Spotlight – Aviation Maintenance Science

Henry Neiberlien/News Editor

Located next to the Flight Operations Center near the flight line is a 48,000 square foot, state of the art facility. This building is the location of one of the founding departments of ERAU that specializes in one of the most important pieces of the aviation industry: Aviation Maintenance.

In the Aviation Maintenance Science Department (AMS) students have the opportunity to enroll in either the associate’s or bachelor’s degree program, or both. One of the advantages to the associates offered through the AMS department is that students can get their airframe and powerplant certifications, and still pursuing a Bachelor’s degree of their choice.

The AMS program here at ERAU is unique when compared to over 170 other schools in the nation that offer the A&P certification. ERAU offers more resources, a higher quality of instruction, and an unmatched combined 600 years of industry experience held by its instructors.

Graduates of the AMS program have gone on to do amazing things and work for major industry players.

Students also have access to industry-level equipment and training materials. In the FAA part 145 certified engine repair station, part of the AMS program since 1956, students will be participating in the complete overhaul of engines used in ERAU training aircraft. This means that the students actually participate in real world scenarios as opposed to just to training aids. Students are also assigned a team and an operational engine in their turbines courses were they disassemble the jet engine down to the last bolt, inspect it and reassemble the engine and test it in of the department’s engine test cells.

Students also learn about the structure, maintenance and operation of propellers and turbine blades. When it comes to the airframe curriculum, the students in the AMS program will learn how to build a wing surface from scratch in a variety of materials that include composite materials such as carbon fiber, and sheet metal.

Students also have an option of taking an avionics minor, which takes one semester to complete. The avionics minor includes the installation, maintenance, and coding for digital and analog avionics systems. Everything from steam gauges such as an altimeter and attitude indicator to advanced digital system like the Garmin G1000 will be thoroughly covered.

According to Neil Fulbright, an instructor for avionics line maintenance, this training allows students “to be able to troubleshoot any system on any aircraft.”

The skill learned in the AMS program can also be applied to a wide variety of areas within the aviation industry.

Mitch Geraci, a professor for the AMS department, is currently working with the FAA on a project to help create standards for the safety and maintenance of UAS systems. This is good news for aviation technicians because aircraft without an onboard pilot still need to be serviced.

Graduates of the AMS program have gone on to do amazing things and work for major industrial players. Just last summer students in AMS participated in internships for companies like Amway Aviation, American Airlines, and VF Corporation. These internships can lead to long careers at these businesses and others like Boeing, Airbus, Gulfstream, Rolls-Royce, and Bell Helicopters. Students have also been hired to service the corporate fleet of non-aviation related companies such as Heinz, Gerber, and Hershey.

The program coordinator for the AMS program, Isaac Martinez, assures students that graduates of the AMS program can find positions in the workforce with relative ease because of the quality of instruction incorporated into the curriculum.

The industry is also suffering a drastic shortage of technicians; Boeing has estimated that the world will need 679,000 new technicians by 2035.

The AMS program is a challenging environment for students. The program has oversight not just from the university but from the FAA itself. The AMS curriculum is regulated by FAA part 147 and has to meet those requirements to certify its students for the airframe and powerplant certificate. The AMS department also operates on a 7-point grading scale as opposed to the 10-point scale the rest of university uses. This helps prepare students for the FAA exams. Classes in the AMS program are an average of 4.5 hours long; AMS students’ schedule on average is 8 hours a day five days a week. This ensures ample time for classroom theory and gives students plenty of hands-on experience in labs.

Although this may sound like a drastic change to students in other programs, the payoff for graduating the program is worth it. The classes and labs in the program along with tons of hands-on experience which make learning fun. If you like working with your hands or tinkering with cars, and also love aircraft, the AMS program may be for you. If you are already involved in another degree program, fear not; AMS is also offered as a minor which can complement your bachelor’s degree. If you are interested, contact your advisor and the AMS department for more information.