ITE aerospace students to get latest testing equipment, new unmanned aerial systems diploma

(From left) Principal of ITE College Central Suresh Natarajan, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, and Community and Youth Alvin Tan and Testia Asia-Pacific international development and partnership director Nicolas Fournier, at the signing ceremony, on Feb 16, 2022. PHOTO: ITE

SINGAPORE - Students at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) preparing to enter the aviation industry can expect to use cutting-edge technology and study unmanned aerial systems under training agreements to equip them for an industry facing long-lasting changes.

Under the three agreements inked between ITE and industry leaders on Wednesday (Feb 16) - including aerospace giant Airbus and Purdue University in the US - students will be trained to maintain the latest aircraft models and become versed in sustainable fuel technologies.

Within the next five years, ITE also plans to launch a diploma to teach students to fly and repair unmanned aerial vehicles, under its partnership signed on Wednesday with Purdue University, the alma mater of astronaut Neil Armstrong.

The university's School of Aviation and Transportation Technology will help ITE develop lectures and laboratory courses by training faculty instructors, selecting lab equipment and subject material, said the university's Raisbeck Engineering Professor of Aviation Technology Manoj Patankar.

Speaking at the signing on Wednesday in ITE College Central, Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan noted that the agreements come at a time when change in the aerospace industry has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Over the last few years, we have seen many aircraft manufacturers adopting 'greener' structural materials to improve flight efficiency, reduce maintenance requirements and lower consumption of fossil fuel," said Mr Tan, who is also Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth.

Noting that many industry players pivoted towards increasing freight load and improving sustainability during the pandemic, ITE chief executive Low Khah Gek said the agreements will help the institute's curriculum and training keep pace with new work tools and processes.

Under a three-year agreement with Airbus company Testia, ITE students can tap its equipment and testing practices for non-destructive testing, which are inspection methods that test and analyse aircraft equipment without damaging them.

Ms Low said teachers and staff will also be able to learn from the testing service provider, which has ventured into automated testing to more accurately analyse aircraft composite structures.

In addition to the agreement with Testia, Airbus and ITE will collaborate to strengthen the green and sustainable aircraft maintenance training programme for students.

This curriculum will enable ITE to be recognised by Airbus to support the basic maintenance and structure repair training for the next-generation aircraft, said Ms Low.

A major challenge for airline operators and maintenance repair organisations is to hire personnel who can ensure safe and efficient maintenance operations, but also minimise additional costly and time-consuming training, said Dr Valerie Manning, senior vice-president of Airbus Training and Flight Operations."

Over the next 10 years, hundreds of thousands of aircraft mechanics are needed around the world so there is no way that any one institution is going to train them all so for us, it's really about helping everybody to reach industry standards for future aircraft needs," said Dr Manning.

(From left) ITE chief executive Low Khah Gek, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, and Community and Youth Alvin Tan and Senior Vice President, Airbus Training & Flight Operations Service Dr Valerie Manning, at the signing ceremony on Feb 16, 2022. PHOTO: ITE

ITE aerospace technology students told The Straits Times that they have already felt the boost that higher-end equipment has on their learning.

One such technology supplied by Testia is the wireless Smart UE1 device, capable of ultrasonic and eddy current testing, that Year 2 student Shirley Tan used on Wednesday to check for cracks on aircraft components.

The 17-year-old said: "I'm grateful to be able to learn from so many different types of instruments so that when I go for an internship next time, I can apply what I have learnt."

This brings her one step closer to her dream of becoming an aircraft technician in the Singapore Air Force like her father was, said Miss Tan.

With a passion for reducing carbon emissions as well as flying, her course mate Jovan Kok said he was keen to learn about more fuel-efficient and cleaner aircraft.

Said the 18-year-old: "I've always been interested in global warming since Primary 6 so by joining aviation, which has one of the highest carbon emissions, I hope to help to reduce that."

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