Campus News

Flying into the future

Kirkwood Board Members
Left to right: Kirkwood Board President Jim Mollenhauer, board members Keith Stamp, Joel Thys, Tracy Pearson, Lorraine Williams and Alan Jensen and Kirkwood President Dr. Lori Sundberg announce the new Aviation Maintenance Technology program and partnership with the Eastern Iowa Airport on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. PHOTO BY ANDREW SCHNEIDER

College prepares for new aviation maintenance technician program

Following a vision that spanned nearly three years, administrators at Kirkwood Community College now see their  collaborative planning within sight, and are one step closer to the inception of a new Aviation Technology Maintenance Program. This recent addition to the college will provide training and skills in a field now highly in demand. 

Heading into the fall of 2023, the college will begin offering courses to students following the support of awards from both the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, as well as donations from local funding sources for a combined total of close to $1 million to help launch the program.

  As a result, the college will have its own airport hangar  acquired from Alliant Energy, classrooms and hands-on workshop space, allowing students to put their skills into practice.  

The college began the planning phase of the program in the spring of 2019, and gave serious consideration in offering the program after developing a partnership with officials at the Eastern Iowa Airport to fulfill a workforce gap in experienced professionals proficient in airplane mechanics, said Kirkwood President Dr. Lori Sundberg. 

“Creating an aviation maintenance technician program is a natural fit for CID and the region when you consider the rich aviation history here with Collins Aerospace, MidAmerican Aerospace, the University of Iowa and BAE which all play a meaningful role in the aviation arena,” said Marty Lenss, director of the Eastern Iowa Airport.  “This new program creates attainable educational opportunities for those who can enjoy a career that provides family-sustaining wages.”  

The partnership between the college and the airport not only facilitates solutions for the need of aviation mechanics in Cedar Rapids and the state, but will create a pipeline for mechanics “who can sustain the aviation system,” Lenss said. Upon graduation “companies in the Corridor such as Jet Air, Inc. in Iowa City, Classic Aviation Inc., in Pella and Elliot Aviation” with locations in Moline, Des Moines and Minneapolis are workplace options for students with expertise in this field, he added.

Matt Wolford, executive VP/Partner of Jet Air, Inc., noted, “The need for aviation mechanics is significant and worldwide.” He said, “As with many trades, quality aviation technicians have been retiring at a much faster pace than they have been added.”  Additionally, “the size of the fleet of planes has continued to climb, further taxing the supply,” Wolford said.  The Galesburg, Ill. based airline Jet Air, Inc. was instrumental in providing the college with their first aircraft for students to use as a training tool.  

As planes travel extensively, it is often difficult to find proper mechanical assistance when necessary, Wolford said.  

However, the outlook for licensed aircraft technicians is optimistic and they “have a very bright future ahead.” He further noted that “wages have been climbing and more and more opportunities are available.”

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, national estimates for median wages of aircraft mechanics is $65,380 annually or about $31.43 per hour as of May 2021.

Program facts:

  • Internship opportunities
  • Less than two years to complete
  • Graduate with an associate of applied science (AAS)
  • Hands on training
  • Scholarships available
Image courtesy of Andrew Schneider

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