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by Gail Marsh
(June 12)Bridgeport High School senior Scott Hash is one student who doesn't mind going to class while his friends are on summer break.
"I love this program. We get a lot of hands-on experience in the class, so I don't really mind having to get up early to be here," he said.
Hash and 17 other students are enrolled this summer in United Technical Center's aviation maintenance program. The three-week course began Monday at the Gore facility, and will cover the repair, rebuilding and maintenance of turbine jet engines.
The students come from high schools in Harrison, Doddridge and Taylor counties.
In addition to summer school, the aviation maintenance students spend half their school day at UTC during their junior and senior years to complete the 1,185-hour program.
All of the students say the hard work is worth the effort.
"This may seem hard now, but when you think about getting a good job making $40,00 a year, it's definitely worth it," said Terry Knotts, a Grafton High School senior.
UTC has worked in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics for the last four years to be able to offer the program.
Students who graduate from UTC and pass an exam can either go to work in the field or continue their training at the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics or Fairmont State College. Those who go on for more training can eventually become licensed to work on every aspect of airplane maintenance.
"In the last graduating class, for every one student there were five job offers. It's definitely a good motivator," said Brian Allen, instructor of the aviation maintenance program.
According to Allen, UTC graduates are working for USAIR, Delta Airlines and a few are even working on blimps.
"We can hardly keep up with the demand," he said.
On Thursday, students were working in teams, taking apart and re-assembling several different types of turbine engines. Jeremy Richards from Doddridge County said he found the hardest part was working with the wiring.
"Troubleshooting the electrical system takes a great deal of time," he said.
Though the shop is filled with all kinds of tools and machines, the floors are immaculate, one thing on which Allen insists.
"I teach them from the beginning that if you have a messy area and then drop a nut or bolt, you won't be able to find it. I tell them to keep things clean and put your tools back where they belong," he said.
Allen said the students understand that there are too many things at stake if the work is not done correctly. If a wrench is left in an engine, it could cause a plane to go down, he said.
The instructor moves from group to group, prodding the students to answer their own questions by going to manuals or going back over their work until it's right.
"It's hard at first for them to strive for perfection, but that's what the job demands. Our integrity here affects the flying public, and I tell them to imagine that some of those passengers are their family members," he said.
To have a career in aviation maintenance, Allen said students must have good reading and math skills and be able to work well with others. They must also want to work hard and be interested in the field.
"I really believe that all students can learn if they try. If they apply themselves and have good attendance, they can succeed," he said.