What sparked your interest in fixing airplanes or aviation in general? I’m sure there was a moment when something clicked, and you thought, “That is what I want to do!”
Maybe you were screened for aptitude in the military and directed to aircraft maintenance. Perhaps you read a book about airplanes and thought, “I want to build one of those someday.” Maybe you saw somewhere that Lindbergh’s first words when he landed at Le Bourget were, “Is there a mechanic here?” Or was it Joe Patroni, the character from the movie Airport saying that a 707 can do everything but read that inspired you to head into this field?
Could have been any of those things but more than likely, I bet there was someone in your life who already worked in the aviation maintenance arena and encouraged you to become an A&P or to get into the field in some way. Most of us who get into aviation started out doing it because we had someone encourage us to do so.
For me, it was my father. When I read a book about aviation and flying, I told him about it and that I thought it would be amazing to learn to fly. Surprisingly, his response was, “Well we can’t do that sitting the living room – let’s go to the airport!” l took a Cessna discovery flight and was hooked. But, if he hadn’t been receptive to my request, he easily could have squashed my budding interest. After that, he continued to encourage me. When it came time to look at colleges, we researched options with aviation programs and flight training together, finally settling on Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Once there, I had instructors that took an interest, continuing to encourage me to push a little harder, study a little longer, get the best grades I could and join campus clubs like the school newspaper. So, mentoring continued for me throughout my time there.
We need more of this in the maintenance arena. I encourage all of you to reach out to youngsters in grade school, middle school, high school while they are still formulating their ideas about what they want to do with their lives. Spark their interest in aviation. If you know a gifted youngster who shows an aptitude for fixing things or one who is constantly taking apart and putting back together their toys, suggest looking into aviation maintenance as a career path.
“I’m giving all of our readers this mandate. Help a kid find a passion for aviation maintenance. Mentor a youngster by bringing them to the airport, to the hangar and showing them what you do. Plant the seed of a life time of challenges in aviation.”
We will need all the help we can get in the coming years. Retirements loom and the industry continues to grow. Jobs in the tech industry may look attractive to kids but there is so much new technology in our industry, that we must also look at potential workers differently. Perhaps the ideal candidate not only likes to take apart and put back together but also writes code. Perhaps the ideal candidate not only likes fixing things but also has a knack for computer technology.
With more avionics equipment, big data, downloadable info and tech in our world, maybe we need to grab some of the kids that are sitting at home creating games so we have their fearless love of all things digital being integrated into our workforce.
Where can you find someone to mentor? Start with your kids, of course, if they are still young enough and undecided about a career path. But branch out to neighbors, Boy and Girl Scout troops, career days at elementary schools, Big Brother/Big Sisters, 4-H organizations, kids in foster care and other places where there are eager, interested kids yearning for input from someone they respect and trust. I guarantee it will be rewarding beyond words to help someone in this way.
I’m giving all of our readers this mandate. Help a kid find a passion for aviation maintenance. Mentor a youngster by bringing them to the airport, to the hangar and showing them what you do. Plant the seed of a lifetime of challenges and adventures in aviation. It’s a win-win.