Aviation may not come to the fore when it comes to mechanical repair. But the sky is filled with propellers and jet engines. And like all other engines, they need to be repaired from time to time.
Lake Area Technical College provides the training necessary to fly and maintain aircraft.
Those who love airplanes at an early age are sometimes inspired to become pilots, but mechanics are necessary and in great demand. Sam Burke, Dalton Mann, and Brooklyn Swenson are friends who each had their own unique journey in aircraft mechanics in the Lake Area.
Burke is originally from western Minnesota. His career in post-secondary education did not start with aviation.
“I come from a family of academics,” he said. “I went to liberal arts college, but found academia was not the right choice for me.”
An interaction with a seasoned aviation mechanic piqued his curiosity and he scheduled a visit to Watertown.
“I’ve only held a key maybe twice in my life,” he said. “It was complete culture shock. But when I went to liberal arts school it was always painful to get up and go to class. Within a few weeks, I had no trouble getting up. bed. .”
Swenson is from Woonsocket and had a love for motors for much of his life.
“I helped my friends drag races and build engines,” she said. “I had a friend in my class who was interested in aircraft mechanics. I got a taste of aviation when I helped him with his annual review. That’s when I knew this was what I wanted to do.
Being in a male-dominated field, Swenson said she did not experience any gender discrimination when earning her certification in the Lake Area. This was also the case when she and Mann did an internship in Orlando with Textron Aviation last year.
“I’ve always been a tomboy so I fit in. In Orlando I got a little more help. They were really nice guys to work with,” Swenson said.
“She runs the hangar,” Mann said.
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For Mann, a native of Rapid City, his desire to repair planes began with his time as an aviation mechanic for the National Guard. To work with civilian aircraft, it needs certification.
“Unlike a normal career where everyone aspires to one thing, with aviation every direction you can take is so different from the next,” Mann said.
This diversity is found in the different types of aircraft that a mechanic can work on. From big airlines like United to private or corporate jets to military jets to agricultural duster, the sky’s the limit.
“Finding a job is not difficult in this field,” Mann said. “The VP of Maintenance (of Textron Aviation) took us to lunch and told us it was a great time to join this area. as of July, they have 150 mechanics at all of their stations in the United States. Plus, they have stations in Spain, England, and Singapore. They are looking for young people. “
Aircraft maintenance is in such high demand that companies across the country have visited Lake Area students, hoping to attract their interest.
“The CEO of Duncan Aviation, the world’s largest private jet engine repair company, spoke to our class of 11 students. It really shows that these people care about us. They need mechanics, ”said Burke.
All three students feel their Lake Area experience has been great. There are options for learning aircraft maintenance all over the country, but friends said the Lake Area is full of amazing teachers, friendly people, and affordable, quality education.
“I was deciding whether to go to Wyoming or attend LATC. Wyoming was an hour closer to Rapid City, but I would have had to pay out-of-state tuition. When I visited LATC, I visited LATC. really liked it. Greg Klein, who is the chief aviation officer, was the first person I met. It’s hard not to like him, “said Mann.
“He’s the absolute best,” Burke said. “He has such a wonderful attitude about life.”
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Swenson said she wanted to leave South Dakota far behind after graduating from high school. However, when looking at the various schools offering aviation maintenance certification, she found that many were overpriced and had a bad reputation.
“I figured I would stay here and get my money’s worth. And, of course, I loved Greg. There’s no one who doesn’t like him,” Swenson said.
Students feel that future mechanics often overlook the Lake Area program. They hope that the creation of their new club, the Lake Area Technical College Aviators Club, will not only further enrich student experiences, but will also help build relationships with others considering joining us.
“It’s not just a flight of discovery that’s the ah-ha moment,” Burke said. “I thought flying a glider was going to be boring because it didn’t have an engine, and that’s where all the fun is. Until I sat in one. I felt like a bird. . I could hear the wind rushing past the wings. “
The three students will earn their Aviation Maintenance Certificate this academic year and plan to move to Orlando together. Mann and Swenson will both work for Textron Aviation. Burke has not had the opportunity to intern at the company, but he hopes he will have the opportunity to network in the area and find employment soon.