Northeast State’s Advanced Technologies Division launched the new associate of applied science degree (A.A.S.) program in Aviation Technology this fall with more than 20 students enrolled.

Richard Blevins, director of the College’s Aviation Technology department.

Richard Blevins, director of the College’s Aviation Technology department.

“With the continual growth of air travel in airlines and corporate aircraft the need for mechanics and pilots will follow,” said Richard Blevins, director of the College’s Aviation Technology department.

Created through a partnership with the Bell Helicopter aeronautics company, the Aviation Technology program seeks to fill the demand for aeronautic mechanics in the regional and national workforce. The two-year degree program requires students to complete 63 credit hours of core curriculum courses and aviation-specific courses. The College began offering a 29-credit-hour technical certificate program in Aviation Maintenance Technology in fall 2015. The new A.A.S. degree was approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents in spring 2016.

Students entering the program learn skills associated with the repair and installation of aviation electronics, aircraft structures, and aircraft mechanical systems. Students also develop core skills in fuselage and sheet metal repair, electrical systems, hydraulics, and aircraft repair. Blevins said students could get an edge by adding a second degree in Industrial Technology to broaden their skills in the disciplines of mechanics, metal fabrication, or engineering design.

“Students should pair the Aviation Technology degree with a dual degree in Industrial Technology program,” said Blevins. “Those skill sets parallel, and students who do well in Industrial Technology would succeed in the Aviation Technology program.”

The program equips students to understand the human factors involved in decision making, especially in aviation maintenance. The program also emphasizes Federal Aviation Administration history, regulations, aircraft documentation and maintenance records.

According to a 2013 Market Outlook report, aerospace industry giant Boeing expects more than 500,000 new aviation maintenance technicians will be needed worldwide, just for the airline industry, between 2015 and 2032.

The growth of aviation mechanical technology follows the booming drone industry. Blevins said the many applications for drone platforms used for aerial photography, public safety, construction, weather, and transportation just to name a few would require skilled technicians to operate and maintain these aircraft. He noted economic forecasters expected drone technology to become an $80 billion industry by the end of the decade.

Blevins brings an impressive wealth of knowledge in aerospace and air mechanics to the program. He served from 1976 to 2003 with the United States Air Force as a Chief Master Sergeant, a private pilot, and a captain in the Civil Air Patrol.  He later worked for Bell Helicopter where he was a training department manager. He directed training development of more than 500 employees in the areas aircraft alternations, maintenance, and inspections to meet FAA and ISO AS 9100 requirements.

Students interested in admission to the Aviation Technology degree program may contact Blevins at 423.354.5350 or rablevins@NortheastState.edu or the Office of Admissions at admissions@NortheastState.edu.

– Tom Wilson