Two aviation maintenance students from San Diego Miramar College’s airframe and powerplant program are gaining valuable experience wrenching on the big iron after learning their trade in a challenging five-semester program.
Tevin Nixon was the school’s first student to land a paid internship with Delta Air Lines at its San Diego facility, paving the way for Genevieve Cindrich, who is entering her third weekend on the overnight shift at Delta while balancing schoolwork during the week.
“Tevin was my first crash test dummy,” said Lonny Bosselman, the aviation program director at Miramar College. “He’s a quiet guy but he has good skills and Genevieve is one of those people that is absolutely passionate about aviation.”
“I’m working Saturday and Sunday on the graveyard shift because that’s pretty much when they do the heavy maintenance, at night,” Cindrich said. “It’s a great experience. All the guys I’ve worked with so far have been very generous. They allow us to do some hands-on, including lubing landing gear, servicing starters, checking oil, and doing some inspections.” Cindrich pointed out that the airline’s full-time employees and supervisors are literally an arm’s length away, keeping a close eye on their interns.
Both internships were pleasant surprises for Bosselman and Larry Pink, the chairman of the aviation program and an A&P mechanic with inspection authorization.
“Delta actually courted us,” Pink said. “They came to us because San Diego is a very expensive station for them and they were looking for people who already live here because they felt local residents were more likely to stay.”
Pink said Miramar College’s FAA-certified aviation maintenance training program grew out of the San Diego Vocational School in 1956 and earned its Part 147 certificate in 1958.
“The faculty has expectations for the students and we hold them to high academic standards,” said Pink. “This program is not for the faint of heart. It is extremely challenging.” Pink, a pilot and a Vans RV-7 aircraft builder, said the program has an attrition rate of about 50 percent.
Pink said the college is the only FAA-approved maintenance training facility in San Diego and Imperial Counties. “All the way from south of Orange County to Mexico and the Pacific Ocean to Arizona—we’re it.”
Bosselman graduated from the same college program in 1969 before working on Army helicopters during the Vietnam War and describes what happened when Delta Air Lines came calling.
“We got a cold call one day from Delta’s Jim Fuller, and they said, ‘We’d like to come out and look at your place and bring a few folks with us.’ So I hosted a tour for four guys from Delta. They said what they were looking for was basically a system where we can give students an internship where they shadow the mechanics, hand them wrenches, basic stuff. They are standing right there, their feet are in the oil and they’re getting the full experience.”
Bosselman said plans were to rotate the student interns on a three- to four-month cycle. “It’s a paid internship and they work about 20 hours over a weekend so students can still handle the schoolwork during the week. It’s a pretty long slug, five semesters.”
Nixon, who assisted with a cabin seat repair during his internship, finished the program and is eligible to take the A&P exam. He said it would be almost impossible to get an aircraft maintenance job without the experience he gained while working at the airline.
“Delta is leaning on him to go ahead and take the test so they can hire him. It’s a pretty cool thing,” said Bosselman.
Meanwhile, Cindrich is building up her off-campus tool belt by helping restore warbirds at the Palm Springs Air Museum when she isn’t in class or under an aircraft at Delta.
“For me, it took years to get in there to work on a heavy jet, so this is a real plum for these people. Genevieve has an engaging personality and no doubt she will do well in the program.”
Bosselman praised Delta’s Fuller for helping jumpstart the program. “We don’t toot our horn much and for him to come to us was a very cool thing.”
“It took a while to get things going,” said Pink, who feels Miramar College is positioned to assist when the expected shortage of mechanics materializes. “They made it clear to us that things don’t happen at a light-speed pace at Delta, but I give all the credit to Lonny because he really did foster this thing along.”