TSTC Aircraft Airframe Technology student Matthew Stokes uses a socket wrench to remove the cowling from a Cessna aircraft engine during a recent lab session.

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Matthew Stokes, a native of Liberty who now resides in Harlingen, knew from the age of 11 that he wanted to pursue a career as an aviation maintenance technician.

His decision to enroll in the Aircraft Powerplant Technology program at Texas State Technical College was a step in the right direction.

Stokes also is expanding his knowledge with a part-time job as an aircraft mechanic at Southmost Aviation in Brownsville.

Stokes became a Federal Aviation Administration-certificated powerplant mechanic after completing TSTC’s Aircraft Powerplant Technology core courses last year, which led to the job opportunity at Southmost Aviation.

“I’m currently in the second semester of the Aircraft Airframe Technology program, and I’m taking those core courses,” he said. “I will test for the FAA airframe certificate after I finish them. Then all I need to do is complete my academic core courses, and I’ll earn both Aircraft Powerplant Technology and Aircraft Airframe Technology Associate of Applied Science degrees.”

Stokes said his experience at Southmost Aviation has been rewarding.

“The company’s director of maintenance (Jon Douglas) is a great teacher because he’s willing to share his knowledge of the industry,” he said. “I’ve held this job for three months. My job duties consist of inspecting and interchanging parts, and disassembling and reassembling new aircraft parts such as landing gear and other items. I’ve met aviation professionals, including some TSTC graduates who are aircraft mechanics.”

Douglas said he was impressed by Stokes’ quick ability to learn.

“Matthew has a good skill to see something a couple of times and pick it up right away,” he said.

Stokes said his TSTC program experience has been worthwhile.

“I enjoyed the Aircraft Powerplant core courses because I learned how to use different tools for different parts of an aircraft engine,” he said. “With the Aircraft Airframe core courses, I’m learning more about an airplane’s body and how welding and fabrication coincide with it. I find using these tools and repairing engines therapeutic.”

Stokes credits his educational journey to two experiences in particular.

“My father was a mechanic, and I was fascinated by the tools that he used when he resolved issues on automobile engines,” he said. “Years later in my hometown, my grandmother and I noticed a man who was working on an airplane at Liberty Municipal Airport. I asked him questions about the type of work he did as an aircraft mechanic. My grandmother mentioned that TSTC has an aviation maintenance program because she’s a native of Harlingen. I performed an online search and filled out the college’s application.”

TSTC instructor Leo Guajardo said Stokes is committed to learning and growing.

“Matthew seeks out experiences and finds time to practice both hands-on and theoretical components of aviation maintenance,” Guajardo said. “He has set himself up for success in this industry. He’s inspired and proactive, which are sought-after qualities in a leader and an employee.”

Stokes said his future plans include enrolling in the Aircraft Pilot Training program at TSTC’s Waco campus.

“Since I’m receiving an education in the maintenance side of aviation, I decided I should take it a step further and become well-rounded.”

According to onetonline.org, aircraft mechanics and service technicians in Texas earn an average of $67,680 a year. The website projected that there would be a 16% increase in the number of such jobs in the state from 2020 to 2030.

TSTC offers Associate of Applied Science degrees and certificates of completion in both Aircraft Airframe Technology and Aircraft Powerplant Technology at its Abilene, Harlingen and Waco campuses.

Registration for TSTC’s fall semester is underway. For more information, visit tstc.edu.

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