--They've put in more than 2,000 hours over the past two years, studying mathematics and physics, rebuilding jet engines a n d c ra m m i n g fo r federal exams.

On Wednesday night, 4 3 s t u d e n t s wa l ke d across the stage at Victor Valley College's Pe r fo r m i n g A r t s Center as the inaugural graduating class of the S o u t h e r n Ca l i fo r n i a Logistics Airport School of Aviation.

"It's been a long, long road and it was a lot of work," graduate Dan Terrell, 56, of Victorville, said.

"I've been looking forward to this day for a long time and I want to start working," he said.

Half of the graduates already have jobs waiting for them at SCLA, working with companies such as PART and S o u t h e r n Ca l i fo r n i a Aviation. Another dozen or so have found employment at other area airports or aviation companies, including Lockheed and the Marine Corps L o g i s t i c s B a s e i n Barstow.

Eight graduates are still being placed by the school, as part of the service offered is assistance with job placement.

"We are very proud of being able to educate a work force," Keith Metzler, SCLA's director, said. "providing quality job opportunities for our residents, leading to a better quality of life while also improving the economic condition of the Victor Valley."

The school has been in the works since 2004 as the brainchild of SCLA's resident aviation expert Jim Worsham. It's changed names a few times and taken on different funding sources since, officially forming in 2006 to educate Victor Valley residents in aircraft mechanics so they're ready for employment as jobs become available with SCLA companies.

T h e 4 3 s t u d e n t s t h at g rad u at e d t h i s week started in spring 2009, attending Federal Aviation Administrationcertified courses five days a week, five hours a day.

T h ey a re n ow a l l licensed Airframe and Powe r p l a n t m e c h a n -- ics, qualified to perform service or make repairs on all types and sizes of private and commercial aircraft. They are expected to earn an estimated $40,000 per year to start.

"My plans are to get a great job in the field and start a career," graduate Dylan Ross, 19, of Victorville, said. Anyone interested in more information about the school can send an e-mail to opportunities @victorvillecity.com.

Brooke Edwards may be reached at (760) 955-5358 or at bed wards@VVDailyPress.com.