Wichita Area Technical College’s aviation maintenance training program on Monday received a boost in the form of part off an Airbus airliner and a state training grant to help Spirit AeroSystems ramp up for increased production on Boeing jets.
The donation from Airbus is a composite elevator from an A320 commercial airliner, which was on display at the National Center for Aviation Training, 4004 N. Webb Road. The part from the A320’s tail spans nearly 20 feet and is valued at $500,000. WATC aviation maintenance technician students will use the elevator – which controls the pitch, or up and down motion of the jet – to gain first-hand experience working with composites: testing them, spotting defects and making repairs.
“You are the first eyes, ears and hands, and the first element, in maintaining the airworthiness and continued safe operations of aircraft in service,” John O’Leary, vice president and general manager at Airbus Americas Engineering in Wichita, said at the event. “… In that regard the structure in front of you is indicative of composite flight control surfaces that are in use out in the fleet today. So it is to all of our best interests that you learn hands on in this safe environment how to test, find defects and repair them.”
Officials from the Kansas Department of Commerce and the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas also announced a $182,960 workforce aid grant to help train 70 sheet metal assembly employees for Spirit, which the WATC said has a strong demand for workers with those skills.
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Sheree Utash, WATC’s interim president, said the grant will support training workers who were hired by Spirit to receive accelerated training “and then actually be put to work immediately upon completion of their training.”
“When our industry partners say these are the kinds of industry skills we need, we ask the college to design a program to train you,” added Zoe Gruber, director of workforce training and education for the commerce department and Kansas Board of Regents, in her speech at Monday’s event. “… So it’s education linked to a job.”
Last month, Spirit held a job fair to recruit hundreds more workers it said it will need for all its Boeing aircraft programs in Wichita, and specifically the 737, the production rate of which is expected to increase this year from 42 planes a month to 47.