David Pietrzak: LLCC aviation program expands into new facility – News – The State Journal-Register

Thanks to the generosity of Dick Levi, CEO of Levi, Ray and Shoup, Inc., Lincoln Land Community College’s aviation program has a beautiful and functional new home at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport. We invite you to see what we have to offer at a public open house Wednesday, Oct. 25, from 4 to 5 p.m.

It is my privilege to serve as director of LLCC’s aviation program. In February 2016, a major gift from Mr. Levi was announced for construction of a new classroom facility to be built adjacent to the current LLCC aviation center at the airport. In his honor, the LLCC Board of Trustees named the new building the Levi, Ray and Shoup, Inc. Aviation Center at LLCC.

We appreciate the support of the Springfield Airport Authority for collaborating with LLCC to make this new building a reality. Also, thank you to local unions Central Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council, Laborers’ International Union of North America AFL/CIO, Plumbers & Steamfitters L.U. #137, and Southern & Central Illinois Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust for their generous assistance in furnishing the new classrooms, and the LLCC Foundation’s contributions through its “Grow Beyond” campaign.

Our program allows students, from recent high school graduates to individuals looking to change careers, to train for an in-demand, well-paying career in aviation mechanics. The new facility expands the number of students we can serve in this hands-on career program that teaches the repair and maintenance of modern engines and airframes. Our graduates are prepared to take the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification exam for airframe and power plant (A & P) mechanics and then step into a great career. 

Take Alex Moore, for example. Alex graduated from our program with a job offer from Standard Aero, also located at the Springfield airport. Alex long had an interest in engines and airplanes and planned to join the U.S. Air Force. However, a collarbone injury sidelined those plans, and he turned to LLCC to continue his pursuit of a career in aviation. Alex has now been working for Standard Aero for two years as an A & P technician, and it all started with an internship at the company through the LLCC aviation program.

Every time you fly in a plane, you rely on the skills of the mechanic that serviced that plane. They help keep the world moving and travelers safe. A & P technicians like Alex maintain and troubleshoot the complex systems that an aircraft contains — turbine and piston engines, electrical systems, hydraulics, pneumatics, sheet metal, communication, navigation, cooling and exhaust.

LLCC Aviation prepares students with hands-on experience for the variety of skills needed on the job. Looking back at his time in the program, Alex says, “The program gets your feet wet in a little bit of everything — sheet metal, avionics, forms and records, welding, electric, fuel metering and others. It was fun getting to take engines apart, getting them to run and putting them back together again. And the aviation program has really good instructors and was more affordable than other schools.”

LLCC’s aviation students are in high demand and are often offered paid internships and jobs prior to completing their program. I get calls constantly from employers wondering when we’ll have our next group of graduates ready for the jobs they have available. Students in the LLCC aviation program have a nearly 100 percent job placement rate.

Seventy-five percent of current aviation mechanics are over the age of 50, and the field is short of qualified workers. We foresee great opportunity for our graduates over the next 10 to 20 years.

As the only aviation mechanics program in central Illinois, we’re proud to say that everything in the new facility is conducive to excellence in teaching and learning. The center provides new classrooms and training spaces, a computer lab, a technical library, an expansive lobby and two offices for the intake of new students, all attached to our existing hangar and shops.

We hope you’ll join us Oct. 25 as we show off this new facility. In the meantime, you can learn more about our program by visiting www.llcc.edu/aviation or by contacting me at 544-4965 or david.pietrzak@llcc.edu.

David Pietrzak is program director of the LLCC aviation program.

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