Fresno Aviation Maintenance Technology students get close to the jet action
Aviation Maintenance Technology program students finally got to visit the source of the ground-vibrating rumble they hear every day while they’re in class or working on plane parts in the college campus’ hangar located at the Fresno-Yosemite International airport.
A three-hour field trip took them to the 144th Fighter Wing Air National Guard Base close by, where powerful F-15 jets taking off and landing reminded them why they chose a career as an Aviation Maintenance Technician.
“The Air National Guard are enlisted men and women who are part of the United States Armed Forces Reserve that we call Weekend Warriors because some work (civilian jobs) all week long,” says Shanna Milano, an instructor at the Aviation campus and field trip organizer. “They are different from the military, but can be called into service and can be requested for fly-overs at a Veteran’s Day celebration or other military tribute events.”
Shanna planned the field trip with Lt. Colonel Cesar Gonzalez, who was enthusiastic about introducing students to elements of the career they had chosen and the people performing those responsibilities. He was also their tour guide for the day.
“Aviation students received an up-close tour of the base, the hangars and – specifically – the jets we hear take off every morning,” says Shanna. “Students were given the opportunity to speak with seasoned mechanics; they watched them handle unexpected defaults and go through the scheduled maintenance.”
The tour hit a hard pause while students watched the spectacular aircraft make their exits and returns.
“Let’s face it; military jets are just plain cool,” says James Marlow, who will complete the Aviation Maintenance Technician program next July. “Being that close to the flight line and interacting with real maintenance personnel was exciting and motivating.”
SJVC’s Aviation Maintenance Technology program has a good balance of classroom education and hands-on experience in the hangar, but meeting those who are in the trenches of the careers they love was a valuable peek into the future.
“I talked with the maintenance crew, including two enlisted personnel, and the Commanding Officer of the squadron,” says James. “I loved their energy and attitude. They were very excited and enthusiastic about their jobs, having visitors and showing off their aircraft. I don’t know who was happier, us or them!”
Aviation students got to witness a minor glitch when one of the jets about to take off had to taxi back to the tarmac. “A tiny issue with pressure and a red flag hanging on the body of the airframe of the jet came up,” says Israel. “It was detected and instantaneously corrected by the pilot and ground crew. It showed discipline to fit the rules and regulations.”
The best part of the experience is always the sheer majesty of those jets. “Watching F-15s taking off at full after-burner – that’s when extra fuel is ignited in the exhaust system for an extra boost – was the highlight,” says James, who spent a lot of his childhood watching jets take off and land on bases while his dad was in the Air Force.
This was the second time Aviation Maintenance Technology students had visited this air base. “The first trip, we had two students go back and talk to a recruiting officer,” says Shanna. This class might have a few students who are close to program completion do the same.
“Absolutely, I would work there,” says Israel Ogbu, who came to the U.S. from Nigeria in 2016 and is three months into the Aviation Maintenance Technician program. “I saw a high level of safety and professionalism, and it gave me confidence. Safety commences from the ground operation, and it is everyone’s responsibility. Lives are in our care.”
The day’s activities weren’t as much inspiration as confirmation for these students that they are on the right career path. “I was fairly solid anyway,” says James, whose grades have him on Dean’s List. “But it was nice to get that extra boost, extra motivation to excel in my studies.”
It sounds as though the Aviation campus’ Aviation Maintenance Technology students ended the day at full after-burner, just like those jets.
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