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Sky Is The Limit

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Halle Breudigam

  Choosing a school or career path after high school can be incredibly stressful, especially if you have no clue what you want to pursue. Money, location, course offerings, timeframe, and so many other factors have to be taken into account when making that decision. College may be the more popular route to securing a job in young adulthood, however, it is not the only pathway.

  We all know of plumbers, electricians, and even carpenters when we think of the notable trades. We all know of the people who come to fix our appliances and who help us with the mechanical work of our homes. These couple of trades have always been offered as an alternative to attending a university, and are in higher demand now than ever. According to Adecco USA, since 2020, 62% of firms have struggled with positions that require trade skills. But what about the other available trades? What about the ones that are not as familiar to students? 

  Have you ever thought about who makes sure a plane is ready for takeoff? Or, how their engines are designed to help us travel thousands of miles across the world? 

  PIA (Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics) is a two-year program designed to teach students the maintenance skills they need to become successful mechanics, particularly for the repair and maintenance of airplanes and helicopters. It was ranked the number one two-year trade school program by Forbes in 2018 and continues to operate alongside Delta Airlines to recruit more aspiring airplane mechanics each year. 

  The school offers two programs: Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT) and Aviation Electronics Technology (AET). Both of which are 16 months long and include using hands-on skills as well as bookwork. The difference between the two certifications is that the AMT students graduate with mechanical skills required to repair and ensure a plane is safe for takeoff, while AET students are required to maintain electronic systems of an aircraft such as radars and warfare sensors. 

One of PIA’s many aircrafts parked right outside the school.

  PIA has four different campuses: one in Youngstown, OH, Pittsburgh, PA, Myrtle Beach, SC, and Hagerstown, MD. The program sets students up to be

 hired immediately upon graduation. With a yearly salary median of $57,200 after six years of experience, according to Niche, graduates are quick to move up in the field because of how desperately aircraft mechanics are needed. 

“In our fourth semester of school, we have companies that come into our class to interview us and possibly hire us right after graduation,” said second-semester student Chris Jordan. “It’s cool because when you’re new to the field, you can still make up to $60 thousand a year with no real experience yet depending on where you work. After 10 years, $80 to $100 thousand is the average salary.”

  Companies like Delta, United, Skywest, Republic Airways, and even Cedar Point pay annual visits to the PIA campuses to interview and hire newly trained mechanics. Then, they will be able to gain more experience to hopefully work their way up in the company. 

“With an AMT diploma, you can operate on more than just planes,” said student Jesse Ward. “You can pretty much work on anything mechanical like aircraft, forklifts, blimps, and even rollercoasters.”  

  Today, the average age of airplane mechanics is 60-years-old. The industry is expanding rapidly each year and more mechanics are needed to fill the jobs of those who will soon retire. Visit PIA’s website to learn more about the program and its mission to restore the field of aircraft mechanics.