SJVC’s Aviation campus celebrates 25 years
Framed and hanging on the Aviation campus’s lobby wall is a faded Air Agency Certificate dated June 7, 1991, which was issued to San Joaquin Valley College from the U.S. Department of Transportation. It affirms that SJVC’s Aviation Maintenance Technology program “complies in all respects with the requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration…” and permits SJVC to provide career training for this industry.
25 have seen changes and advancements that have touched many aspects of the Aviation Maintenance Technology program and its instruction.
One person who was there almost from the very beginning can relate, first-hand, some of those areas of growth. As an Aviation Maintenance Tech student in 1992 and 1993, Jason Alves, who returned to teach at the Aviation campus in 2003 and is now the campus’s Academic Dean, as well as an instructor, has a unique perspective.
“We have twice as many students as we had back then, and our classes are much larger,” he says. “The quality and level of teaching have improved because we have new faculty orientation, instructor training and professional development every month where we wrap in new technology.”
Much of the Aviation Maintenance Technology program training takes place out of the classrooms and inside a huge hangar at the campus located at the Fresno-Yosemite International airport – all the better to house the real aircraft students work on to gain hands-on experience.
“Back then (1992), we had no working airplanes,” says Alves. “Today, we have two working airplanes, a Cessna 150 and 172, that we take apart and put back together many times. They do everything but fly. They could, but we don’t take them up.”
In the last 25 years, more than 600 aircraft mechanics have graduated from the Aviation campus and gone on to greater career heights all over the country and world.
“Our greatest success has been the opportunity to connect our aviation graduates to excellent opportunities for jobs in the aviation industry,” says Sue Montgomery, Career Services Director for the campus. “Over 100 companies have hired our Aviation Maintenance Technology graduates, including the following aviation industry leaders: Northrop Grumman, SkyWest Airlines, Scaled Composites, Papillion Helicopters, URS and AECOM.”
Two more previous Aviation Maintenance Technology students have found their career goals at SJVC’s Aviation campus. Joseph Wong, Class of 2009, is a General Aviation instructor, and Lionel Smith, Class of 2011, is an Airframe instructor.
“We were once students here, so we all know what our students are going through,” says Alves. “Being a former graduate helps me a lot with working with our students because I understand the struggles they are facing, but I’m also able to remind them of the rewards after they graduate.”
The Aviation campus began under the Fresno campus management umbrella, and all Aviation Maintenance Technology students went through admissions, the enrollment process and orientation at the Fresno campus location. “I never saw the Aviation campus until the first day of class,” says Jason. It was several years before the Aviation campus came to enjoy complete autonomy as a stand-alone facility.
“There have been many improvements over the years to our facility, as well as to the curriculum, but I think one of the most impactful changes has been holding our graduation ceremonies right in our own hangar, instead of off campus,” says Jack Macfarlane, Aviation Campus Director. “Seeing family and friends participate in our ceremonies and having our grads show off our campus is very refreshing and really helps showcase who we are and what we do.”
On June 7th, around 70 students, staff, faculty and visitors enjoyed cake and celebrated the milestone of a 25-year-old story of success.
“The original certificate that marks the date we were authorized to begin operating as an aviation maintenance school is proudly on display,” says Macfarlane. “It is a constant reminder to all of us that we are expected to provide the highest standards of quality instruction to our students so that they may function superbly as well-trained aircraft mechanics.”
May the next 25 years of Aviation career training and success be every bit as enriching to so many.
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