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ANTELOPE VALLEY COLLEGE : Aircraft Maintenance Class OKd

A link between Antelope Valley College and the high-desert aerospace industry was forged this week with the announcement that the college has been certified to train aircraft mechanics.

That link was established Tuesday at Lancaster’s Fox Airfield when Federal Aviation Administration officials granted accreditation to the college’s airframe and power plant class. “This new program allows us to train people from the ground up--with absolutely no experience--in aircraft repair,” said Steve Standerfer, the college’s director of public service.

Rather than a degree, completion of the 1,900-hour course will earn students a certificate that will allow them to work on civil or general-aviation aircraft.

“This makes us one of only three schools in the Van Nuys FAA district to provide this kind of training,” said Standerfer, adding that 15 years have passed since the last school was certified. The other two schools are Glendale College and North Valley Occupational Center in Mission Hills.

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Jack Knoebber, an official with the FAA’s regional flight standards office in Van Nuys, said one of the reasons there aren’t more courses of this type is the large amount of time, money and effort initially required.

“There are over 43 subject areas that have to be taken care of, and the school has to have all the equipment and material to do the job before they can be certified by us,” said Knoebber, one of three FAA officials who attended a ceremony to announce the program.

He said the FAA spent about 2 1/2 years helping Antelope Valley College get its program started.

More than 125 people applied for 25 vacancies in the first class, which will begin Jan. 7 at Fox Airfield. Selection was based on computerized testing that helped determine which students would be most likely to succeed.

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“That doesn’t mean it isn’t open to everyone, but with so many people competing, we wanted to make sure we got the best motivated students because the course is 18 months long,” said Frank Roberts, the college’s dean of technical education. He added that successful completion of the course can open career doors even in the current economic downturn.

The new course also may offer women more opportunities in the aerospace industry. Campus officials have said they will try to recruit women for the course.

Assemblyman Phillip D. Wyman (R-Tehachapi) said at this week’s ceremony that women were a mainstay in the aircraft industry during World War II and have already proven their worth.

Course instructor Jack Halliday said that even though there will be few women in the first class, future classes promise to have more.

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Officials said they anticipate the demand for the class to remain high, both because of the small class size and the program’s length.

But, said Roberts, “It’s not for everyone--you have to like getting dirty hands.”


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