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New aircraft mechanic program increases accessibility statewide

Mechanical Helper Education Program being offered through the University Alaska Anchorage
A single prop airplane flying in Alaska.
A single prop airplane flying in Alaska.(Staff)
Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 6:37 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Especially in Alaska, the more people who know how to keep airplanes in the air the better. However, it’s a big state and there are mechanics in rural locations that don’t have the same accessibility to classes to excel their knowledge. From the University of Alaska Anchorage, the Mechanical Helper Education Program seeks to offer knowledge to anyone who wants to learn.

The program is a group of 29 courses on a wide variety of aviation mechanics, from things like propellers to weather protection. The aim of the courses is to prepare mechanics working in shops across the state for airframe and powerplant certification.

It was created by Wade Weiss, a former member of the U.S. Air Force and graduate of the former version of the program. He’s currently an instructor at UAA. He said the Alaska Air Carriers Association approached UAA to develop such a program.

He said about 25 students have been through all or part of the courses. By the time the program is fully complete, he estimates that there will be up to 60 courses for students to choose from.

Weiss said there are no prerequisites or other requirements to take the courses. All people need is access to a computer and a credit card. He said they are billed by the course hour and each one should be between $25 and $75 each.

“There’s a lot of folks out there, especially here in Alaska, where they’re out working in the shops but again either can’t or don’t want to come to a formal school,” Weiss said. “This is an opportunity for them to get the academic side of what they’re hopefully learning in the shops with the on the job training.”

He clarified that passing all the courses does not grant FAA airframe and powerplant certification. However, this program is meant to be an online study guide with an emphasis on knowledge retention.

“The mechanics aren’t only just learning how to pass a written or oral test,” he said. “They’re actually learning the reason why, and gaining the knowledge that they need to understand the processes and the repairs that they are doing.”

For those who enroll in the courses, Weiss said they can even choose which ones they want. Students don’t have to sign up for all of them, but rather can learn the contents of the courses they’re interested in.

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