I recently had the opportunity to visit Amarillo, TX (self-dubbed "Rotor City, USA"). It is a good example of a city working to foster a business culture that encourages growth in the aviation sector.
The biggest aviation employer in Amarillo is Textron Bell. The company leases several large hangars at the airport and it is there that the V-22 Osprey is manufactured. In addition, Bell was recently awarded the contract for the next presidential helicopter, the US 101, and Amarillo is where that helicopter will be assembled.
Growth at Bell's Amarillo location is amazing. The company used to have new employee orientation every two weeks, but had to step up the process to once a week because of the increased amount of employees being hired. Bell says it has no need to recruit mechanics through help-wanted ads or other recruitment efforts. On the contrary, mechanics are contacting the company from across the state (and even around the country) to see if there are any job opportunities. The average pay for a mechanic is $22.00/hr - not too bad considering the facility has only been operating for around six years.
Realizing that there are good opportunities for the local workforce at Bell, Amarillo has stepped to the plate to provide potential aviation employees with the training they need to succeed. Amarillo has a technical program through Amarillo College that provides training in sheet metal, NDT, and assembly. The cost is $1,500 for a six-week course, and the course provides students with some of the basic skills necessary to work in an aircraft manufacturing environment. Bell guarantees all graduates a job interview. Bell knows that these potential employees have a sincere desire to work and a commitment to training. Many workers who enroll in this course end up employed at Bell. A good percentage of those employees go on to enroll in the local Part 147 school. There, they are able to obtain their A&P certificate with an associate's degree.
Amarillo College has also developed continuing education courses for current Bell employees. The college has worked closely with Bell to develop a variety of courses that cover subjects such as composite materials and repair, quality, safety and environmental training, blueprint reading, and NDT.
But the city isn't satisfied with only having Bell as the major aviation employer in Amarillo. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation is busy trying to attract other aviation companies to locate in Amarillo. If you have been to NBAA or HAI the last few years, you may have noticed them there touting their city to aviation companies.
It is evident that Amarillo is focused on growing an aviation cluster in their city. Even though their self-dubbed name is "Rotor City, USA," it might be dubbed "Aviation City" if things progress the way Amarillo wants them to. The city's commitment to aviation is strong, and their recipe for success appears to be working. Kudos, Amarillo, to a job well done.
Do you have a story to share with us on what your city is doing (or not doing) to create a positive working environment for A&Ps? You can send your letter via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to us at:
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The week-long courses will be instructed by John Saunders at Wichita Area Technical College’s Comotara Center campus.
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