West Star Aviation Developing Fast-Track AMT Program


West Star Aviation is partnering with Southwestern Illinois College to launch West Star Aviation Academy (WSAA) at West Star’s East Alton, Illinois, facility. The goal is to develop an accelerated program that will incorporate an FAA-sanctioned Part 147 curriculum able to turn out certified Aircraft Maintenance Technicians (AMTs) faster than traditional programs that typically take from 18 to 30 months.

According to the West Star announcement, “Our first WSAA cohort will include hiring 25 apprentices who will spend seven and a half months learning and earning wages and benefits through a full-time educational curriculum, coupled with hands-on practical training, mentoring and job shadowing in preparation for apprentices to test for their FAA license.”

West Star CEO Jim Rankin said, “For apprentices, it’s an opportunity to make a living while learning a highly skilled technical trade in less than a year. For West Star Aviation, WSAA will help ensure that we continually have a strong pipeline of skilled and licensed technicians to deliver industry-leading MRO services to business aviation customers worldwide.”

To be named the Choose Aviation program, the curriculum will be taught in a dedicated West Star learning hangar, along with West Star’s proprietary AMT technical training. Katie Johnson, VP of human resources at West Star Aviation, said, “WSAA ensures a complete standard of formal education, practical hands-on training, and on-the-job training to enhance the work-readiness of new technicians, while substantially increasing our access to qualified talent to meet our ongoing customer needs for service work.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. I applaud the effort, because we NEED more A&Ps, but I worry that a crash course isn’t the best solution. Getting my A&P took two and a half years of hard work. Doing it in 18 months must be a crash course. Doing it in less than eight months? They will have to leave something major out of the curriculum. From the image that accompanies the article, I’ll guess that ‘something’ is piston aviation. Maybe that’s good for the turbine-powered side industry. Their staff don’t need to know how to fix rag-wing airplanes with tail wheels. But if we do split the industry, it won’t go well for the General Aviation side of the house. Little airplanes don’t pay as well, and we already struggle to support our fleet with the aging workforce of maintenance professionals who still do it “for fun” because we love it.

    • I think you nailed it. It’s a fast track, but probably geared for employment within a certain segment of aviation. The community at the airport where I hang out owns and operates a significant number of fabric-era classics and homebuilts that were purchased after completion, so the owners are not legal to repair and modify them without a signoff. Our go-to mechanics are aging out of the profession mostly due to the difficulty they have worming and squirming around under panels or getting up again after an afternoon lying on a creeper etc. That skill set is diminishing at a troubling rate.

  2. Let’s do the math here – assuming the above comments are correct (and they seem very logical), which category would you choose as an aspiring new student? The one that takes two years (higher costs) or the quick one that not only costs less but gets you earning cash in one third the time? Then, what happens when there is a shortage of anything? Both wait times and costs increase, usually significantly. Another coffin nail for GA. Sad really – fix one problem, kill another.

  3. A few years back I enrolled in a junior college A&P curriculum scheduled to require 18 months, 5 days a week from 8 AM to 2 PM. 50% of the schedule was down time. The instructors were uninspiring and discouraged us from working on the adjacent airport during class. I quit after a few weeks in disgust, and did the LSRM at Rainbow Aviation (3 weeks) then took my A&P exam thereafter. It was the best deal in AMT education imaginable. Obviously you’re not doing hot sections walking out the door, but what AMT program does ? The program above seems like a great middle ground.

    • I’m gonna preface this by stating that I attended one of the best aviation programs in the country, so I’m certain my experience was better than a lot of others.

      My program was 18 months, 40 hours a week. We had very little downtime and it was used for studying. The last 6 months consisted of 3 months in reciprocating engines and 3 months of turbine engines. The last 6 weeks week (approx) of each of those was dedicated to overhaul. We disassembled, inspected, repaired, assembled, and ran up lycoming recip engines, for the recip engine class and we did the same with continental turbines, hot and cold sections were overhauled and ran up just like we did in recip. Our instructors were extremely competent, encouraging, and well established in the industry. We did all this in teams of 5 and were all very involved in the projects. During airframe, we did nearly every possible O&P project during airframe systems as we had over 30 planes in our airframe hangar. Airframe structures included learning to weld, manufacturing composites and sheet metal structures, painting, rigging, and im sure im leaving things out. It was a non profit, publicly funded institution so my entire program including a complete Snap On tool set that includes everything I would need on the job, was about 10 grand and with my scholarships and grants I made a profit. The things I learned and hands on experience I had was invaluable. It was extremely extremely fast paced. We learned a new concept (or two) and tested on it by the end of the day. After the first 6 months 90% of it was shop time. Programs like this West Point fast track are going to be the of general aviation as they almost entirely focus on turbine/jet engines. There were multiple pilots in my class getting their AP so that they could repair their own planes if gen av does because all but obsolete.

  4. The FAA dropped instructional hours last year for the A&P. Charles Taylor, and if any of you remember, Bill O’Brien of the FAA, are now spinning in their graves. No one seems to know who authorized this, only that the end goal was to have more graduates. Check in the block.

    I taught at a Part 147 school for 22 years and am now thankfully out of it. I would not allow any current graduates to touch any of my aircraft. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the commercial flights that I’m sitting on.

    The once proud profession of A&P has been completely gutted. Not only is it a sad day for aviation, but as others have said, it is the death knell for GA. With a 3 week A&P running around doing maintenance, we’re done for.

    • Actually, the 3 week LSRM permits full A&P/IA privileges on aircraft generally in the LSA category which includes the J-3 Cub and similar. Like the PPL, the LSRM is a ticket to learn. That said, one need not be licensed to do stupid things.

  5. LSRM are not allowed to perform maintenance or inspections on legacy aircraft that meet LSA standards.
    From AC 65-32A.
    “Repairman privileges do not extend to performing maintenance on aircraft issued a standard airworthiness certificate or any kind of special airworthiness certificates other than those issued under §§ 21.190 and 21.191(i), even if those aircraft meet the definition of LSA as identified in § 1.1 (e.g., Piper J-3 Cub or RV-4). Each airman is also limited to the appropriate class of aircraft on which he or she received training (e.g., weight-shift-control aircraft or powered parachutes).”

    • You’re right about that thanks for the clarification. Of note, after carrying the LSRM ticket for 30 months, however, the FSDO will sign you off for the A&P written test at which point you broaden your scope of work beyond LSA without having completed a formal A&P school.

  6. Thanks for bringing the LSRM ticket up. As an A&P/IA I hadn’t paid much attention to that path to getting an A&P so it was good to get back in the book and learn something new.