TSTC Aircraft Powerplant Technology student David Cortinas identifies the layers in an alternator of an aircraft engine during a recent lab session.

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Highly skilled aircraft technicians are in short supply, and the aviation maintenance program at Texas State Technical College is training students in an effort to meet demand for them across Texas.

According to a recent Aviation Technician Education Council Pipeline Report, the pandemic is estimated to have cost the industry at least 5,000 new mechanics, creating an even bigger challenge in filling such jobs in civil aviation.

Isaac Pena, of Rio Grande City, is a second-semester Aircraft Powerplant Technology student at TSTC. He said the technician shortage creates a promising outlook for upcoming aviation maintenance graduates.

“It’s beneficial because there’s more demand, opportunities and potentially increased pay,” he said. “As I’m gaining an education, I approach a task by the book and will sometimes attempt my own style. If it’s incorrect, my instructor (Leo) Guajardo will provide feedback. I enjoy his teaching because he’s passionate and it’s engaging.”

Pena developed an interest in aviation through his father.

“During my youth, my father took me to a small airport in Zapata,” he said. “We flew our remote-controlled aircraft models there. Years later I wanted to become an aircraft pilot. My father suggested that I first learn aircraft maintenance so I wouldn’t have to pay for a technician.”

Jessica Sheldon, of Harlingen, will graduate this summer from TSTC’s Aircraft Powerplant Technology program. She said she would like to make an impact as a woman in the industry.

“I want to make sure that women know they can pursue this career,” she said. “It’s a great field to enter if you love aviation and working with your hands.”

She added that TSTC’s hands-on training has been more than she imagined.

“You will learn something new in every class,” she said. “I never thought I would do work such as welding, HVAC and sheet metal because I didn’t associate it with aviation maintenance. The earning potential for this field is incredible. I’m aiming high because I know this career path will lead to greater avenues.”

Leo Guajardo, TSTC’s aviation maintenance program director, said the program’s curriculum is based on industry needs.

“Recent changes to the Federal Aviation Administration’s 147 regulations allowed us the freedom to tailor our courses to better prepare our students to be excellent technicians,” he said. “The industry’s growing need has provided higher pay for graduates. This itself is a recruiting tool, and it has increased the number of individuals who are interested in pursuing aviation maintenance. Higher-paying jobs lead to further interest. We are here to serve that interest by filling open aviation mechanic jobs in Texas.”

He added that a new generation of technicians is ready to work.

“Our students are natural researchers,” he said. “Their introduction to the technology at such a young age has sculpted excellent research skills. That intelligence in their ability to find, interpret, process and utilize complicated technical data is unrivaled.”

According to onetonline.org, aircraft mechanics and service technicians in Texas earn an average of $66,710 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.

For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

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