Adam Saylor tightly twisted wire around bolts securing a propeller on the plane he was reassembling.
"There’s no Triple A in the air," Saylor said. "There’s going to be no one to help you so you better make sure all the bolts are on there."
Saylor, of Havelock, is in his last semester in the Aviation Systems Technology program at the Havelock campus of Craven Community College, where students are learning skills to obtain their airframe and power plant license from the Federal Aviation Administration.
"I want to get a job with whoever takes me, wherever I can get my foot in the door," Saylor said. "It’s a good program. It’s got good teachers. I’ve been here for two years now. I’ve learned a lot. It’s not just with planes. It’s with anything. I’ve learned stuff to help me in every day situations like working on my car and stuff like that. If you need a job and want to learn a trade, this is a great program to come to."
Student Bill Britt, of Morehead City, was helping Saylor refit the propeller in place.
"I’ve always been interested in airplanes and what not," Britt said. "I basically came over here to help me get my foot in the door over at FRC East."
Britt already has a degree from N.C. State but wants to bolster his resume.
Student Candace Guthrie, of Beaufort, was down the long line of airplanes working to remove an alternator from the engine of a Cessna 150.
"I was laid off from the school system and I applied for the program and got accepted and went that following fall," Guthrie said.
She used to be a teacher assistant and school bus driver and wants to use her two-year associates degree to get a job at Fleet Readiness Center East at Cherry Point or at Spirit Aerosystems in Kinston. She has no prior experience with airplanes.
"It’s just exciting to do something completely different. I have my first degree in computers so I was clerical mainly in a lot of offices. I’ve been the one to fix the copier, fix the printer or work on stuff in the office," she said. "I love to do stuff hands on, so this has been amazing. I enjoy coming to school every day and getting my hands dirty."
Student Pat Kirk, of Morehead City, worked in aviation while in the Marine Corps and now wants to use that knowledge to get his FAA certification.
"It’s a good jumping off point for a really fun career," he said. "There’s a lot of good careers in aviation. Not every person is going to be a pilot. I kind of pattern it after the military where there are seven people that support each combat person. The same thing kind of applies in the aircraft business. You have mechanics, you have air traffic controllers, you have all sorts of other careers, this being one of them."
Kirk, who was a Marine in the 1960s, said the program was good for veterans looking to build on their military experience, and it has also helped him with his hobby of flying.
"I have my own airplane and look to this also to make me a better pilot," he said. "Now that I understand more of the mechanical aspects of the airplane, it gives me a little better comfort level when I see the detail that goes in the maintenance of these airplanes."
Greg Purvis, AST program director, said the majority of his graduates land jobs in the aviation industry after graduation, including nine of 14 2012 graduates.
"We want students to stay in the neighborhood and be at the base, but we also want them to have the opportunity to go anywhere in North Carolina and maybe outside North Carolina," Purvis said.
He said the program recently became affiliated with NA Aviation, an aircraft repair station with 155 workers. The Winston-Salem company has offered graduates of the AST program a direct line to employment.
The most recent entry class has 23 students in a possible 25 spots.
Also added to the program recently is a test prep program geared toward helping former military personnel find jobs. With 30 months of work as an aviation mechanic, qualifiers can enroll in test prep, giving them a fast track toward FAA certification.
"That test prep is prepping them to get their airframe and power plant license so they’re not having to sit through a two-year program," Purvis said.
Purvis said the students could take their FAA exams and also use those 30 work hours to get 64 credit hours at CCC. With just an additional 24 hours of class time, they can receive their associate degree and move on to a four-year college.
The Havelock campus includes propeller planes, a private jet, and military and civilian helicopters on which students work to complete their tasks for class.
Last month, the school received a donation of a 2005 Rotorway Exec 162 F helicopter on which students can learn. Purvis said the small kit-built chopper will also be shown around at area events in hopes of promoting the opportunities at the program.
"There’s a lot of opportunity here that most people that live here don’t know about and is continuing to grow," said Robin Matthews, director of Workforce Development at the college.
For information on enrollment or the aviation program, call Craven Community College at 444-6005.