Aviation Maintenance Students Win Multiple Awards in National Competition

April 22, 2019
The team placed third overall in the Schools division, its highest finish in four years of competing.

A team from Liberty University’s Aviation Maintenance Technician Program took home three awards in the 2019 Aerospace Maintenance Competition in Atlanta last week. The competition brought together 84 teams from across the country, including professional teams from major airlines and maintenance repair stations as well as the military.

Teams competed in more than 30 events in four divisions: Commercial, School, Military, and Maintenance Repair and Overhaul. Liberty was one of 28 teams competing in the Schools division. Airbus, Boeing, and FedEx were among the companies represented.

The competition was intense. The exercises were often complicated, and teams only had 15 minutes to complete them.

“One test involved an enormous turbine engine,” said David Ashburn, maintenance instructor and the team’s coach. “The teams were asked to remove a component, simulate an inspection, and then reinstall that component as if maintaining it in the field. That task would not typically be a 15-minute task, and we don’t have that kind of engine in our facility, so it was a new sort of thing for our students to get into.”

Liberty’s team of Collin Webb, Tyler Donahue, Caleb Rich, Riaan Grey Van Pittius, and Clay King took first place in the electrical troubleshooting competition. For that challenge, electrical boards for both single-engine and multi-engine aircraft were made to fault three times and the teams had 15 minutes to identify where the faults occurred. Liberty’s team was the only one to find all three and complete the task on time.

“We beat some of the pro teams in those events,” Ashburn recalled.

The team placed third overall in the Schools division, its highest finish in four years of competing.

But the highlight of the competition for the team was winning the Competing with Professionalism award presented by United Airlines. All of the judges voted on the award. It was the second time Liberty has won it in the award’s three-year history.

Brandon Waggoner, maintenance instructor, said, “When they gave the award, the United representative said, ‘Well this is the third year we’ve done it, and Liberty has won it twice, so they must be doing something right over there.’ We were pretty happy about that.”

The award is a testament to the exceptional training at Liberty’s School of Aeronautics.

“On both the flight and maintenance side, we don’t want to stop with solid skills,” Ashburn said. “We want to develop character that provides leaders for the industry, not just people who can fill the job, but those who can mentor others and lead others and exhibit character in their industry. It goes beyond being able to turn a wrench. To have that recognized by leaders in the industry is really supporting how we want to train our students.”

And that training is leading to lucrative job offers in a growing field.

“Pratt and Whitney says in the next eight years, they’ll need 25,000 mechanics,” said Waggoner. “And that’s just one company.”

Ashburn said that within six years of employment in United Airlines’ maintenance division, workers can expect to make a six-figure salary.

Liberty’s AMTP can be completed in one year and offers complete training for FAA licensure. The program can also be taken as part of an Associate of Arts in Aviation Maintenance or Bachelor of Science in Aviation Maintenance Management.