Byrd detailed his programs for members of the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce Education and Workforce committee Friday at the facility on the grounds of the Richard B. Russell Regional Airport.
“It’s all about math,” Byrd said. “We go from basic math to basic trigonometry in five days.” He stressed the importance of calculations impacting everything from the physics and electricity to fundamental weights and balances that are critical to keeping an aircraft in the air.
Byrd said that he has enjoyed a 100 percent placement rate for students who have completed the two year programs and gone on to receive their certification from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The demand for certified aviation and avionics maintenance personnel is as strong today as it has even been, according to Byrd who has supervised the program for GNTC since it’s inception. He said that there are still more aircraft maintenance personnel over the age of 60 than under the age of 30 and that as those senior, skilled aircraft engineers are retiring, companies are learning that it frequently takes two people to replace them.
The guy that comes over Saturday and changes the oil in your car for a beer, he’s not going to touch an airplane,” Byrd said.
Forty-eight students, the maximum allowed by the FAA, are currently enrolled in the program at GNTC, which has a waiting list of about a dozen students at this time.
Byrd told the Chamber group that about 60 percent of the students who enter his program actually graduate but estimated that only a third of them go on to obtain their certification. “Certification is not a walk in the park,” Byrd said. “They have to take nine tests and I think that just intimidates them.” It also costs between $1,200 and $1,500 to take the battery of certification examinations.
Byrd said that recruitment of a large-scale maintenance, repair and overhaul facility to the airport grounds would be a tremendous boost to his program. “That’s what the students are trained to do here,” Byrd said.
Talking a little bit about Russell Airport and its impact on economic development in the community, Byrd also suggested that the greater airport community would also benefit from a nicer hotel and a few more restaurants in the vicinity. “This is the front door to the community,” Byrd said.