TSTC aviation maintenance student Axel Iracheta checks the landing lights on a Cessna 175B aircraft during a recent lab session.

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – For U.S. Navy veteran Axel Iracheta, his former job as an aviation boatswain’s mate on an aircraft carrier docked in California — and a brief handshake with a movie star — led him to pursue an education in aviation maintenance at Texas State Technical College.

“My job was doing some maintenance on military aircraft, fueling aircraft before they deployed, and I was in charge of a crew at the age of 18,” Iracheta said. “During that time I met Tom Cruise and shook his hand on our aircraft carrier because they were filming ‘Top Gun: Maverick.’”

Iracheta said that meeting, along with the fact that a friend aboard the ship was an aircraft powerplant mechanic who let him watch as his team tested and troubleshot jets, piqued his interest in aviation maintenance and eventually led him to TSTC.

“I’m currently in the first semester of the Aircraft Airframe Technology program,” Iracheta said. “I’ve completed the aviation core courses in Aircraft Powerplant Technology. I will soon test for the Aircraft Powerplant FAA license.”

The Harlingen resident said he has enjoyed his experience in the program.

“The instructors have a great way of keeping us engaged,” he said.

Leo Guajardo, TSTC’s aviation maintenance program team lead in Harlingen, said Iracheta’s military background is a plus.

“Veterans like this young man provide insight to technology and processes that can only be acquired by serving in our country’s military,” Guajardo said.

Iracheta acknowledged that his time in the Navy was beneficial.

“I’m grateful that my military experience has prepared me to be ready for anything while I get an education,” he said.

According to onetonline.org, aircraft mechanics and service technicians in Texas earn an average of $77,640 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 Powerplant Technology and Aircraft Airframe 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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