While most Westfield Technical Academy seniors are graduating June 3, the students in Aviation Maintenance Technology have a little longer to go. “This whole COVID thing has put us in a tailspin,” said Aviation Technology Director Galen Wilson, referring to the school closing down in March 2020.
Wilson said last year, they were allowed to bring the seniors back during the shutdown and were afforded the opportunity to educate them in their classroom in Hangar 2 at Westfield Barnes Airport with the doors open. The class of 2020 graduated in July 2020, and this year, the aviation class of 2021 will graduate on July 16 in a ceremony out at the hangar.
Students that graduate from the Aviation Technology program have a wide range of career choices in front of them. This year’s 13 seniors, which include four women, are making plans to study mechanical engineering in college, attend Aviation school, go into the military, become a military pilot, or go directly into the field, among other plans.
Wilson said the three primary teachers in Aviation Technology, including himself, Christopher Chaves and Scott Hepburn, are all pilots and FAA certified technicians; all are educated in engineering, and all of them have a military background. “We all enjoy flying planes, fixing them, designing them and talking about them. Other than the FAA certification for maintenance, all of this extra stuff is just a plus,” he said, adding, “We can steer a student down any path a student wants to go down.”
When asked about the impact of COVID–19 on the aviation job market, Wilson said throughout the pandemic, many airplanes were grounded. Now, as the pandemic stranglehold is released, they’re flying more and more, and the companies are actively looking for mechanics, avionics technicians and pilots.