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In Spring 2021 the massive Pratt & Whitney PW6000 turbofan engine made big news when it was unveiled at the Charlotte Technical College (CTC) Aviation Extension campus in Charlotte County, Florida. Previously used in service for an Airbus 318, the engine boasts some impressively big numbers, including a weight of 500,000 pounds and monetary worth of $2 million. More importantly, as a training tool the engine will have an impact beyond measure, elevating the training in CTC’s fledgling aviation airframe mechanic program to an elite level, opening boundless possibilities for students, the aerospace industry and the region.
“Mechanic training rarely involves experience with a new turbine of this caliber,” notes Stephen Nowell, founding manager of the program and 40-year veteran of the aviation maintenance industry. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime training opportunity.”
The P&W turbofan is also a visible and high-powered symbol of Charlotte County’s rapid rise in the aerospace sector.
With a looming nationwide shortage of aviation mechanics, the program has arrived at the right time for the aerospace industry. The timing is also perfect for the growth of Charlotte County as a flourishing aerospace hub, already home to nearly 150 firms within a 50-mile radius engaged in aerospace manufacturing and transportation. While the County’s portfolio of aerospace assets is substantial—including a labor pool of 550,000 within 45 minutes—the program will add a critical training pipeline. And as it fills a specialized workforce need it will expand the County tax base through well-paying jobs: The average annual wage for an aviation mechanic tops $60,000.
Exciting career prospects are one reason why CTC has been able to recruit such a high caliber of students since it began admitting students to the program in February 2021. And high-quality students make a perfect match for the cutting-edge equipment, notes Deelynn Bennett, CTC Director.
“While there’s an urgent need for aviation mechanics, there’s also a real hunger for the opportunities the field provides. Aviation mechanics is financially rewarding and professionally stimulating. And now with this level of training, the sky really is the limit for our graduates.”
For students the timing in other ways is also right: Career tracks are available for both high school and adult students, and the program can be completed in as little as 18 months. Add to that a total program cost under $10,000 leading to the launch of a successful life-long career, and it’s a compelling opportunity for students that promises strategic on-going strength for Charlotte County’s aerospace workforce.
Putting It All Together For Takeoff
A collaborative effort between CTC and the Charlotte County Economic Development Office, the aviation program was funded in large part by a $1.7 million grant from Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity. Collaboration with area business has also proved fruitful, with the donation of the P&W turbofan one of the most notable examples.
Dave Gammon, Director of the Charlotte County Economic Development Office, expects that kind of synergy to continue, and the success to grow. “Now Charlotte County has all the pieces in place, including market access, a large labor pool, great sites and acreage. For the aerospace industry, there’s no better place for takeoff.”