The Alabama Aviation Center in Albertville is seeking students for the upcoming spring semester.
The center is a post-secondary education unit of Enterprise State Community College that trains students in airframe mechanics and maintenance.
The program provides half of the training for the airframe and power maintenance certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. Students learn how to maintain "everything that an airplane operates with," such as metal construction airplanes, fabric and adhesives, air conditioning and heating systems, landing gear, hydraulics, radio systems and navigation systems, according to school director Dan Owen.
The course takes approximately 16 months, or four semesters, for a full-time student to complete.
"If a new student starts in the spring, they can finish by May 2013," Owen said.
Spring semester starts Jan. 9, and students can register for enrollment through the end of December.
"We're looking to increase our enrollment for the spring semester," Owen said. "Right now we only have night classes. However, if we were to have a lot of attention we could add day classes."
Enrollment numbers at the school were down last year. During the fall semester, 31 total students were enrolled, including two new full-time students that finished the semester. However, the school also has seven dual-enrollment students from area high schools that are expected to graduate high school in May and become full time aviation students in the Fall 2012 semester.
"We started a new class this fall," Owen said. "We're getting a lot of support from Boaz, Albertville and Sardis. I have four in the advanced class, three dual enrollment and one adult student."
Students at the Aviation Center are not all fresh out of high school though. They are a mixture of ages and backgrounds.
"A majority of our students are displaced worker types who have had to start a second career," Owen said. "They're looking for a stable career where they could earn a good pay to support their families. They're finding aviation will do that for them."
Owen, who has worked in aircraft maintenance for 39 years, said job opportunities are plentiful in the industry to those who are willing to go through the training and work in other areas of the country. Many graduates of the aviation school have found jobs in Louisiana and Florida, and some current students are looking at openings in Texas. One former student even found a job as far away as Alaska.
"Few people are being employed locally, like in Huntsville, but I think that's going to open up a little bit," he said. "Aviation will take you anywhere you want to go, it's just that it may not be at the place you want to be for a few years until those openings come available. But there's employment opportunities out there, lots of them in fact."
The school has had many success stories in former students, and Owen is excited about the opportunities for eight students that will graduate from the program on Tuesday.
"They'll go to the FAA and get their written tests," he said. "That'll be completed, and they'll be ready to go to work."
Owen and his assistant, Wendy Roberts, are working hard to advertise the school and recruit new students from all over north Alabama, and they offer one-on-one counseling for those interested in enrolling or a career in aircraft maintenance.
"If they're interested in aviation, as far as being an aircraft mechanic, they can call us and I can describe to them the entire process, what they'll be looking for as a future in aviation maintenance, what kind of jobs availability there is in the area and in the southeast, and give them a real perspective of what they're going to be facing in the future of aircraft maintenance," Owen said.
"It's more than just training a person. You want to make sure they understand that they're training for a life-long career, and I'll do my best to explain to them exactly what they'll be getting into as far as a career."
Financial aid is available for the school, but students who want to enroll for the spring semester should take steps quickly to complete the paperwork.
"It's imperative if they want to start in the spring that they have completed a FAFSA, because it takes a while for that to be processed through the Department of Education as well as through the financial aid office down in Ozark. That needs to be done immediately if they're interested in starting in the spring," Roberts said.