Young people entering the aviation industry are usually faced with the challenge of not having any experience in the field. Taking flight classes and learning how to fly is a great start to a career, but in order to progress it’s important to seek out other opportunities that can help build a resume and make someone more knowledgeable. This can be done through volunteering with aviation organizations, interning at a company, or finding an entry-level aviation job. Anything that provides exposure to the industry and frequent interaction with other more experienced professionals will be a major help.
Last year when I started classes at WMU’s College of Aviation, I began by trying to get as many volunteer hours as possible. Some of the hours were necessary to fulfil requirements for the Lee Honor’s College and Alpha Eta Rho, but after finishing those I still did plenty extra. One of my most enjoyable experience was at the MI Career Fest, hosted at the Kalamazoo Expo Center. I worked with some of the other aviation ambassadors from the school’s recruitment and outreach department, and we spent the day running flight simulators. There were several classes from local Kalamazoo public schools who were rotating through each booth set up at the expo, and as they came by we got to show them how to fly, while also talking to them about their interest in aviation. It was also perfect that the booths directly adjacent to us were Duncan Aviation and Kalamazoo ATC. During the day I had several opportunities to meet a few of the controllers who work in the Kalamazoo Tower, as well as talk to some of the technicians from Duncan.
Getting my first aviation job was a bit more of a challenge, and it took a few tries before I finally got it. The first several steps were quite new to me, and it was a steep learning curve as I tried to type out my first resume and practice sample interview questions. The first position I applied for was as an ambassador for the College of Aviation. I didn’t do exceptionally well in the interview, but it was very helpful at the end when they gave me a general critique and some advice for future attempts.
At the end of the Spring semester I applied for a job with Line Service at the airport in Battle Creek. This time went much better, and I made sure to submit everything on time and with a good cover letter. I also asked another friend what to expect the interview to be like so it wouldn’t be a surprise. I ended up getting hired, and I’ve been working there now for close to six months. It is a fun work environment, and many of the other people I’ve met there are flight or maintenance students also. Most of what we do is general maintenance and facilities care; we are also responsible for moving and washing all the planes that Western has. When I started it was my first time working on the ramp, and it was great training learning how to tow aircraft and park 26 Cirrus’s in a hangar. Another great part about the job is the frequent interaction with the instructors, flight dispatch, and maintenance. We’re constantly communicating with them about which planes are needed and what events to prepare for. Over time I’ve gotten a much better understanding of how different parts of the airport work together.
Right now I’m quite happy at this job, and I plan to work here for at least another year. I’m hoping to get training to become a fueler eventually, since we need additional training for that. Working at the airport has been very beneficial, and it’s only increased my enthusiasm for this industry and for the future opportunities in aviation that are sure to come.
Side note: I just found a really interesting section of the Globalair website. In the archive section you can go and search each topic or category and see every blog post from several years back. I think it would be a great resource for any research, and it’s just an interesting read if you’re trying to learn about something. They have several different authors who have written on every topic from best maintenance practices to checkride tips. Browse through it here: https://blog.globalair.com/archive.aspx