Aviation: Reaching New Heights
The opportunities are sky high when it comes to careers for graduates of FVTC’s aviation programs.
Elizabeth Amweg, 22, started taking flight lessons when she was 15. By the time she graduated high school, the Plymouth, Wis., native had already earned her private pilot’s certificate at a nearby airport. When she started shopping around for a flight school to continue her professional pilot education, she quickly chose Fox Valley Technical College.
“I started out looking at some four-year programs,” Amweg explains. “But they were expensive—and they didn’t offer as much as FVTC does in its two-year program.”
A visit to campus made Amweg’s decision even easier. “The people were all friendly,” she says. “The class sizes were small and I discovered I could transfer to a four-year program later on and earn a bachelor’s degree.”
For Amweg, things couldn’t have worked out better. After only two years at FVTC, she graduated with her associate degree in Aeronautics-Pilot Training in 2009. At the same time, she earned her commercial pilot’s certificate with airplane single-engine, multi-engine, and instrument ratings. She also earned a certified flight instructor certificate. What’s more noteworthy is that Amweg had accumulated more than 300 hours of flight time in only two years—a critical component of qualifying for employment as a pilot.
“If I had chosen a four-year school, it would have taken twice as long and I wouldn’t have acquired nearly as much flight experience or pilot certificates,” says Amweg.
Plus, she wouldn’t already have two years of experience working as a flight instructor. Like some FVTC program graduates, Amweg was hired as a flight instructor at the college after completing her degree. She now has more than 1,000 hours of flight time, and recently landed a job as a first officer with American Eagle Airlines, where she will be flying 70-passenger airplanes around the United States and the Caribbean.
“We keep our class sizes small [16 students] and really try to give our students as much one-on-one tailored instruction as possible,” says Jared Huss, lead instructor of FVTC’s Pilot Training program. “Elizabeth was the kind of student every instructor looks forward to teaching. She took full advantage of all the resources available to her, and always went above and beyond what was required. Elizabeth carried a tremendous work ethic with her while she worked for us as both a work study and as a flight instructor.”
Along with the Pilot Training program, FVTC offers programs in Aircraft Electronics
and Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics (A&P)
. Melissa Raddatz completed both programs, and she can attest that they too are top-notch offerings.
Raddatz, 28, started in FVTC’s A&P program, where she learned about every aspect of airplane maintenance, inspection, and repair—from welding, repair of composite structures, aircraft engine overhaul, and more. And she came to deeply appreciate the breadth of knowledge her instructors brought to the classroom. “All my instructors had real-world experience working for companies such as Rockwell Collins and Delta,” says Raddatz.
When she finished the A&P program, Raddatz enrolled in FVTC’s Aircraft Electronics program. She liked the electronics side of things even better than A&P. The two programs contributed toward her landing a new job with Duncan Aviation in Battle Creek, Mich. Her FVTC education helped tremendously with what was an extremely competitive interview process. “There were roughly 100 applicants for two openings,” says Raddatz.
Raddatz is now working as a wiring specialist, building and installing wiring harnesses for Duncan, which builds custom airplanes for corporate clients. Her husband, Austin, also works for Duncan. The two of them met at FVTC, where Austin completed the same courses of study. Raddatz, who is the first woman to have completed both the A&P and Aircraft Electronics programs, has also earned national recognition for her accomplishments. She was featured on the cover of the September/October 2010 issue of Aviation for Women magazine.
FVTC adds new option to pilot training program
Most years, 100% of the graduates of Fox Valley Technical College's pilot training program land a job within six months. With the downturn in the economy, that number dipped a bit last year to 80%. Jared Huss, lead instructor of FVTC’s Pilot Training program, reports that the industry is rebounding. But that doesn’t mean the college is sitting still.
“Along with keeping FVTC outfitted with state-of-the-art training equipment, we’re always looking for ways to collaborate with other college programs to increase opportunities for graduates,” says Huss.
FVTC is now offering students the opportunity to combine one year of Pilot Training with one year in the college’s Wildland Firefighter
program. Students could earn their commercial pilot’s certificate with airplane single-engine, multi-engine, and instrument ratings the first year. Then, with a year in the Wildland Firefighter program, they would be qualified for jobs supporting wildland firefighters such as air patrol pilots (looking for fires), air attack pilots (directing firefighters on the ground from a plane), and air tanker pilots (dropping chemicals on fires).
“We hope this is just the first of several collaborative efforts along similar lines,” says Huss. “In the future, we plan to look at adding programs in criminal justice and agriculture that would help qualify students as pilots with the U.S. Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies, as well as crop dusting operations.”