Director selected for EKU aviation program

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RICHMOND, Ky. (KT) - Eastern Kentucky University has hired a director of its new Regional Aviation Maintenance Academies.

David Bledsoe brings more than 28 years of experience to the program, having worked in several areas of the aviation maintenance field including project management, general aviation, heavy aircraft maintenance, engineering and training. He has also worked in contract with the Army Special Forces and Army National Guard aircraft.

The academies will provide an opportunity to earn an industry recognized certification as aviation maintenance technicians for those who have been displayed by the downturn in the coal industry along with veterans seeking employment in Kentucky’s Appalachian counties.

Training will begin in classrooms at EKU and Kentucky Community and Technical College System campuses, and end with hands-on training at partner airports.

Proposed training locations include EKU’s East Region and South Region Campus, London-Corbin Airport, Hazard-Perry County Regional Airport and Big Sandy Regional Airport in Paintsville. However, an expected start date has not yet been determined.

The EKU administration is hopeful that the first group of students will begin at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Airport in Hazard as soon as January 2020. Following the Hazard schools’ opening, EKU will seek approval from the FAA for each school separately. A timeline to bring the schools online will be available once curriculum is FAA approved.

All four schools have a goal to certify at least 86 mechanics by fall 2022, with enrollment ranging from 12-32 students.

“The creation of four regional Aviation Maintenance Technician centers is both exciting and ambitious,” said Dr. Melissa Newman, Executive Director of Regional Programming & Regional Stewardship at EKU. “Finding the right person to direct this work and to manage the operations was crucial. I feel confident that David’s passion for all things aviation maintenance and his depth of experience makes him the ideal director.”

Bledsoe has a Bachelor of Science degree in business management from Western Governors University and an A.S. in specialized technology from Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics. His other credentials include certifications from the Computing Technology Industry (CompTIA), Federal Aviation Administration, and Federal Communications Commission.

“I am looking forward to working with everyone and to making this program very successful,” Bledsoe said. “This is a great opportunity to reach out to our Appalachian region and impact the communities in a positive way.”

EKU says regional airport directors report that aviation mechanics already on site are overbooked and are turning away airplane maintenance work that is going outside of the Appalachian region. Newly trained AMT’s would be qualified to work in regional airports.

According to the 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2,930 Aircraft Mechanic and Service Technicians employed in Kentucky. Their median annual salary was $79,590 with a median hourly wage of $38.26.

The job outlook for all fields of aircraft mechanics is expected to increase over the next decade.

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