than 30 Gavilan College students will pack everything up and head 11 miles
north this fall, as the aviation program moves into a newly constructed hangar
and renovated classrooms at San Martin Airport.
program has trained and graduated many aviation maintenance technology
professionals as licensed A&P technicians who ensure air safety by
maintaining, repairing and building aircraft. Housed at Hollister Airport for decades,
the program moved to the Gilroy campus in 2010. Students have split their time
between classrooms in the Multipurpose Building and lab work at San Martin
the relocation, Gavilan immediately approached Santa Clara County, owner and
operator of San Martin Airport, to explore ways the program could use the local
general aviation airport facilities.
Collaboration key to
success on the new facility
began in June 2010, initiated by former District 1 Supervisor Don Gage, then a
member of the Santa Clara County Housing, Land Use, Environment and
Transportation Committee. Multiple Gavilan departments, County committees and
commissions collaborated to craft a new, long-term location for the aviation
program. Planning was championed by successor District 1 Supervisor Mike
Wasserman, culminating December, 2015 with unanimous supervisor approval of a
20-year lease, with two five-year renewal options.
Carr, Dean of Career Technical Education (CTE) overseeing the aviation program said
the overall process, from first inquiry to groundbreaking for the new
construction, has been slow but steady. She credited success to the aviation faculty,
many departments at the college, numerous people at the county and especially
the efforts of Fred Harris, Vice President of Administrative Services, who got
everyone to "yes" during the process.
Technology - A Program and a Career
Maintenance Technology (AMT) is a program at Gavilan certified by the Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) where students learn airframe, powerplant and
aviation powerplant systems technology, earning either an Associated Science
degree or certificates, based on their academic plan.
are lots of grads from Gavilan working in the industry," noted to Travis
Flippen, 20-year instructor with program.
maintenance programs at many Bay Area schools have closed. San Jose State
University has a 2 + 2 articulation agreement with Gavilan College. Students receive
their Airframe or Powerplant Associate in Science degrees at the community college and then transfer to the university.
They move quickly through their second two years to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in
Herb Spenner, who has taught aviation at Gavilan for six years, said the AMT program
has structured the general, foundation requirements and the airframe and
powerplant requirements so students can start any semester and advance through
program is good value for their tuition," Spenner said. "They take
classes, invest in their own tools and pay for the FAA testing" to obtain
licenses after completing the program.
develop teams going through the rigorous program, according to a recent
graduate. "You stay with the same people for two years, so you form bonds
with your classmates. That continues when you enter the same career
fulfill the FAA mandated hours, AMT students start each semester more than two
weeks before regular classes begin. They are in class or in lab working on
avionics projects five hours a day, Monday through Friday.
An airport location
benefits student careers
space constraints impacting the program during the past five years limited
enrollment to 25-30. The move to the airport creates space for the class size
to expand to 50. San Martin Airport is central to a great deal of aviation
activity as one of three Santa Clara County general aviation airports.
situated on San Martin Airport," said Spenner, "students will have access
to aviation businesses in Santa Clara and San Benito Counties. Area agricultural
growers, here and in Salinas, use small aircraft for many purposes."
before the lease with San Martin Airport was signed, Gavilan's Facilities
Director Jeff Gopp developed plans to relocate three portable buildings from
the main campus to the airport. He also drew up plans to construct a new
hangar. By September 2015, the California Division of the State Architect (DSA)
approved the project. A job walk-through was scheduled three weeks later and
bidding began. After the lease approval by the county, 20 members of the
construction team attended the project kick-off meeting on January 15, 2016.
Construction began 10 days later.
underground utility work, storm and sanitary systems work began during the next
several weeks. Pipes rose out of the ground and foundations were prepared. The
portable buildings were split apart into 40' x 12' sections, shrink wrapped, caravanned
up Highway 101 on a Saturday in March and placed on pads. Separated into these
smaller sections, each piece measured just under the California highway size
limit requiring a wide load permit. When reassembled, each classroom will be
1440 square feet.
steel was placed and concrete was poured for the new hangar the last week of March,
and underground utilities and conduit were installed. By the end of April,
structural steel was erected for the new hangar, now visible from the highway,
and work continued on the classrooms.
Martin's Wings of History Air Museum held its open house in mid-May, and
visitors viewed the construction up close, enjoyed plane rides and tethered
balloon rides, watched demonstrations and saw aircraft.
the end of May, the hangar roofing system was installed and retrofitting of the
modular classrooms neared completion. In June, structural steel framed the hangar
walls as the project continued on schedule to a mid-July completion. Gopp
navigated the challenging approval process across Santa Clara County, the DSA
and the FAA, which will visit to approve the hangar before aviation classes
begin in mid-August.
opportunities accompany A&P licenses
who earn their certificates and pass the required FAA tests find lucrative work
as airframe or powerplant specialists in aviation mechanics, service, repair,
sales, aircraft manufacturing, electronics, hydraulics, pneumatics, fuel
systems, civil and military defense.
recent AMT grad is now working in San Jose at a major corporation," said
Flippen, "maintaining corporate jets and making more than $100K."
Other students work locally as mechanical shop managers.
former AMT graduate currently works at Loral Space & Communications on
satellites, another is employed with local county mosquito abatement programs.
A third graduate works at a hospital heliport.
is a field where students learn a lot of different skills," said Spenner.
"They can start in a position and discover additional things they can
advance to do." The industry is growing, the job market is hiring, and the
AMT department receives more employment requisitions than there are students.
"These skills are very difficult to replace with automation," added
Three students, three
Jorgensen, a Gavilan AMT graduate, said that aviation is just in the family
DNA. His dad is a pilot and an A&P mechanic, and he and his sister are both
a pilot/mechanic has its benefits," he said. "You are able to
correlate the circumstances of a problem more efficiently." His favorite
part of the AMT program was getting to know the skills needed in the workforce
and how each system works on an aircraft.
entered the Gavilan AMT program after earning a BS in aviation from SJSU. While
he attended Gav's program he worked servicing aircraft. After earning his
A&P certificate and passing the FAA tests, he was hired by United Airlines
to work on the Airbus A319 and A320.
love for aviation drew Alex Stockdale to want to be a pilot, and he enrolled at
SJSU to study aviation operation. "After three semesters of classes, and
talking to pilots and others," he said, "I realized being a pilot was
fun but cost an extraordinary amount of money, and most made very little."
benefited from Gavilan's job outreach support. "The program helped get me
a job after my first semester, overhauling aircraft engines, that I worked at
the whole time I was at Gavilan."
is now back at SJSU in the four-year program. He also works at the Jet Center
at San Jose International Airport, installing new electrical equipment, flight
displays and radios. Reflecting on his time at Gavilan, he said, "I
couldn't recommend this program enough. The instructors are incredibly
knowledgeable and care about the students."
a disappointing start at a different school, Chris Bonk, a current student,
almost changed career paths entirely. Then he called the Gavilan AMT office.
Santos was very helpful, got me in touch with Herb Spenner," he said. "We
talked about my situation with the school, the VA, and he was very
understanding. He insisted I give his class a try."
couldn't be happier with that decision."
who has completed his first year, has career plans to work overseas after he
finishes the program.
Funding construction, curriculum
and equipment improvements
year the FAA announced changes to the aviation maintenance certification, with
an increased emphasis on electronics and turbine engines. It just recently
upgraded textbooks and curriculum.
program was already prepped for the change," said Spenner. "We were already
moving away from building with wood and had a greater emphasis on aluminum,
advanced composite work and computer controlled electronics." The program
is now buying new equipment focusing on turbine engines and modern testing
students embarking on this program, materials are accessible on the college's iLearn
online program. The instructors have posted all the lectures, presentations,
homework, assigned projects and FAA sample tests.
new facilities at San Martin Airport offer an improved aviation maintenance
program, more attractive to students. Spenner is positioning the department to
help keep students' skills current. "They are learning new skills,"
he said, "working with electrical panels, welding, metal working, learning
to run engines and measure to 1/10,000 of an inch to build all the parts."
hangar construction at the airport was funded with Measure E monies, a bond
approved in 2004. "In addition to that," according to dean Sherrean Carr,
"Gavilan was able to tap CTE Enhancement funding available statewide this
fiscal year, to allow the program to acquire new instructional equipment and
AMT program also met eligibility criteria for Vocational and Technical
Education Act monies. The recently approved California state budget for 2016-17
includes $200 million in ongoing resources for the CTE Strong Workforce
Career technical education ("CTE") at Gavilan
the past eight years, the number of CTE certificates and degrees awarded has
more than doubled, from 350 in 2007 to 847 in 2015.
provides students of all ages with the academic and technical skills, knowledge
and training to succeed in future careers," said Carr. "CTE programs
prepare individuals for skilled professions that are essential to our nation's
addition to the aviation program, Gavilan College also offers CTE certificates
and degrees in the fields of allied health, business, computer science, digital
media, child development, cosmetology and water industry technology.
AMT program support,
opportunities and networking
AMT program helps students discover job opportunities," said Spenner. The
program office receives job requests from area employers, then sends out a
biweekly email blast to students and grads with updated job opportunities.
program also guides students in networking, job search techniques, resume and
cover letter writing.
AMT program outreach includes field trips to job fairs, airlines, major
companies and trade shows. Students are matched with internship opportunities
while studying in the program, and staff speak at area high school career days.
The AMT program presents booth displays at the Salinas and Watsonville air
for program expansion include outreach to retired pilots who want to learn the
maintenance aspect of aviation, and adding drone technology, with research into
a UAS class currently in process. More information about the program is
available online at gavilan.edu/aviation, by email at email@example.com or
by calling (408) 852-2861.
Moving day is approaching
instructors and staff are preparing to move the department completely off the
Gilroy campus by the end of July. The first day of classes for the AMT students
is August 10.
public grand opening celebration of the new AMT facility at San Martin Airport
is September 13, from 4:00-6:00 p.m.