(ABILENE Texas) – Hayden Poe had a dream of being a fighter pilot in the United States military.
But his height and color blindness prevented him from achieving that career. Instead, he turned to aviation maintenance. His journey began with a college football scholarship and eventually to Texas State Technical College.
Poe is studying for Associate of Applied Science degrees in Aircraft Airframe Technology and Aircraft Powerplant Technology in hopes of working as a civilian contractor for the military.
“Since I was young, I always had a fascination with airplanes,” he said. “As a kid, I would always draw pictures of airplanes on paper. It became my career plan early on in life.”
Growing up in Kerrville, Poe began playing travel baseball but turned to football. He was offered a scholarship to Angelo State University, but after one year of playing football and studying commercial aviation, he wanted a change.
“After one season, I decided it was not for me,” he said of studying to become a pilot. “I wanted to do maintenance work because I always liked working with my hands.”
After researching different programs, he found TSTC’s aviation curriculum to be something he wanted to look into.
“I saw that TSTC had a good program and decided to transfer here,” he said. “It was the right decision.”
Poe said spending his time in the TSTC aircraft hangar does not feel like a normal class day.
“This is not what I have experienced before. It does not feel like you are in school when you come into the hangar,” he said. “I really enjoy doing the hands-on aspect of the work.”
He said the instructors make sure that each student has the tools needed to be successful.
“It is a good environment, being in class. If you are looking for a place to study aviation, TSTC has the best opportunities,” he said.
TSTC aviation maintenance instructor Brian Wilkins said Poe has the potential to be a good aircraft mechanic.
“Hayden scored a 95 on his general FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) exam. For someone with his experience, that is very impressive,” Wilkins said. “I know he is going to have a promising career in the aviation industry.”
Poe’s career may also include earning his pilot’s license.
“I do hope to one day be able to say I earned my pilot’s license,” he said. “I will take my time working on that. Right now, I like what I am learning at TSTC.”
Poe said he plans to continue to make contacts with people he talks to while working at the Dyess Air Force Base golf course.
“A lot of the airmen at the base are airframe and power plant guys,” he said. “I want to build up a network of contacts in order to be able to apply for jobs. That includes hopefully becoming a civilian contractor in the military.”
The need for aircraft mechanics and service technicians in Texas was forecast to grow 16% between 2020 and 2030, according to onetonline.org. The average salary for a technician in the state is $66,710, the website stated.
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.
For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.