Tony Loya, Leo Guajardo, Damian Leal

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – If anyone knows how to inspire Texas State Technical College Aviation Maintenance students, it is instructor Leo Guajardo.

After all, he was once a student in the same program at TSTC’s Harlingen campus himself.

“I enjoy educating my students and contributing to the aviation maintenance industry by providing high-quality training for those entering the field,” Guajardo said.

Guajardo earned a certificate of completion in Aviation Maintenance Technology – Airframe and Powerplant from TSTC in 2011.

That same year, he accepted a structural technician job with L3 Communications (now L3Harris) in Greenville.

“I was a contractor for the Department of Defense,” he said. “I rebuilt civilian aircraft for the military. I held that position for two years.”

During his employment, Guajardo made the decision to further his education at TSTC.

“I needed a few classes to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree,” he said. “Those classes were available online. So I enrolled.”

Two years later, he earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Aviation Maintenance Technology – Airframe and Powerplant from TSTC.

The next chapter of his life would transition him back to TSTC, this time as an employee.

“My first child was born, and I wanted to be around my family,” he said. “I noticed TSTC had a job vacancy for a program maintenance specialist in the Aviation Maintenance program. My former instructor (Thomas) Cross suggested that I apply, and I was hired.”

Cross, a TSTC Aviation Maintenance instructor in Harlingen, said Guajardo has always exhibited high energy and passion for the aviation field.

“As a student, he excelled in the classroom and in the labs,” Cross said. “His easygoing demeanor makes it easy for others to relate to him.”

Guajardo began to move up the career ladder at TSTC.

“I was an Aviation Maintenance lab assistant for two years,” he said. “Then I was promoted to an Aviation Maintenance instructor. I am in my sixth year as a TSTC instructor.”

His focus as an instructor has always been to provide quality education.

“I wanted to provide excellent hands-on training for students who desire to enter the aviation maintenance field,” he said. “I wanted to train them in ways I knew the field would require. That passion allowed me to become a mentor for the students and future technicians. They viewed me as an example who went through the same training and found success.”

Jon K. Douglas, director of maintenance for Southmost Aviation, said the hands-on training that TSTC’s Aviation Maintenance program provides creates a foundation for students and graduates to continue their education and advancement out in the field.

“It introduces Leo’s students and graduates to real-life conditions in my shop,” Douglas said. “It affords me the opportunity to continue teaching them and makes them productive in the shop, which has benefited our company.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, aircraft mechanics and service technicians can earn around $66,710 a year. projected that there would be an 8% increase in the number of such jobs in the state from 2018 to 2028.

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

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