Flying high into the new semester

Del Mar receives donation to help aviation program 

The donation of a half-million dollar plane could be the ticket to more hands-on training for Del Mar’s aviation maintenance students.

Rockport native Toby Knocke flew the Dassault Falcon 10 to Corpus Christi International Airport on Aug. 21 to donate to the college’s aviation program. It will be housed at the program’s hangar at the airport.

The owners of the plane, who live in Corpus Christi, no longer needed it and wanted it to go to a good cause.

“Why not donate it to someone in our community?” Knocke said.

Aviation instructor Cristin Klaus said she was excited to get the Falcon 10, especially since the program’s last donated plane was destroyed in Hurricane Harvey last year.

“Of all the aviation schools, they chose us and that is pretty substantial,” Klaus said.

The new plane gives students a larger variety of aircraft to work on, Klaus said. The Falcon 10, a popular business jet that can seat up to eight passengers, is in good condition, so students will use it for operation checks and run-ups, she said.

“Part of a check would be to retract landing gear or to check the antiskid brakes, run the engines and learn how to operate those,” Klaus said.

Students in the program can earn their airframe and power plant license in five semesters. They learn to use tools, perform composite repairs and fix engines.

Joe Hernandez, an aviation maintenance student, said he was looking forward to working on the new plane.

“It think it’s going to benefit us,” Hernandez said. “Not just us, but the program itself.”

Aviation student Rosa Smith grew up with planes outside her window.

“I lived by Edwards Air Force Base in Lancaster, California,” Smith said during a dual credit class over summer. “I only lived about half a mile away from an airport, so I saw airplanes flying overhead.”

Smith pursued aviation mechanics because she wanted to work with her hands and enjoys the always-changing atmosphere.

“There are so many things you can do. Nothing is repetitive. It will not get boring,” Smith said.

Smith knows people’s lives depend on her work.

“It makes you a lot more cautious. You need to have a certain amount of integrity, being honest and tying to do your best,” said Smith, who added she has dreamed of working for NASA since seeing rockets being launched as a young girl.

“The way they light up the sky was amazing and beautiful,” she said.

Program graduates now work for the Corpus Christi Army Depot, Naval Air Station-Kingsville, United Airlines, HALO-Flight and others. The median wage for aircraft mechanics and service technicians was $61,020 in May 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“It’s the kind of field where you make good money, and it’s not so complicated,” said Jennifer Rodriguez, who is in the program with her husband.

“Him being in it made me interested in it so that I know what he is talking about,” Rodriguez said.

Aviation mechanic and service technician jobs are expected to grow by 5 percent in the next 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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