Saturday, April 09, 2022

Midland College Aviation Maintenance Program can’t be saved

By Stewart Doreen Reporter-Telegram

Midland, Texas  --  The Midland College Aviation Maintenance Program will be shutting down.

And according to Midland College President Steve Thomas, there is no saving it. There is no amount of money that can convince the Midland College board to throw it a lifeline. It is a done deal.

Thomas was not at a meeting of concerned residents and others about what could be done – if anything – to change the fortunes of the program. There was a board member there for a little bit, but that person left around halfway through. In retrospect, he had to know what Thomas clearly stated. Any attempt to bring the program back with money from a development corporation, energy industry group or philanthropy is dead on arrival.

The purpose isn’t to throw shade on Midland College. The school’s leaders made a decision to close down an aviation maintenance program at Midland International because it was in the best interest of the school. There apparently wasn’t enough interest. It was the second elimination of an aviation related program as the college previous closed the pilot’s program.

The point of the column is to go back to what was written in this space last week. Who are we as a community? For years, I drove by Midland Airpark and out to Midland International Airport with the notion that this was an aviation community. You know, an aviation community built on the back of John Pliska; one that was home to a bombardier program that eventually became Midland International; one where the acronym MAF still has meaning; and one that is so attached to private aviation that it has designed the northern part of the city around an executive airport.

For what it is worth, studies of our community have indicated that Midland International Airport is the crown jewel of any economic development efforts. And millions have been spent to make a spaceport happen.

I thought – based on what I thought this city is – that aviation and aerospace would complement each other as the space industry has made Midland home. Sure, we don’t have Jeff Bezos blasting rockets from our city, but there has been success for those who are paying attention.

One of those companies that proudly calls Midland home was also present at the meeting at the airport and stated that it expects to see its planes back in Midland by the end of the year and that its spaceport growth will include up to three new buildings and that one of those buildings will be a maintenance building. The hiring of 20 new employees is expected, including trained aviation mechanics like those that came out of the Midland College program.

After the meeting officials even provided a pitch for high school students in Midland-Odessa, who think that aviation and aerospace might be for them and who would be interested in salaries up to $120,000 “just to start” for maintaining aircraft. That is one heck of a marketing pitch.

“It is a stepping stone to get into space,” one aerospace official said. “That is the way we see it. We're hopefully going to be building airframes for hypersonic vehicles in the next five years out here (in Midland). I mean, it's going to be super cool. If we get the wind tunnel out here, you're going to have every big aircraft and space manufacturer on the planet right here in Midland within three to five years.”

They talked about the promise for trained maintenance officials to be part of the industry that will make it possible for people to go “anywhere on the planet in 90 minutes.” They talked about the constant turnover and the retirements of mechanics during the COVID pandemic.

Again, with such aerospace activity on the horizon at the spaceport and with the aircraft activity already in place, it makes one wonder how the maintenance program wasn’t succeeding. It was said at the meeting that a similar program near Abilene was filled up. What happened? Was this community’s left hand guilty of not knowing what the right hand was doing – or at least needing? What was holding back this program in Midland? It’s probably too late to ask for the sake of the Midland College Aviation Program but maybe the answer could still be beneficial.

As one airport official said this week, the private sector stepped in and made up for the college’s decision to scrap the pilot program. Maybe that will happen again with the maintenance program.

What we know now is there is no use in calling state Rep. Tom Craddick or the Permian Strategic Program or the governor for a reprieve and $500,000 a year to keep the program funded. The Midland College Aviation Program is dead and not coming back.


  1. 120,000 to start…where is this job? Maybe too out at airlines. Maybe corporate (part 91 jets). Certainly not piston GA.

    1. And neither of those would be starting pay…

    2. The local Community college was advertising their A&P program, saying how you would get a high paying job as soon as you graduated. This was at the same time the major airline's hub in the area just laid off half their mechanics and gave the other half a severe pay cut. But it's always pie in the sky when they want you to sign up.

    3. Yea, even though it’s a great career, I wish that schools would be more realistic with the promise of high pay. That’s not limited to aviation schools either.

  2. Likely they are worried about future liability once their graduates are in the workforce. Avaition schools have been named in lawsuits before.

  3. Their web page states that the decision to close was made and announced in June 2020, with no new students accepted since that announcement. Lack of sufficient numbers of students for a program to make sense at a multi-discipline junior college is hard to change, particularly two years after stopping new admissions.

  4. employers expect new hires to be prepared for "Those entering the industry are faced with exciting but daunting work. New hires are not only expected to engage highly complex tasks right after the end of their formal education, but they will also need ongoing training and professional development to ensure their continued success. “We did a poll and got a response from our members that say more than 80% are hiring either now or later in the year, which is overwhelming,” Adamson said. “The problem is finding those people, getting them trained, and not losing them to other industries.” The struggle to recruit, hire, and retain the right employees is also complicated by inflation of pay rates. Adamson observed that wages and shop rates have sharply risen compared to past years. He expects this trend to continue, as the aviation industry fights to remain competitive compared to other technical industries." March/April 2022

  5. Leave it to politicians, they could frock-up a ball bearing.

  6. This indeed smells like a liability issue rather than job demand and need for those graduates which is through the roof. Regardless of them working in GA I know quite a few car dealership willing to pay 6 figures to plane mechanics because of the reputation those graduates have in being far more meticulous and precise in repairs for ANY mechanical systems.
    This is ridiculous and again a gift from the twisted US tort system. For layers and made by layers..

  7. 120k ? IN YOUR DREAMS, maybe after 20+ years of graveyard shifts with a airline

  8. I just spot checked a few states like FL, GA, and SC on Indeed for A&P aviation jobs and the typical job advertises for between $45-60K and that's with a minimum of 1-3 years experience after certification. Senior or lead A&P positions vary between $60-$90K DOE and job type. This includes civilian contractor jobs in military aviation related companies. The typical FBO maintenance facilities at regional airports are advertising for between $20-$30/hr DOE. The bottom line is that the jobs are abundant.

    That said, a more realistic career salary long term is in the upper five digits which is still good money in Midwestern and Southern states where some states have no state income tax and the cost of living is low in all of them compared to say CA and NY. You won't ever be making that money at your local mom & pop managed FBO facility in central Kansas of course.

    In any event, no matter what route you take with an A&P ticket, at least you won't be crying after you can't find a decent paying job with an expensive $180k government loaned college education on some useless degree in International Civics (and pay down your student debt like generations before did including me instead of taxpayers being forced to bail your poor choice in life from a political ploy).

    But starting at $120K? Yeah you have a better chance of winning the Powerball.

    1. Years ago, circa '00s, I lived next door to an ASE mechanic graduate from some school and he was making about $60K at a metro Atlanta area Land Rover dealer. He got in with Land Rover on an apprentice program and they paid for his training on their vehicles sending him to Birmingham England for six months worth of training. In today's money that's closer to $90K... and he was around age 30 having been on the job for about six years at that pay grade. Not bad for no college degree and loving your job (he got all kinds of perks too like weekend use of loaners).