Students from St. Croix Educational Complex High School and St. Croix Central High School learned about careers in aviation at the Rotary Mid-Isle Vocational Careers Seminar. Captains Coto and Modeste talked about becoming a pilot, followed by Michael Bird and Luke Merchant who talked about a career as an aircraft maintenance technician.
Becoming a Pilot
Captain Jose Coto first became interested in being a pilot when he saw an airplane land on the water as a child. He now has 18,000 hours flying! “Once aviation gets in your blood, it’s there to stay,” he said to the students.
A successful flight is a group effort, according to Capt. Coto. Between pilots, ground crew, flight attendants, maintenance, scheduling, and reservations, one can’t go without the others. Included in his duties as Chief Pilot is to make sure the rest of the pilot crew is trained.
Capt. Coto shared that the life of a pilot is always interesting. In all of his years of flying, no two take-offs or landings are ever the same. To further his point, he shared that, “you might have breakfast here, but you don’t know where you’ll have dinner!”
When asked who in attendance might be interested in a career in aviation, a few students raised their hands. According to Capt. Coto, there are approximately 350,000 pilots in the U.S. now and 65% will be retiring in the next 10 years. “Now is the time to get into aviation!”
Captain Reynold Modeste graduated from Central High School himself. He joined the Boy Scouts Aviation Explorers in high school and said he got his pilot license before he got his driver’s license! His career as a pilot started at Antilles Aviation and has taken him all over North, Central, and South America.
Q&A: What is the scariest part of flying? There is always a chance that something could happen, but pilots are well trained to handle a variety of situations. Capt. Modeste shared that pilots go to school twice a year for continued training.
Aircraft Maintenance Careers
Luke Merchant, Lead Mechanic, graduated from Central High School and his kids graduated from Complex, which got applause from both sides of the room. Simply put, he explained his job as repairing any damage on the frame of an aircraft and repairing the engines.
The requirements to become an aircraft mechanic include:
- a high school diploma or GED
- 24 months of school (Luke attended the National Aviation Academy in Tampa) OR 30 months of on-the-job training
- 3 written exams from the FAA
Q&A: Do you have to take a plane completely apart to fix it? Most of the time, we do not have to take a plane completely apart. A “heavy check” is when a plane must be taken apart. We also do routine maintenance, when parts have a time limit and the maintenance team must keep track of these time limits and swap out the parts.
Director of Maintenance, Michael Bird, brought along a used Citation tire and a brand new one to show the differences between the two and talk about the similarities with car maintenance.
Q&A: Have you ever failed or forgot to fix something? Sometimes we might fix something and it doesn’t solve an issue, so we need to troubleshoot further. When we are troubleshooting, we sit down with the pilot to fully understand mechanical issues. If we are at all unsure about safety, we will ground a plane.
Thank you to Rotary Mid-Isle for including Bohlke in your Careers Seminar! We hope to see student pursue a career in aviation – and maybe work at Bohlke one day!