A longstanding career technical program at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell reached a major milestone on Wednesday, marking 50 years since its certification by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The college received its certification as a maintenance technical school from the Federal Aviation Administration in 1972, according to the certification document provided by ENMU-Roswell.
“There isn’t an aviation company at Roswell Air Center that doesn’t have at least one of our former students,” said instructor Ty Whatley, who took the program in December 2005 and began teach in September 2016. “People come up to us all the time asking, ‘How many people are you dating?’ Most of them (students) are already at work before completing the program, or they already have job offers.
Andrea Fitzsimmons completed the program with Whatley in 2005 and has been self-employed or in the industry for many years. She became a full-time instructor in 2020.
She said about 321 students have completed the school’s program since 2000, when digital records began to be compiled. The college limits the program to 24 students per cohort, with some semesters having more than one cohort. Currently, according to Whatley and Fitzsimmons, about 40 students are enrolled, including nine new students starting this fall semester.
When the program was certified in 1972, it was evaluated for Airframe, Powerplant, and Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) instruction.
But the college’s A&P program began even earlier, in 1968, according to a 2003 book by a local historian.
“The ENMU-Roswell program was one of the few in the country, and there were many jobs for graduates,” the late Elvis E. Fleming professor emeritus of history wrote in “Success Starts Here: A History of Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell from 1958 to 2002.”
ENMU-Roswell’s history also includes additional information about the program’s “maturity and stability” years from 1977 to 1982. Fleming wrote that this was when he acquired several helicopters and aircraft for students to work on, received recognition from the FAA for the number of its students who passed exams and completed the construction of an aircraft and program instruction building. An addition to the building took place in 2001, according to a facilities master plan.
Whatley said that to his knowledge, the school has had an aircraft maintenance program for the past five decades, with the exception of a few semesters about 10 years ago when students were not enrolled during program review.
Current students can earn certificates of achievement in the airframe or powertrain, allowing them to take FAA exams. They may also receive Associate of Applied Science degrees in aviation maintenance technology, with the option of building on these credits and transferring them elsewhere to earn a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical science.
According to information provided by the college, instructors in the current program teach 47 subjects and have nine aircraft and other equipment available for training.
Whatley and Fitzsimmons said some students are teenagers enrolled in dual credit or Early College High School programs. Others are older adults interested in a change.
“A lot of people go through this program, and it’s not their first career,” Fitzsimmons said.
The FAA lists only two certified maintenance schools in New Mexico. Besides ENMU-Roswell, the other is at Central New Mexico College in Albuquerque.
“There is a demand for aircraft mechanics in the industry. There is a shortage of them, as well as pilots,” said Fitzsimmons. “The more people we can accommodate and train here, the better it is for the industry.”
An October 2021 report from the Aviation Technical Educational Council said the number of aviation mechanics trained in the United States in 2041 is expected to be 12,000 fewer than the number needed by the country’s commercial aviation industry. , even if the 13% growth in trained personnel over the next 20 years proceeds as planned.
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