Back To Your Future

Is this a great time to head back to school?

Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics
The Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics (PIA) was an off-shoot of the Curtiss-Wright Flight Services which offered aircraft sales and service and provided flight training. Curtiss-Wright Flight Services was founded by Glenn Curtiss and Orville Wright, and in 1929, August G. Becker, who managed the organization for the Curtiss-Wright Corp., leased the operations at Bettis Airport and purchased the school and its facilities. The name was changed to the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, and under Becker’s direction, the focus of the school changed from selling airplanes to focusing on repair and maintenance. PIA has two campuses; the Pittsburgh campus is located near the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin, PA, while the Youngstown campus is located in Vienna, OH, about seven miles north of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.

PIA’s core programs include:

  • Aviation Maintenance Technology
  • Aviation Electronics Technology
  • Electronics Systems Technology
  • Mechanical Systems Technology

I visited with Lola Suvak, admissions representative for PIA, who interviews and enrolls new students into PIA’s many degree programs. Suvak told me that all of PIA’s programs result in the Associate in Specialized Technology (AST) degree. Additionally, the aviation maintenance technology (AMT) program has a specific focus on FAA Part 147 training, whereas the aviation electronics technology (AET) program focuses on avionics training. PIA’s AMT FAR 147 program was certified in 1929 and has about 168 students currently enrolled. About 230 students are expected for the fall session.

Other PIA associate degree AET and AMT programs have 38 and 141 students, respectively. Further, about 75 percent of the enrollees at PIA consist of traditional-age college students, with the remaining 25 percent as the “non-traditional” students who are seeking second careers. As with other schools I looked into, the availability of jobs and the industry climate traditionally impact PIA’s enrollment. PIA had been seeing enrollment slowly decline until recently, and it is beginning to see that trend slowly reverse itself.

Suvak says that PIA’s most significant recruiting success comes from an active high school representatives program, where PIA admission representatives go into regional high schools and promote careers in aviation. PIA has also recently launched a new interactive web site that offers sections for prospective students, guidance counselors, parents, graduates, and employers. It is beginning to see an increase in interest from the new site.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) is located in Daytona Beach, FL. ERAU received its Air Agency certificate in May 1965, and has since been offering a variety of aviation programs. Its core programs are:

  • Associate of Science in Aviation Maintenance Science
  • Bachelor of Science in Aviation Maintenance Science
  • Airframe & Powerplant (A&P) Technician certification
  • Avionics Line Maintenance (ALM) Technician certification

According to George DeWees, manager of recruiting, marketing, and admissions, ERAU currently has about 225 students enrolled in the Bachelor of Science/Aviation Maintenance Science program, and another 25 in the Associate of Science program. DeWees agrees that the overall economy does influence enrollment in its aviation programs. ERAU is seeing its enrollment trending up, along with a 10 to 15 percent increase in enrollment every year for the past eight years. ERAU recruits and markets its aviation programs through local TV ads, ads in national magazines, the Internet, trade shows, and college fairs.

DeWees says that in this down economy, ERAU is taking active steps to ensure it provides added value to its students. “In this economy, we are managing our budgets so that we can offer the same number and dollar amounts of scholarships that we have in the past,” he says.

Additionally, when students continue their education in one of Embry-Riddle’s undergraduate degree programs, they will receive up to 48 credits for their A&P certification, and students enrolled in the ALM program receive an additional 12 college credits, an ERAU completion certificate, and the FCC GROL and the NCATT certification.

Another added value for the AMTs that may attend ERAU is the university’s Part 145 engine repair station which is incorporated into the Part 147 curriculum. Students in the A&P program overhaul a fully operational engine that has reached its limit in hours (2,200 hours) and see it returned to service.

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