(WACO) – The companies lining Karl May Drive in Waco could be considered Aviation Row. Drivers on their way to Waco Regional Airport pass an array of aerospace businesses specializing in flight training, propeller and engine parts and charter flights.
Blackhawk Modifications Inc., which is in sight of the airport’s control tower, is a global company headquartered in Waco that designs and sells engines to modify corporate-sized turboprop aircraft as approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Some of the 38 Blackhawk employees are graduates of Texas State Technical College in Waco.
“There is a major shortage in aviation-trained personnel coming on the immediate horizon, and TSTC is doing a lot to help bridge that gap,” said Jim Allmon, Blackhawk’s president and chief executive officer. “Boeing predicts that by 2020 there will be a deficit of 20,000 pilots and 30,000 mechanics in the aviation industry. Therefore, it is crucial that TSTC continues to produce graduates who are highly trained in the aviation field. Central Texas is growing tremendously, and we are going to need the talent that TSTC graduates provide.”
Some of the work the company is taking on now includes an engine upgrade for the King Air 350 and providing work for special missions for militaries throughout the world with lightweight interiors to reduce aircraft weight, fuel lockers and engine upgrades for selected aircraft.
Donna Crisman, 52, of Waco has been at Blackhawk for nine years and is the FAA certification and documentation manager. She compiles project revisions using FAA specifications.
Crisman graduated from TSTC in 1995 with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Networking and Systems Administration. She credits the technical college with teaching her the foundation to function comfortably with computers and the Microsoft system she uses at the company.
“I was a newly single mother when I looked at TSTC,” Crisman said. “TSTC had much more resources – child care, the women’s resource center and good housing.”
Michael Moore, 59, of Waco has been at Blackhawk for 11 years and is an engineering and customer service manager. He grew up in Marlin and has a tie to the land TSTC is on – his mother met his stepfather there when the property was Connally Air Force Base.
Moore was a jet engine technician when he was in the U.S. Air Force, which developed his troubleshooting skills. He went on to graduate in 1984 from TSTC with an associate degree in Aircraft Airframe Technology.
“The program was really good and gave me a good basis for my whole career,” Moore said.
He said he liked Blackhawk’s small and efficient size.
“I would not fit in with a large company,” Moore said. “Everyone knows everybody and we all get along.”
Garrett Stephan, 35, of Waco is an engineering project manager who has worked at Blackhawk for five years. He said flexibility was key to seeing work orders filled. He graduated in 2001 with an Aircraft Airframe Technology certificate.
“We have so many different products we are always working on. If we are not developing new products, we are updating legacy products,” Stephan said. “We study product improvement and customer issues.”
Brendan Krenek, 55, is an electrical and avionics specialist at Blackhawk who earned TSTC associate degrees in Laser Electro-Optics Technology in 1982, Aircraft Airframe Technology in 2005 and Avionics Technology in 2007. He said his studies with lasers helped him as he worked on his avionics technology degree.
“TSTC is more of a direct path to a job,” said Krenek, a Fayetteville native and Waco resident. “You don’t have to spend four years getting a bachelor’s degree to graduate with a marketable skill.”
Blackhawk was founded in 1999 and has performed more than 700 engine updates.
“A lot of new modifications and new products come out of Waco, and you don’t see that as much in other areas,” Allmon said. “The Waco aviation industry is greatly supported by the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce and city leaders.”
Blackhawk has partnered with TSTC in the past. The company has provided scholarships to TSTC students through the Freedom Ball which Allmon and his wife, Lynnette Allmon, Blackhawk’s vice president, started hosting in 2011.
“The cost of living in Waco is low, which is a great advantage to a small company like Blackhawk,” Jim Allmon said.
For more information on Blackhawk Modifications Inc., go to Blackhawk.aero.
For more information on TSTC, go to tstc.edu.