Aerospace is a $19 billion industry in South Carolina that accounts 100,000 jobs across four military aviation facilities and private sector firms, according to the S.C. Council on Competitiveness. Greenville Technical College offers training to provide the necessary workforce through its aircraft maintenance technology program, located at the S.C. Technology and Aviation Center.
Program department head Carl Washburn said the aircraft maintenance technology program has a strong student placement rate in the industry.
“Those who graduate and get their FAA certification all have jobs,” he said. “And salaries are very good. The average aerospace salary is about $71,000, compared to the average non-aerospace salary of about $41,000.”
Greenville Tech’s program offers certificate paths or an associate degree, and has a partnership with Embry Riddle Aeronautical University for a bachelor’s degree, Washburn said.
The certificate programs include airframe, powerplant and avionics. Each one takes about 18 months to complete; and the associate degree program is a two-year program. Washburn said students are required to have 2,000 contact hours - 1,000 in lab/classroom work and 1,000 working on airplanes, for the associate degree.
“That work on the airplanes is end-to-end and includes everything in between – engine work, landing gear work, hydraulic work,” Washburn said. “We work on turbine engines like they do out at Honeywell in Greer, and avionics, electrical and structural work like they need out at Lockheed.”
The aircraft maintenance technology program at Greenville Tech is licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration for 120 students - 60 on days, 60 on nights. Washburn said the program size is limited to the size of the current facility. “When we get the new facility that number can grow if we want,” he said.
That new $20 million, 93,808-square-foot facility is being constructed along Perimeter Road near the current one. And, if all goes according to plan, Greenville Tech’s training program, along with the S.C. National Guard, will begin moving into the new state-of-the-art building this summer, with classes starting there in the fall.
The joint facility will provide Greenville Tech with dedicated lab space, a larger hangar and the ability to expand the aircraft maintenance technology program, Washburn said.
“The new facility is going to be three times as big as what we have here,” Washburn said.
The larger space will prove beneficial for Greenville Tech in several ways, he added. In addition to the dedicated lab space and the potential to increase the number of students, the larger hangar will provide room for the 12 fixed-wing aircraft and one helicopter the training program provides for its students. The 12th aircraft was recently donated by Stewart Spinks on behalf of Spinx Inc. The 1983 Falcon 10 Dassault aircraft has an estimated value of $300,000 and will allow aircraft maintenance technology students to master the skills required to become certified maintenance technicians, according to a news release.