What it Takes to Be An A&P Instructor

Students from the Stratford School for Aviation Maintenance Technicians describe their mentor.


Every mechanic has a fond memory of that one mentor, teacher, old-timer, that took the time to show them the tricks of the trade, the little nuances, the tips that give us the skills necessary to perform our work from day to day. They are the voice in your head that always tells you to do things the right way, the smart way. We all can step back and look at our work and thank these people that put in the extra effort and had the faith in us to help bring us to where we are today. For many of us that man is Mr. David Ciola.

Dave is the Powerplant instructor at the Stratford School for Aviation Maintenance Technicians in Stratford, CT. From the very start of our schooling to become A&P technicians, we all looked forward to being part of “Mr. C’s” class, his team. It is truly a rarity in the teaching world to bring such a level of interest in schooling that students come in every day excited to learn and to work.

To learn from Dave has been nothing but a pleasure for many of us. He has instilled professionalism and teamwork into all of us and encouraged us to stick together as a class and develop lifelong, career friendships with our colleagues. His humor has always kept a smile on our faces, and he constantly tries to make our education fun. There is no better introduction to the small, close-knit community that is aviation than to just sit down and talk with Dave.

Lifelong learners

We have been encouraged to become lifelong learners; as he tells us, “The A&P license is a license to learn.” Many of us graduate from his class hungry with the desire to continue our educations, not only in the aviation field, but in the collegiate world, becoming more capable in this economy to become active members in the aviation community. Dave has encouraged us to push for scholarships, join organizations like PAMA, to immerse ourselves in the field, and become forever more actively involved. We have learned that being an A&P is much more than a job as a mechanic, but an attitude, a constant effort for excellence in safety, professionalism, and a quest for knowledge.

For many, Dave has been much more than just a teacher. He takes the time to teach the ‘trouble students,’ the ones that have a tough time learning, and gives us all an equal opportunity. The result in all of our classes has just been outstanding. Dave has even been so giving that he even donates his own money (our school is a state-run facility with a low budget at this time) for materials so that we can tackle bigger projects such as the restoration of our school’s 1964 Piper PA-28-140 which we are currently working on returning to flying condition.

To see everyone come together as a team, and watch students ranging in age from 18 through 60 all thinking together, working toward a common goal, a project, a problem, has been a joy for us all. We need to see more of this in all school systems, not only those in our field. Dave has strived to have us work together to build running engines and working aircraft so that we can perform real world diagnostics, not just disassembly and reassembly on trainers that hundreds of other students have taken apart in classes before, a problem that exists with many schools for A&P mechanics.

Keep in touch

A lot of us keep in contact with Dave after our schooling is complete, for advice, guidance, and a helping hand. He has helped many of us find jobs in the field, our dream careers. Many of us have been introduced to important members in our field by Dave, even gotten help with revising our resumes. If there was ever a man in this field that deserves our thanks, it is him.

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