HEADLAND -- Aaron Walls looks on as one of his students uses a wrench to loosen and tighten a bolt on a training apparatus.
Walls said that teaching students mechanical basics, such as proper use of common tools, is important as many students today don’t have the mechanical experience their parents did.
“You’ve gotta look at it like they’ve never touched a tool in their lives,” Walls said.
Walls’ class at the Headland Airport will remedy any lack of mechanical experience, and give students a head start on a career in aviation maintenance.
Walls teaches aviation airframe and powerplant courses at the Headland Airport. Students from Headland High School, Abbeville High School, Northview High School and Dothan High School take the class, which is offered through the Alabama Aviation Center in Ozark.
Students can take four of the nine classes they need to complete a two-year program that will get them an entry level job in the aviation maintenance industry. By taking the courses through the high school program, students do not have to pay college tuition or book fees for these courses, saving them about $4,000.
Jay Harbert, aviation division director, said the program is a win-win for students and the college.
“It fills their need and help us recruit students,” he said.
Harbert said the program is also beneficial to local high schools that have been hit hard by state budget cuts and might otherwise be unable to provide career technical programs like this one to students.
About 17-25 students participate in the program at the Headland Airport each semester. The program was started in 2008. The aviation school also runs several other high school dual enrollment programs in Geneva, Elba, Andalusia, Ozark and Enterprise.
Isabel Gonzalez, 15, a Headland High School student, said she enjoys the challenge of pursuing a career in a traditionally male-dominated field.
“I like hands on work and it’s a great opportunity to start my college career,” she said.
Dilan Kirkland, 16, also a Headland High School student, said he likes the practical aspect of the class.
“It’s a trade, it’s a field you can go into when you are older,” he said.
Walls said the mechanical part of teaching aviation maintenance was the easy part of his job. Getting students to memorize FAA regulations was more difficult.
“They can’t put their hands on the FARS (Federal Aviation Regulations),” he said.