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O'Malley touts aviation maintenance technology school as building block

Governor: Branch campus of Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics would provide means to help people learn more

April 30, 2011|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Gov. Martin O'Malley, middle, jokingly simulates cutting the ribbon before others join him at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a branch campus of the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

Gov. Martin O'Malley attended the opening of an aviation maintenance technology school Saturday at Hagerstown Regional Airport, touting the facility as a building block that will give people the skills to compete in today's job market.

O'Malley told about 70 people during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday morning that the branch campus of the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics would provide the means to help people learn more to earn more.

"We don't have a job shortage, we have a skills shortage," O'Malley said. "It's not what the other guys are doing to us, it's sometimes what we're not doing to give ourselves the skills to compete."

The governor, who was flown to the airport from Baltimore, was joined at the ceremony by Maryland Secretary of Labor Alexander Sanchez and several elected officials from Washington County, including Del. Andrew Serafini and County Commissioners Terry Baker, Ruth Anne Callaham and Jeff Cline.

Jim Mader, director of the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, said 24 students attended the inaugural class Friday. He said the 16-month program will prepare students to work on everything from hot-air balloons to the space shuttle.

"We'll be starting a new class every four months," Mader said. "(Hagerstown's) geographic location is very good. The aviation history is deep, and there are a lot of aviation employees here. All the tangibles are here."

Mader said aviation maintenance is starving for employees because the average worker in the profession is 58 years old, meaning mass numbers will retire in the immediate future.

"We have an awful lot of work to do to replace those folks," he said.

PIA student Aaron Hahn, 19, of McConnellsburg, Pa., said he planned to start aviation mechanics school last year, but was hospitalized after a serious all-terrain vehicle accident. He said he hoped his decision to enroll at the Hagerstown campus would lead to a bright future.

"It's a good thing," he said. "It's not a bad thing to get in to."

Mel Williams, director of PIA's Hagerstown campus, said the average salary for an aviation mechanic is about $49,900 per year. He said some of his students have earned $70,000 to $80,000 after the first seven months of employment, and annual salaries in the field can climb to more than $100,000.

"The demand is high," he said.

Williams said students need to complete four semesters to graduate. Tuition costs $5,995 per semester, which doesn't include about $450 for books and $1,850 for tools.

He said students keep the tools at the end of the course.

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