Just like automobiles, aircraft need to be maintained to safely carry passengers and cargo from Point A to Point B.
Advantageously positioned between six major airline hubs, north Louisiana has become a center for aviation maintenance, both through the expansion of companies in the region and the continued growth of workforce development training programs that support the sector.
In January 2020, Advanced Aero Services (A2S), announced the launch of an aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul facility (MRO) at Shreveport Regional Airport, a venture that will provide a fleet of aviation services to commercial carriers and the military. The company has a plan for phased growth over the next decade, ultimately building out a regional base of operations that will employ an estimated workforce of 1,000.
While the coronavirus pandemic has caused disruption in the airline industry this year, A2S is on pace to hit several milestones, including completing FAA certification, says A2S founder and president Mike Anderson, an industry veteran who previously ran two of the largest aviation MROs in the United States. Moreover, A2S has used the slowdown to develop new disciplines and expand its target markets, says Anderson.
“The silver lining of COVID has been that we’ve taken the opportunity to rethink our model and add services that will help our customers meet future changing demands,” says Anderson. “We expect to add project management and engineering for the military, and non-maintenance services, like administrative tracking and logistics, which companies will be able to outsource to us to save themselves overhead costs.”
Shreveport is a natural fit for A2S’s vision. Regional assets include Barksdale Airforce Base in Bossier City, and Southern University Shreveport (SUSLA), which has had an Airframe and Powerplant Maintenance Program since 1991.
The program, taught at the Shreveport Downtown Airport, has grown and evolved to meet the needs of industry partners, says Aerospace Technology Center Director Timothy Banks. In 2017, A $500,000 grant from the Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration helped renovate classrooms and hangar space at the downtown airport, providing hands-on training opportunities to students. In February 2020, the program received $125,000 from Louisiana Economic Development for additional classroom space, an expansion that has helped the program continue to support the workforce needs of regional employers like A2S, Western Global Airlines, Metro Aviation and others.
“We’ve historically had a 100% job placement rate with regional and out of state employers,” says Banks.
Students in the program earn an airframe and powerplant license and are able to sit for the three-part FAA certification. SUSLA is an FAA certified testing site, meaning students don’t have to travel to undergo the licensing process, a key component in job placement.
Students can complete their studies in a two-year full-time program, or in a three-year evening program.
“When students first come into the program, they can’t imagine that they’ll be able to work on aircraft,” says Banks, an U.S. Airforce veteran and former ExpressJet technician who holds a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and a master’s degree in aeroscience. “But very soon, they gain confidence and begin to see how the different disciplines they’re learning come together on the job site.”
Banks say the program also offers certifications in two-week courses in areas that help students, or incumbent workers, build their skills. These include areas like working with sheet metal, or learning how to use precision measurement instrumentation. SUSLA’s aviation program also offers dual enrollment opportunities with local high schools.
Airforce veterans who retire from service at nearby Barksdale AFB are well-poised to transfer their skills in the military to the private sector. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has a satellite Barksdale campus, which partners with Bossier Parish Community College to assist veterans as well as active-duty military, spouses and civilian students to obtain the necessary credentials to enter a career in the regional or national aerospace industry.
Interested in a career in aviation? Check out Louisiana Job Connection to view open positions today!