One of Purdue’s most elite clubs is actually a class offered at Purdue that only accepts five students per semester.
You won’t find AT 490, “Aviation Maintenance Practices” listed anywhere in the course registration. The class involves Purdue students working on all 26 operating planes at the Purdue University Airport. Students practice under the direction of a licensed technician.
The College of Technology director of maintenance, Michael Davis, said he isn’t aware of an equivalent course for this kind of hands-on learning anywhere else on campus.
“Having students work on active, airworthy aircraft is something unique to the aviation technology program at Purdue,” Davis said. “The aircraft (that) we fly and the students work on offers valuable experience by having modern state-of-the-art technology, which is not present in most un-airworthy static aircraft used in the normal lab environment.”
John Davis accepted his position as clinical assistant professor of aeronautical engineering technology roughly five years ago. Upon accepting the job, he knew the department needed more practical application classes. Years ago, a variation of the current class existed, but caused problems in the department and was shut down. Davis took it upon himself to reinstate the class according to his ideals.
“I didn’t want to know (what they did wrong before) because it failed,” John said. “I saw (the class) as a perfect opportunity to help the students (and) provide a better product when they graduate.”
Each of the five students is assigned one day of the week and works with the technician during a four-hour lab. The class is first come, first serve and only five students are chosen per semester.
The class was reinstated last fall. Garrett Lamanski, a senior in aeronautical engineering technology, said the unpredictability of the class is the best part of the experience.
“It really depends on the day what you are doing,” Lamanski said. “You never know what is going to happen. One student might do something completely different from you on Tuesday.”
Lamanski called the class the most fun that he has had in his four years at Purdue and is going to try to take it again in the spring.
“At first I was nervous working with the plane mechanics,” Lamanski admitted. “These aircraft are worth a ton of money. Obviously student lives are in our hands so that was intimidating at first.”
Deemed a once-in-a-college class by Lamanski, John agreed that all the feedback he received regarding the class was overwhelmingly optimistic. An additional benefit to the class is that it is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, meaning students who take this class are eligible to apply for their Airframe and Powerplant Certification. This is a professional certification that is a requirement for those seeking employment with regional airlines or turbine manufacturing companies like GE or Rolls Royce.
“More than anything, it gets the Purdue name out there, which we like,” John said.
The class is projected to be retitled and listed as AT 477 and added to the class listing next semester. All interested students must have completed prerequisite courses in order to sign up for the class.