Salt Lake Community College offers a variety of technical degrees and certifications for those with a knack for engines and body repair. In one program offered, the engines are jet turbine and the bodywork is with carbon fiber.
The Aviation Maintenance Technician program, located at the SLCC Airport Center, has been teaching students the fundamentals of aircraft systems since the early 1980’s.
“SLCC is a great school. They have live equipment, they have modern equipment. The labs are set up and secured with modern technology,” said Todd Baird, program coordinator for Aviation Maintenance. “When a student comes here for airframe and powerplant training, they’re fairly well rounded when they get done. They’ve touched a lot of areas that most technician training doesn’t give them an opportunity to do.”
The educational path begins with concepts and theory, such as electrical systems and basic physics and builds from there. Students soon find themselves overhauling reciprocating propeller engines.
“By the time they’re done with the course, they will know how to disassemble an engine, and know every piece, internal and external. They’ll know how the combustion process works, how the torque process works, how much horsepower an engine can produce and fuel consumption,” said Baird. “From there they go the turbine lab, where we teach the students how to tear down turbine engines: turbo jets, turbo shafts, turbo prop engines. How to tear ‘em down, reassemble them, and then we test run them on an engine stand.”
Aircraft maintenance isn’t all about engines. There are many components of an aircraft which need to be regularly inspected, maintained and repaired, not the least of which is the airframe itself. This is where the Airport Center’s location becomes an advantage.
Straddling the border of the Salt Lake City International Airport, the Airport Center’s hangar is home to a small fleet of functional (but grounded) aircraft. Students get firsthand experience with inspection and repair of airframes, flight control cables, fly-by-wire, cockpits, oxygen pressure systems, brakes and electrical systems.
The faculty teaching these courses is a mix of veteran educators and industry professionals.
“We have two senior faculty members who have been here a long time who keep the program grounded. Plus we have three instructors who have very recent industry experience in sheet metal, airframe systems and turbine engine and recip engine technology courses. We have a fresh look, and we have a fresh knowledge base,” said Baird.
Like many of SLCC’s Career and Technical Education programs, students of Aviation Maintenance can opt to go after an industry recognized technical certification, or pursue a more traditional academic degree.
“You can come here and get certificated, which means the FAA will allow you to test to be an A&P (airframe and powerplant) Technician. Or you can become matriculated and go on to get an associate degree, with credits which are transferable to a university. You could go on to get a maintenance technology bachelor’s degree,” said Baird.
For students who are curious about a education in aviation maintenance but aren’t quite ready to make a commitment, Baird offers an option:
“Reciprocating Engine Principles does not have a prerequisite, so you can just come in and enroll in that,” said Baird. We cover the whole semester of basic engine technology: fuel systems, lube systems, hydraulics, internal combustion engine, some jet engine. Basic stuff, and you can get a great idea [of what the program has to offer].”