Irving — The gentle hum of flight simulators and conversation filled Irving High School’s aviation classroom in celebration of a new partnership that will take students to new heights.
Irving ISD and the Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) signed an agreement Tuesday, Dec 10, that will give students enrolled in the district’s School of Aviation Science the opportunity to get a head start on entering the aviation industry.
“Students will be able to graduate from high school, have only 16 months of school left to become a certified aviation technician and save roughly $10,000,” Christ Coley, AIM’s campus executive director, said. “They’ll be entering the job market with a certified FAA license at 19 years old. That’s pretty remarkable.”
The School of Aviation Science program at Irving High School is part of Irving ISD’s Signature Studies. Students can choose one of three different course tracts: Aviation Science, Aviation Technology, or Drone Engineering. Regardless of the tract, the partnership with AIM will help students address a worldwide problem in the industry.
“The entire world has a problem,” Joel English, vice president of operations for AIM, said. “The problem is a shortage of aircraft mechanics.
“Boeing’s projection is that the world will need 600,000 more aircraft mechanics over the next 20 years. In America alone that number is about 200,000. That means every year the FAA needs to certify 10,000 people, only about 5,500 are being certified today.”
The average annual wage of an aircraft mechanic and service technician is over $62,500, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. English shared that he made less money in his first job after he received a doctorate degree than aircraft mechanics make in their first jobs.
Additionally, English spoke about the demographics of the industry.
“Only 2.5 percent of aircraft mechanics are women,” English said. “The airlines are actually hiring young women at a higher rate than any other group of people.”
Angie Marabi, a senior in the Aviation Science program, served as the master of ceremonies for the event.
“One day I want to use all the knowledge that I will gain to work at NASA, SpaceX or as an aeronautical engineer,” Marabi said.
“I try to get what I call the ‘spark’ created,” Craig Heckel, Signatures Studies School of Aviation coordinator, said. “If you can get the spark created, [the students] will take it the rest of the way.”
One way Heckel cultivates this spark is through an aviation contest students enter every year.
“The Real World Design Challenge starts in October, and they offer a drone challenge,” Heckel said. “We have won the state [contest] two years in a row, and we have gone to Washington D.C. two years in a row.
“We’ve got great, great things going on here. We want to keep building on it.”