Saturday, December 23, 2017

Aircraft as popular as St. Nick at Champlain Valley Technical Education & Careers: Kids hop in cockpits at Plattsburgh Aeronautical Institute

PLATTSBURGH — Santa Claus will be flying into the North Country on Sunday for his annual world tour, but he made an early appearance over the weekend.

Santa and Mrs. Claus took a few hours out of their busy holiday schedules to take part in the first-ever Candy Canes and Airplanes open house at Plattsburgh Aeronautical Institute on the CV-TEC satellite campus.

Hundreds of North Country kids stopped by to see the jolly old elf, but they were just as excited about the airplanes, helicopters and other aeronautical equipment on display.

Many of the youngsters had a chance to climb aboard the aircraft to feel what it's like to sit in the pilot’s seat.

“We’ve been very, very fortunate to have received so much support for our programs,” said Jim McCartney, principal at the institute.

“This (open house) gives us an opportunity to invite the community in to see what we do here. It’s a way to give back to the community.”


Plattsburgh Aeronautical Institute opened in 2009 to provide both high-school students and adults with an opportunity to study various aspects of aviation repair.

Following a two- or three-year program, aviation students are eligible to receive their Federal Aviation Administration license.

“The Airplane and Power Plant License allows them to work on aircraft engines and frames regionally or anywhere across the country,” McCartney said.

“If you measure the success of a program on whether or not our students are getting jobs, then yes, we have been successful.”

More than 30 students have graduated from the program, with many now working in aviation or related fields. The program even has father-and-son graduates, Dan and Chris Hickey.

And Chris is now studying in Norway to expand his skills with the international aviation giant, Norsk Titanium.


Youngsters and their families got the chance at the event to see where the institute’s students spend a lot of their time learning about aircraft repair.

“This helps the community understand what our students are working on a little bit better,” McCartney said.

Matthew Timmons, a U.S. Navy veteran and adult student at the institute, spent the afternoon helping kids climb aboard the aircraft and providing information on the planes and helicopters for parents.

“This is a great program,” he said of all the institute has offered him over the last two years.

“I would recommend this program to anyone, especially high-school students who are looking for a good career to get into.”


Timmons spent three years in the Navy working on aircraft maintenance, but he said the Plattsburgh program provides an expanded view, as students study many aspects of aviation repair.

“We have such a great team of instructors,” he added, noting that both full-time instructors are military veterans with impressive experience in aircraft maintenance.

“I wish I was 17 years old again,” said one of those instructors, Leonard Smart, who joined the military at that age to become an aviator.

“These kids can come here at 17 and have a career at 19. It’s a fantastic program and will be one of the biggest aviation schools on the East Coast.”


The institute has two hangars filled with aircraft and other equipment and also has a Boeing 727 on the property that students use for training.

The 727 was initially going to be a part of the open house, but with frigid temperatures outside, organizers decided to keep everyone inside the cozy hangar.

James and Tesa Potts attended the open house with their 5-year-old son, Bryson, and year-old twins, Brent and Lexi.

“He loves airplanes,” James said of Bryson’s aeronautical interests. “We thought it would be fun to see the airplanes, and he’s really enjoying it.”

Tesa thought it would be a terrific family opportunity with the holidays approaching, especially with a chance for the twins to meet Santa himself.

After enjoying their time aboard the Piper Archer, Cessna 182 or one of the helicopters, the kids got snacks and an opportunity to create their own aviation-related artwork.

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