ABU DHABI // A select group of Emirati aviation students will travel to the weeklong Experimental Aircraft Association's Airventure in the US later this month to take lessons from the industry's leading lights. The 18 students from Abu Dhabi Men's College (ADMC) will travel to Oshkosh, in the US state of Wisconsin, on July 24 to attend one of the world's biggest aviation trade fairs.
There, they will attend workshops by experts and have the chance to network with industry executives. Emiratis are significantly under-represented in the aviation industry. The students say it is an exciting time to be an Emirati in the business, with developments such as the recent launch of an aerospace manufacturing plant in Al Ain. The company behind the plant, Mubadala, plans to train 175 Emirati technicians and 75 engineers for the facility over the next two years and hopes that Emiratis constitute half its workforce by 2015.
The US trip, the second to be organised by the college, will enable the students to meet with top engineers and manufacturers as well as hear lectures by experts. They will be accompanied by two faculty members. "These trips are 100 per cent important for us," said Ibraheem al Ali, 23. "Modifications of airplanes changes day-by-day. It must be safety first and this means upgrading your skills and knowledge is even more important."
Khaled bin Humaid, 21, said: "You must keep yourself updated. Every three to five years, something new will come. Over the coming years everything will change in aircraft." Mohamed al Briaki, 21, said learning from other countries was vital and being in the industry's network would allow Abu Dhabi to keep apace of important developments. "The US and France are leading the way in this field," he said. "It's a great chance to learn from them."
The biggest challenge to the industry at the moment, they say, is the high dropout rates of Emirati students on the course, the only one offered in Abu Dhabi. In turn, it means that companies such as Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies (ADAT), where all the students will work, has just three per cent of its staff who are Emirati. Mr al Ali said the course was one of the toughest at the Higher Colleges of Technology, of which ADMC is one, with a diverse curriculum including wiring, repairs and the theory of light. Dubai Men's College also offers the course, channelling students to Emirates Airlines.
"Aviation has a lot of pressure and people don't like that," Mr al Ali said. "It is not like being a motor engineer. If you have a car problem, you can just pull over. In an aircraft, there's only one way to go. There's a lot of working outside too, and heavy physical labour." Mr bin Humaid added: "People also like a daily routine, doing the same things every day. In aviation, every day there is something new to learn and do. I wanted to be different. So many guys here choose business, IT, electrical engineering, but nobody really does aviation."
Their Diploma in Aircraft Maintenance requires two years of classroom theory and two years of practical training. ADAT sponsored 10 students for the course, from which they graduate in September, and Etihad sponsored eight. Some will go on to complete their Higher Diploma after graduation. Colin Signorino, chair of aviation engineering at ADMC, said the trip to the week-long Experimental Aircraft Association's Airventure enables the students to immerse themselves in the industry.
"They will be meeting with the innovators of the industry and they'll see some of the latest technologies as they're developed," he said. Mr Signorino said the two faculty members would also learn aircraft design and construction techniques, which could be put to use in expanding the curriculum. In time, he hopes it will pave the way for a bachelor's programme in aeronautical engineering. firstname.lastname@example.org