Curriculum Revisions Benefit Aviation Students, College

Published 06.12.2000


Under updates taking effect this fall, students in two aviation programs at Pennsylvania College of Technology will enjoy a curriculum that meets industry needs, added course-selection flexibility and the option to enter a comprehensive bachelor's-degree program in their freshman year.

And those advantages will be accompanied by a reduced credit-load requirement, which translates into less expense for students in the Aviation Maintenance Technology bachelor's-degree program and the Avionics Technology associate's-degree program, which now will be known as Electronics Technology, Aviation Emphasis. Both programs are offered by the School of Transportation Technology at Penn College.

The revisions − which were authored by Colin W. Williamson, dean of the School of Transportation Technology; Brett A. Reasner, associate professor of aviation; Thomas D. Inman, assistant professor of avionics; and Walter V. Gower, assistant professor of aviation − reflect employer preferences expressed at an Aircraft Electronics Association conference and a Penn College Aviation Advisory Committee meeting. They also address issues discussed at an Association for Avionics Education conference.

"The industry is in a rapid growth period, and many airlines and private companies are adding new aircraft," Williamson said. "The newer aircraft are much more sophisticated, and electronics are at the heart of the control and monitoring systems. The changes to our curriculum are concentrated on meeting the needs of the next generation of aircraft."

Revisions to the Aviation Maintenance Technology program will reduce the number of required credits from 158.5 to 141.5 by combining core competencies and removing duplicate course work. Previously, this was a two-plus-two program (with Aviation Technology), requiring students to take more than the normal eight semesters to complete their degrees. The old degree required an associate degree of 89.5 credits to become a junior; the revised program requires 75.5 credits prior to the junior year.

The addition of more 300- and 400-level courses (and elimination of 12 credits in the 100- and 200-level courses) will address the needs of a high-tech industry in which technicians must possess a variety of technological skills in order to maintain increasingly complex aircraft.

The Penn College program is one of only three nationally to be recognized by Transport Canada, the Canadian counterpart to the Federal Aviation Administration. Penn College also is a member school of the Aviation Technical Education Council.

"The revision to the bachelor of science program in Aviation Maintenance Technology reflects the current and future needs of a rapidly changing industry," Reasner said. "Our curriculum focuses on troubleshooting, problem-solving and repair of advanced navigation, communication and surveillance systems. To support this, we have added additional technical courses to meet the needs of the industry."

"The hands-on nature of the additional technical courses aligns itself with current on-the-job training at major airlines and corporate flight departments," Reasner continued.

"These systems, such as Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems and Global Positioning Systems, are leading toward a safer, more efficient air-traffic-control system. Our graduates are capable of maintaining these systems and implementing future advancements."

Under the curriculum revisions, the Avionics Technology associate's-degree program will undergo a name change, becoming Electronics Technology, Aviation Emphasis. Students in this revised program will have six fewer credits to complete, and they no longer will have to complete a course during the summer.

Instructor overload will be reduced in both aviation programs, creating the added benefit of a cost savings for the College. Classroom and lab usage and utilization of equipment and tools also will be optimized.

"Since the aviation electronics industry is suffering from a technician shortage, anything we can do to make our program more attractive to students will help," Inman said. "By removing the requirement for summer classes, we were able to make the program more attractive to incoming students, and, as the enrollment figures show, graduate more new technicians to fill the ever-increasing number of aviation electronics openings."

The student graduating with the Aviation Maintenance Technology bachelor's degree will be eligible to qualify for the FAA's Airframe and Powerplant license and the Federal Communications Commission's license with radar endorsement. Graduates will possess the knowledge and skill to troubleshoot, repair and maintain aircraft and associated equipment.

The student graduating with the Electronics Technology, Aviation Emphasis degree will be eligible to take the FCC license examination with radar endorsement. The curriculum emphasizes electronic theory, airframes, communication, navigation radar and other related skills needed to be a technician and a manager.

Students in both programs benefit by learning in a laboratory environment at the Lumley Aviation Center at the Williamsport Regional Airport, working with aircraft, radio screen rooms, flight-management computers and flight-control systems.