Aviation program gets boost from NASA

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(Host) An aviation training program for young people received a federal boost Monday. Senator Patrick Leahy and Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie were among the dignitaries who announced a $1 million grant from NASA. The money will be used to plan a new facility at the Burlington airport to train future mechanics and engineers.

VPR’s Patti Daniels reports:

(Sound of plane taking off)

(Daniels) The planes flying in and out of Burlington International Airport are kept aloft by teams of mechanics that maintain and repair aircraft.  In a brown hangar away from the passenger terminal, teenage students are learning the skills to fill those jobs in the future.

(Cody Lasater) "What drew me to the Aviation Program was I really like to take things apart and put them back together."

(Daniels) Cody Lasater is one of 23 students enrolled in the Aviation Technology Program.  Most of them are still in high school for the first two years of the three-year program. They spend time in the classroom and in hangars, where they get practical experience working on planes. If they’ve earned a grade of at least 85 percent after three years, the students receive a license and they’re able to start work for aerospace and aviation manufacturers.

Eighteen-year-old Matt Yandow will graduate from Essex High School this month. He still has a year to go in the aviation training program, but he already has a job waiting for him when he’s finished:

(Yandow)  "All of us from two years from now, we’re already hired to work at Pratt and Whitney."

(Daniels) "And you know that a year out already?"

(Yandow) "Yes, I knew that last year."

(Daniels) That was part of Senator Patrick Leahy’s motivation in securing the million dollar grant from NASA to plan the facility for this program: a way to fill high-paying jobs with skilled workers.

(Leahy) "Jobs – we’re talking about thousands of jobs that are going to be required in this area in the next few years, far more people than we presently have.  And if we can train them here and train them now, you’re looking at real jobs – jobs that can actually pay a salary so you can support a family."

(Host)  Rick Sylvester started the Aviation Training Program in the 1970s and has led it through several phases of growth.  He says there are only 14 training programs like this at small airports around the country. He says the new facility will raise the profile of Burlington’s training program:

(Sylvester) "Wow (laughs) it will put Burlington on the map for sure – almost put a big blip around Burlington in that we’ll be one of the major training sites because we do actually offer so many different varying types of equipment that we train on."

(Host) Sylvester says the program could grow to a hundred students when the new facility opens, which could happen in the next 2-to-4 years. 

For VPR News, I’m Patti Daniels at the Burlington International Airport.


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