RVC Lands Aircraft For The Aviation Maintenance Program
“RVC is the first school in the nation to have a fully operational CRJ 200 aircraft,” said Ryan Goertzen, Vice President of Workforce Development of AAR Corp.
The arrival of the CRJ at Rock Valley College’s Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT) program hangar at the Chicago Rockford International Airport was three years in the making. At that time, Goertzen authored a white paper outlining an aggressive plan to grow AAR’s workforce in Rockford in a way that had not been done before.
“We have created something so unique in the state of Illinois. This should be stood up as a model for workforce development across the country,” continued Goertzen.
Thanks to Illinois legislatures, a grant was awarded to The Workforce Connection that facilitated the purchase of the aircraft. And ultimately. it was AAR’s connection to SkyWest Airlines that made the purchase and delivery possible.
(Pictured: The plane dedication that took place on Oct. 18, 2022, at RVC's Aviation Career Education Center)
“The strong partnership that The Workforce Connection, Rock Valley College, and AAR have is the result of many hours of hard work and dedication,” said Gina Caronna, Executive Director of The Workforce Connection. “In order to have partnerships like this be successful, everyone has to be committed to staying at the table for the long haul, and that is exactly what you see in this partnership.”
The College’s AMT program has more than tripled in size in recent years. Currently, the program serves 178 students with three cohorts of students running in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
RVC’s program chair, Todd Morgan, speaks with great pride regarding the program. “We are able to provide training at a fraction of the cost because we are a community college. A student can get to work rather than being saddled with debt upon completion of our program.”
When conversations first began about adding a larger aircraft to the program, Morgan said they were initially looking at a Cessna Citation as it was a smaller aircraft and was within the budget. He credits Goertzen’s connections and Caronna’s tenacity for raising the bar and securing the CRJ 200.
Students in the AMT program monitored the flight radars and watched with great anticipation the day the aircraft arrived.
“We watched as the plane taxied down the runway knowing that we were receiving a new plane. We were really excited to know that we would get to work on an aircraft similar to the ones we will see in the field,” said Amanda Friedman, a third-semester student in RVC’s AMT program.
Friedman moved back to Rockford in 2020 to be closer to family and returned looking for a lucrative career to support herself and her four-year-old son. With the guidance of her stepfather, who has a commercial pilot license, she found herself in a position at UPS. As she watched the airplanes come in during her 10:30 p.m. – 3:30 a.m. shift, she eventually turned her sights across the tarmac to RVC.
“It’s been an exciting ride so far,” exclaimed Friedman. “It’s not just aviation that is so wonderful; it’s also the people that are part of the aviation world.”
The sky’s the limit for Friedman who has already had the opportunity to travel all over the Midwest in support and promotion of aviation.
With the addition of the aircraft, both Friedman and Morgan are excited about the future of the program. Morgan is looking forward to continuing his work with students to improve the program and curriculum, and Friedman is already thinking about the vast opportunities that await her after graduation next winter.
Morgan concluded, “This is a small program. It’s a community college-based program. I am very proud that we have one of the lowest cost programs as well as one of the highest quality programs in the country.”
Visit www.rockvalleycollege.edu/aviation to learn more about the Aviation Maintenance Technology Program.