
Lincoln Campus
8800 O Street
Lincoln, Neb. 68520
Ph: 402-471-3333
www.college.sccm.cc.ne.us

Western Nebraska Community College
11145 Road 16
Sidney, Neb. 69162
Ph: 308-254-7443
www.wncc.cc.ne.us

NEW HAMPSHIRE

New Hampshire Community Technology College
505 Amherst Street
Nashua, N.H. 03061-2052
Ph: 603-882-6923
www.nashua.nhctc.edu

NEW JERSEY

New Jersey Academy of Aviation Science
112 Leddon Street
Millville, N.J. 08332
Ph: 856-825-5009
www.cumberland.tec.nj.us/aviation/ aviframe.htm

NEW YORK

College of Aeronautics
LaGuardia Airport
Flushing, N.Y. 11371
Ph: 718-429-6600, ext. 109
www.aero.edu

OHIO

Laurel Oaks Career Development Campus
300 Oak Drive
Wilmington, Ohio 45177
Ph: 937-382-1411
www.greatoaks.com

Miami Valley Career Technology Center
6800 Hoke Road
Clayton, Ohio 45315
Ph: 513-837-7781
www.mvctc.com

Toledo Bowsher Aviation Center
11791 West Airport Service Road
Swanton, Ohio 43558
Ph: 419-385-5776 or 865-4651

OKLAHOMA

Aviation Maintenance Technician School
Route 2, Box 99
Idabel Airport
Idabel, Okla. 74745
Ph: 580-286-4377

Gordon Cooper Technology Center
1 John C. Bruton Blvd.
Shawnee, Okla. 74804
Ph: 405-878-5717
www.gctech.org

Spartan School of Aeronautics
Tulsa International Airport
P.O. Box 582833
Tulsa, Okla. 74158-2833
Ph: 918-831-5388
www.spartan.edu

Tulsa Technology Center
1211 West 36th Street, NTulsa, Okla. 74127-1518
www.tulsatech.com

OREGON

Lane Community College
4000 East 30th Ave.
Eugene, Ore. 97405
Ph: 541-463-5383
www.lanecc.edu

PENNSYLVANIA

Pennsylvania College of Technology
1 College Ave.
Williamsport, Pa. 17701
Ph: 717-327-3761, ext. 3629
www.airnav.com/airport/KIPT/PCT

Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics
P.O. Box 10897
Pittsburgh, Pa. 15236
Ph: 412-462-9011
www.piainfo.org

PUERTO RICO

Miguel Such Metropolitan Vocational School
Aviation Maintenance Technician Course
P.O. Box 364705
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00936-4705
Ph: 787-758-0045

SOUTH CAROLINA

North American Institute of Aviation
P.O. Box 680
Conway, S.C. 29528
Ph: 803-397-9111 or 800-345-6152
www.naiasc.com

SOUTH DAKOTA

Lake Area Technical Institute
P.O. Box 730
Watertown, S.D. 57201
Ph: 605-882-5284
www.lakeareatech.edu

TENNESSEE

North Central Institute
168 Jack Miller Road
Clarksville, Tenn. 37042
Ph: 931-431-9700
www.nci.edu

Tennessee Technology Center
Memphis Aviation Division
3435 Tchulahoma Road
Memphis, Tenn. 38118
Ph: 901-543-6180
www.memphis.tec.tn.us

TEXAS

LeTourneau University
P.O. Box 7001
Longview, Texas 75607-7001
Ph: 903-233-3400 or 800-759-8811
www.letu.edu

St. Philip's College
Aircraft Technology Program
800 Quintana Road
San Antonio, Texas 78211
Ph: 210-921-4600
www.accd.edu/spc/spcmain/spc.htm

Tarrant County College
4801 Marine Creek Pkwy.
Fort Worth, Texas 76179
Ph: 817-515-7250
www.tcjc.cc.tx.us

Texas State Technical College
3801 Campus Drive
Waco, Texas 76705
Ph: 254-867-4851
www.tstc.edu

VERMONT

Burlington Technical Center
52 Institute Road
Burlington, Vt. 05401
Ph: 802-864-8447
www.burlingtontech.org

WEST VIRGINIA

Fairmont State College
Aerospace Education Center
1050 East Benedeum Industrial Drive
Bridgeport, W.Va. 26330
Ph: 304-842-8300
www.fscwv.edu

WISCONSIN

Fox Valley Technical College
3601 S. County Road 1
Oshkosh, Wis. 54903-2037
Ph: 920-424-0747
www.foxvalley.tec.wi.us

CANADA

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
1301 16th Avenue, N.W.
Calgary, Alberta T2M OL4
Ph: 403-284-8675
www.sait.ab.ca

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