BLOUNTVILLE — You may be able to get a college degree in operating drones here soon.
An aviation initiative at Northeast State Community College envisioned in June 2014 has grown into a certificate program this fall.
However, plans are for the program — housed on a campus adjoining Tri-Cities Regional Airport — to become an associate’s degree program in the fall of 2016, pending Tennessee Board of Regents approval, and eventually offer more advanced maintenance training, instructions on how to operate commercial drones and a two-year private-to-commercial pilot’s license, all through eventual degree programs.
Northeast President Janice Gilliam Monday morning announced that Richard Blevins has been named department head and director of the new Aviation Maintenance technical certificate program. She said the program will work with area high schools, Tennessee College of Applied Technology Elizabethton and East Tennessee State University in Johnson City.
Blevins said that in Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, 17,000 aviation jobs are vacant. In addition, he said aircraft maker Boeing predicts 550,000 aviation mechanics and 450,000 pilots will be needed in the next decade.
“We’re going to be able to fill those jobs and help fill that gap,” Blevins said.
Northeast’s Advanced Technologies Division is adding the technical certificate program in Aviation Maintenance Technology.
The 29-credit-hour program will offer classes starting in fall 2015 and eventually will be based in the new Emerging Technologies building at Northeast to have a groundbreaking in the spring of 2016.
Blevins said the program will emphasize craftsmanship, attention to detail and taking ownership.
“There’s no room for errors in this business,” Blevins said.
The certificate is designed to provide students with the fundamental knowledge and skills of the aviation maintenance and repair industry.
The program emphasizes skills associated with the repair and installation of aviation electronics, aircraft structures and aircraft mechanical systems. Students will develop core skills in fuselage and sheet metal repair, electrical systems, hydraulics, and aircraft repair procedures.
Courses include an introduction to aviation and those related to mechanical, electrical, quality and inspection, maintenance, structures, electronics and hydraulics systems.
NETWORKS — Sullivan Partnership Chief Executive Officer Clay Walker said the aviation program fits perfectly with the aviation cluster NETWORKS and Tri-Cities Regional Airport emphasize
Airport CEO Patrick Wilson said the initiative fits well with the 165-acre Aerospace Park the airport began in 1999 and in which it has invested about $23 million.
Wilson said site selection firms say that sites obviously are essential but that workforce development often is a determining factor.
“To have this as a discussion point really differentiates us from other areas,” Wilson said.
Blevins came to Northeast from Bell Helicopter in Piney Flats, where he was a training department manager, and he presented Gilliam a model of a Bell 412 helicopter during the news conference, which also featured a drone and models of other aircraft on display.
Blevins was responsible for the training development of more than 500 employees in the areas of aircraft alternations, maintenance, and inspections to meet FAA and ISO AS 9100 requirements.
Blevins, a graduate of the former Lynn View High School, also served in the U.S. Air Force from 1979 to 2006, attaining the top enlisted rank of chief master sergeant, which no more than 1 percent of Air Force members receive.
He served in several capacities, including intercontinental ballistic missile systems analyst, superintendent of space launch operations, quality control superintendent on test launch systems and electronics laboratory manager.
Blevins is completing a master’s degree in education from Trident University International, and he holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Trident University International and an associate of arts and sciences degree from Park University-USAF College.
The Northeast program grew out of a Northeast Tennessee Aviation initiative spearheaded by Hank Somers and former state Rep. Tony Shipley.
Students interested in admission to the Aviation Maintenance Technology certificate program may contact Blevins at (423) 279-7639 or [email protected] or the Office of Admissions and Records at (800) 836-7822 or [email protected]