Civil Air Patrol

Blackhawk Technical College to Suspend Aviation Maintenance Technician Program

On November 16, the Board of Directors of Blackhawk Technical College voted to suspend their Aviation Maintenance Technician program.  While current students will finish their training, meaning the school will technically be open another year and half or two at the most, the school will no longer accept new students.

Since 1949 Blackhawk Technical College, located in Janesville, Wis. has had their Aviation Maintenance Technician program for 72 years and has been an FAA certified school for 62 years.  Blackhawk’s program is very well known all over the world.

Not too long ago, Wisconsin had five Airframes & Powerplants programs and soon there may be just two.  This blow to the Wisconsin aviation community was not taken well.  The Board meeting was packed with Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame members, EAA Chapter members and aviation company owners.

For the past 12 years, the U.S. has lost 30% of its FAA certified Airframes & Powerplants (Aviation Maintenance Technician) schools.  The average age of American IAs (Inspection Authorization – another FAA certificate held by experienced aircraft mechanics) is 62.  Thousands of highly trained mechanics are retiring every year and this trend will continue for another decade or more.

There are literally thousands of job openings for FAA certificated A&P mechanics at Boeing, with commercial airlines, oil companies, railroads, wind energy companies, the Forest Service and amusement parks such as DisneyWorld  since they use turbines.  Simply put, the few aviation mechanic schools we have left in the country cannot fill the demand for workers to fill these positions.

Unlike many other programs, Blackhawk students receive hands-on training as opposed to looking at diagrams on a wide variety of actual aircraft, including a helicopter.  All of the aircraft used for training purposes has been donated to the school.

Blackhawk graduates own aviation-related businesses all over Wisconsin and northern Illinois. They are lined up to hire Blackhawk graduates as soon as they finish their education.  In fact, a first-year student at Blackhawk has already been hired and will start working for Scaled Composites (Burt Rutan’s firm in CA) as soon as he passes the FAA tests; all because he is going to Blackhawk.

Since Civil Air Patrol’s aerospace mission is to encourage our nation’s youth to consider aerospace careers and promote civil aviation to our local communities, this decision was not only a blow to the two CAP members now attending Blackhawk, but to future CAP members considering attending one of the best known A & P programs in the country.

Did you know Tag Air (Warbird overhaul facility in East Troy) is owned and run by three generations of Blackhawk graduates or that Daryl Lentz, the former EAA Director of Maintenance, was a Blackhawk graduate?

Rick Leyes, a Blackhawk alumnus who retired from the National Air and Space Museum, is the author of The History of North American Small Gas Turbine Aircraft Engines, published by the National Air and Space Museum and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1999.  In nontechnical language, Leyes illustrates the broad-ranging influence of small turbines; from commercial and executive aircraft to helicopters and missiles deployed in military engagements.  Talk about aerospace education!  Info such as this is what we are documenting.

Please take a moment to search your memory.  Do you know of a CAP member (cadet or senior from any Wing) who attended Blackhawk Technical College’s Airframes & Powerplants Mechanics program?  It doesn’t matter how long ago or if they received a diploma.  If you do, please forward the information to:  Names will only be used to avoid counting a single individual twice.

Additionally, if you know of something specific about Blackhawk’s A & P program or a graduate of Blackhawk’s program, we would like to hear about it.

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