TSTC aviation volunteers

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – A group of aviation students from Texas State Technical College have gained valuable hands-on experience by volunteering to work at Mid-Valley Airport in Weslaco.

TSTC student Adrian Nacianceno was among those who got a leg up through the opportunity.

“Definitely great, very invaluable — I learned so much that I knew things that my classmates didn’t over in school,” he said of his time in the hangar. “It’s always good to have that type of experience — it’s like how it’s going to be, those job opportunities out there. It kind of gives you a glimpse of that.”

TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Aircraft Airframe Technology and an Aircraft Airframe Technician certificate of completion. The program offers hybrid coursework, blending online learning with in-person lab time that delivers hands-on training with relevant equipment and technology.

When Nacianceno graduates from TSTC, he will have earned a pair of Associate of Applied Science degrees — one in Aircraft Airframe Technology and the other in Aircraft Powerplant Technology. He has yet to decide whether he will continue his education or get his pilot’s license.

TSTC aviation maintenance instructor Leo Guajardo selected some of his best students to participate in volunteer opportunities to give them the chance to further explore one specific facet in the broad field that his program trains them to enter.

“There’s a saying that a jack-of-all-trades is a master of none. What I learned is that the rest of that saying is ‘but better than a master of only one,’” Guajardo said. “My students are very much a jack-of-all-trades — they know a little bit about everything. Airplanes have such a wide variety of different technologies. They end up, when they graduate, finding their niche.”

Aircraft mechanic and service technician positions are projected to grow by 12% through 2030, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finds, adding that such positions can earn an average annual salary of $66,680.

Fred Perez’s company, Sky King Aviation, operates in a hangar at the Mid-Valley Airport. The company primarily paints aircraft, but Perez is retooling its mission to acquire, refurbish and resell them.

Having the TSTC students on hand to assist with the highly involved and intensive process of painting was a wonderful help to his company, Perez said.

“They had to help us remove most of the paint just to make sure the aircraft was really clean right before we got to our priming stage, and they did a great job,” he said. “It’s fantastic — they’re a great help. They bring a lot of energy to our hangar.”

Perez added that he and his painter relished the opportunity to deliver some real-world experience to the students.

“I thought it’d be great to help out the community and help out these aspiring aircraft mechanics to show them what interesting opportunities await them in the future by giving them a chance to be hands-on right now,” he said.

Guajardo noticed a change in the students who participated in the opportunity when they returned to class.

“My students came back with an enlightened attitude,” he said. “It’s not just about painting. You should’ve seen them walk in the next day. They had a different step about them. They felt like airplane mechanics after that — they weren’t just students. I was super proud to be a part of that feeling they gained.”

Learn more about TSTC at tstc.edu.

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