CLOVIS, N.M. --
A company specializing in aircraft maintenance and training in the Clovis, N.M. area began offering a new program for maintenance Airmen assigned to the 27th Special Operations Maintenance Group here, February 8, 2020. The program is designed to prepare Airmen to test for their Airframe & Powerplant license, or A&P license, which would allow them to work as aircraft mechanics in the civilian aviation industry.
The initiative is free to Airmen and is funded via Air Force Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (AF COOL), a program which provides enlisted Airmen a pathway to earn industry-recognized professional certifications and other educational opportunities to prepare them to transition to the civilian job market.
Staff Sgt. Austin C. Dischert, 27th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron section -21 non-commissioned officer in charge, worked directly with the program coordinators to create the training regime and obtain funding for it via AF COOL. He credits his desire to start the program to his passion for helping other maintainers that are trying to further their career personally and professionally.
“(I believe) every Air Force aviator should have an A&P school available to them, more importantly one within the community,” said Dischert. “A big focus is strengthening… ties between the base and the community.”
“Civilian aviation as an industry needs good mechanics, and the military guys bring to the civilian world a good work ethic and a lot of experience,” said Donny Lewellen, an instructor with the program. “This course is designed to bridge the gap of the civilian rules and regulations.”
In order for Airmen to be eligible for the course they have to have 30 months of experience after tech school working as aircraft mechanics, then a FAA Form 8610 has to be signed by the Federal Aviation Administration, which gives them the authority to take the certification test. Although the course offered is 180 hours of instruction, Lewellen says it still requires a lot of personal studying and perseverance.
“This is not a ‘gimme’, and there is no guarantee that Airmen will pass the test without a lot of self dedication. They have to dedicate the time to this course,” said Lewellen.
As difficult as the training and test can be, the payoff can be equally fruitful. The A&P license earned by a successful test-taker is valid for a lifetime and enables them to work on aircraft across the country. Even though the A&P training program just started, Chance Lewellen who is an instructor with the class says there are future plans to expand the program to include training for pilots licenses for Airmen as well.
“We are in contact with AF Cool for setting the groundwork for private pilots’ license funding. We are in the process of becoming a 141 flight school, and then VA benefits will help funding for a private pilot's license” Lewellen said.
Through this thoroughly planned and dedicated course, the main goal is to equip Cannon’s maintenance professionals to become the future of the civilian aviation industry with the skills needed to be well versed in the field.
“I’ve been around aviation ever since I was little and it’s always been my dream to teach the Aircraft Mechanic Program [A&P] knowledge I’ve got to Airmen...anybody, that way they can go out and be successful in the civilian workforce and pass (the test for) their license the first time” Chance Lewellen said.