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Airport begins work for aviation-maintenance program

Augusta Technical College could have a new program in aviation maintenance up and running at the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport by January.

Preston Smith, the program's instructor, said construction started last week on a 16,000-square-foot building, complete with a hangar, that will house the program. RCN Contracting of Augusta is building the $1.63 million structure. Equipping it will cost another $1.2 million, he said.

Smith said 14 percent job growth is anticipated in the aircraft-maintenance field over the next five years.

"There's always a shortage" of aircraft-maintenance technicians, he said, particularly now, with veterans who were trained in the field during the Vietnam era retiring.

The program will accept a maximum of 24 students in its first year, Smith said. Graduates of the full two-year, six-semester program will be qualified to sit for Federal Aviation Administration certification in airframe and power plant maintenance.

"It is a pretty intense program," said Smith, who is a licensed pilot and a certified aviation maintenance technician.

All that's needed for it to begin is FAA approval.

"We won't be able to get FAA certification until the building is built and equipment is set up," Smith said. He hopes that will happen in time for the program to start in January.

He plans to enroll students chosen for the program in general courses at Augusta Tech in August.

The Augusta Tech program will be the fifth in Georgia, he said. Currently, South Georgia Technical College in Americus and Atlanta Technical College have programs, and others have been added recently in Rome and Warner Robins.

Smith has been sending letters to high schools and posting fliers at area airports in an effort to spread word on the program. An information session is planned at Augusta Tech's Thomson/McDuffie campus at 7p.m. June 14.

For more information, call Smith at (706) 595-0166 or e-mail

Web posted on Thursday, May 19, 2011

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