The technician takes a final lap around the aircraft he had just inspected taking a second look at the repaired wing and electrical systems. He’s confident he tested all the gauges and other diagnostic equipment and signs off on the plane.
“You have to think to yourself, did you fix it? Because you’re going to bet your life that you did it right,” said Rodney Foster, the chair of the Aviation Technology department at Orange Coast College.
Foster is a certified airframe and power-plant mechanic and has been an instructor in the Aviation Maintenance Technician program for nearly 25 years.
The program provides students with courses that teach the technical skills and knowledge necessary for a position as an aeronautical mechanic in as little as two years. The program is similar to hands-on programs often found at technical schools.
“I like that everything is hands-on. I was going to Cal State Los Angeles and I was doing the aviation administration program and it was all bookwork. There was nothing fun about it. When I found out about this program, I found out everything was hands-on and you actually get to work on the aircraft,” said Daphny Paz, a 23-year-old member of the program.
Students involved in the program have the opportunity to work directly with the engines, turbines, and other components of the airplanes that OCC houses.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, OCC currently houses a total of seven aircrafts on campus. A few of these aircrafts are incorporated in the program and students have the opportunity to work directly with engines, turbines and aircrafts.
“It’s a trade. You learn how to fix something so that’s what’s really fun about it.”
The two-year program is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, which means that the FAA comes and checks the facilities yearly.
Students learn how to repair everything from the wings to engines of the planes. Students who complete the program receive certification to be eligible for testing to receive a license.
Students are currently working with a 1955 Cessna model 310, a five-seat twin-engine airplane.
“The 310 is really fun because we actually get to run the engine,” Adhora Hassan, a 25-year-old student of the program said. “We do compression checks on it and then we just run the engine. It’s a lot of fun to work with.”
While working on aircrafts can be fun, Foster stresses to his students on the importance and seriousness of becoming an aviation mechanic.
“We continually strive for perfection because non-perfection kills people and that’s what we teach our students,” Foster said.
That is the kind of mentality that Foster hopes to instill in his students’ minds, as he instructs them, and teaches them the trade of working with the aircrafts. According to Foster, students will potentially become responsible for maintaining and working on aircrafts that transport civilians every single day, and they are taught to understand the responsibility and care that the job entails.
Aside from the grave realities of training for the career of an aircraft mechanic, it also has its benefits. Some include financial security as one of the many perks. According to the Employment Development Department, in California alone, the median hourly income for aircraft mechanics and service technicians was $43.23 and the median annual income was upwards of $83,000.
When students finish the two-year program and acquire all the licensing they need to be an aircraft and power plant mechanic they are then ready for hire. Instructors also help with internships.
“During your first year you get your licensing. Then we get you into some internships just to make sure you really like it and you’re passionate about what you’re doing,” Foster said.
Some students that have been a part of the program now work directly with aircrafts, serving companies like Delta Airlines, and FEDEX. Most of the students that are a part of the program leave the program with the reassurance and guarantee of job offers, according to Foster.
“If any of those students out there want a crazy and rewarding job — here you have it. Show up, and we’ll let you in and get you working,” Foster said.