In the sixth episode of Futureproof Focus, Dr. Sharon B. DeVivo, president of Vaughn College and host of the podcast, sat down with Vaughn College alum Eric Santos Silva ‘21 for an inspiring conversation about how his passion for aviation maintenance grew in the military and how he is climbing his way to the top of his career as an aircraft maintenance technician at Delta Air Lines.

Paving the way to his future

Growing up in Brazil, Silva said he always had a strong interest in aviation as well as learning how things worked. His family moved to New York where he attended high school. Like most students, however, he wasn’t sure where his future would take him. “As a first-generation American, I knew I wanted to go to college, but I wasn’t sure what field of study I wanted to pursue,” Silva said. “Then, during senior year, I met with a United States Air Force recruiter who was visiting the school. I enlisted after graduation—and the rest, you can say, is history.”

Gaining experience in the military

Silva was stationed in England, where he served six years in the Air Force. “I worked on the planes’ weapons systems,” he stated. “Being surrounded by airplanes and gaining the hands-on experience truly ignited my passion for aviation.” He explained how serving in the military instilled core qualities and skillsets that not only helped him get to where he is today, but which he applies to life in general:

  • Being organized
  • Coming prepared to every situation or event
  • Being punctual
  • Taking care in appearance
  • Setting a good tone

Finding Vaughn

“After serving my country for six years, I knew it was time to explore my opportunities in the civilian world,” Silva declared. “I had no doubt my future would be in aviation.” In 2019, he enrolled in Vaughn’s associate in occupational studies program, where he received his airframe and powerplant (A&P) certification. “I knew it would be an adjustment transitioning from military to civilian life, but Vaughn made me feel right at home.” Silva said he joined the Veteran’s Club, where he was welcomed by fellow veterans who—like him—made the decision to pursue a career in aviation. He mentioned how one of his favorite activities at Vaughn was joining the aircraft maintenance competition team (AMC) where he—along with his teammates—competed against other airline employees in the field.

Shortly after graduating with his associate in occupational studies degree, Silva was hired by Endeavor Air, where he worked as an aircraft mechanic. (Endeavor Air is a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines that operates 151 regional jets on 700 daily flights to the United States, Canada and the Caribbean). While at this job, he decided to take his education one step further and enrolled in Vaughn’s Bachelor of Science in Aviation Maintenance Management program while continuing to work at the company which had slowed down considerably due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I wanted to further my education for my future,” Silva enthusiastically stated. “The aviation management degree will position me to be one step ahead of other aircraft mechanics. I know it will pay off when the time is right.” He explained that working and attending college was challenging at the beginning, but having the support of a great team and attending classes remotely during the pandemic made it easier.

Landing the job at Delta Air Lines

Once airlines resumed service after the height of the pandemic, Silva left Endeavor Air and accepted an aircraft mechanic position at Delta Air Lines, where he works the nightshift at LaGuardia Airport. “My experience and track record as a mechanic at Endeavor made for a smooth transition to Delta,” he said. He was able to use the connections he made at Vaughn and in the field to land the position. Silva noted how Delta does not have separate avionics (electronics) teams, the mechanics do everything, which has helped him round out his skillset and become more marketable in the future.

Increasing demand for aircraft mechanics

Silva emphasized that all airlines—from regional to commercial—are hiring aircraft mechanics. “The industry needs workers—especially mechanics,” he said. “It’s an exciting industry—especially with the way technology is playing a role in our jobs.” He explained that technology is changing the platform for the future of aviation on many levels. For example, in a job that at one time simply required a wrench, aircraft mechanics are now using their laptops to troubleshoot the issue. “Delta provides training in Atlanta on the latest updates in technology,” Silva explained. “It’s an exciting time to work in the industry.”

When asked about working toward a management position, Silva explained that even though it’s quite a journey toward landing a managerial role, he’s proud that he has his bachelor’s degree in his back pocket for when the time comes. These are the steps it takes:

  1. Lead mechanic
  2. Shift manager
  3. Base manager
  4. Regional manager

Silva’s advice to students

“Explore all avenues. There are resources—and colleges like Vaughn—to help you get to where you want to be.” Silva said students should keep these benefits in mind if they are considering a career as an aircraft mechanic:

  • Incredible job security
  • Lots of room for growth
  • A long ladder of opportunity to climb to the top of the industry

He closed with this sentiment: “Even though it might seem like a long road—to see the light at the end of the tunnel—it comes up fast. Don’t give up on your dream.”

Listen to the podcast in its entirety here.

Thinking about becoming an aircraft mechanic? Attend our Open House on Saturday, March 18, where you will learn about our futureproof degree programs in aviation, engineering and technology and management. Register now.


As the pilot shortage continues to be a focus in the media, the airline industry is facing yet another shortfall which has received less coverage: A shortage of aviation maintenance technicians (AMTs) – the people who maintain, repair, inspect and overhaul aircraft every time they are grounded. Without sign-off from an AMT, a plane cannot fly. With air travel approaching pre-pandemic levels, the demand for AMTs is greater than ever before. So, how dire is the shortage?

This month, we take a closer look at the demand for aircraft mechanics and why now is the best time to train for an airframe and powerplant (A&P) certification at Vaughn.

Soaring demand

According to Boeing’s Pilot and Technician Outlook 2022-2041, the industry will need as many as 610,000 new civil maintenance technicians over course of the next 20 years. That’s an even greater demand than for new pilots (excluding business aviation), which is projected to reach a need of 602,000 during the same time frame. Adding pilots to the workforce is useless without also adding maintenance technicians. How do you capitalize on this surging demand? If becoming an aviation maintenance technician interests you, then Vaughn’s A&P certificate program can be your ticket to this futureproof career.

What is the role of an aircraft mechanic?

Essentially, aircraft mechanics oversee the operations of various types of aircraft—which include jets and helicopters—by maintaining and repairing their systems and components. Just imagine: For every flight that lands in the United States, there is a crew of aircraft mechanics who must inspect the plane and sign off on each protocol to make sure that every facet of its mechanics is working properly and efficiently before it can take flight again. Without these highly skilled professionals, planes cannot fly. Talk about an in-demand career!

How Vaughn can get you there in as little as 16 months

At Vaughn’s Aviation Training Institute (ATI) students are trained to become aircraft mechanics. Vaughn’s Aviation Maintenance (Airframe and Powerplant) certificate and Aviation Maintenance Associate in Occupational Science are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. What could this decision mean for your future? Check out these amazing benefits of a career in aviation maintenance:

  • Great starting salary and overtime – AMTs in New York can earn up to $37 per hour in just their first year and have many opportunities for overtime.
  • Flight benefits – AMTs can receive discounted or even free flights, depending on the employer.
  • Sectors of aviation – in addition to working in commercial, general (e.g., personal, business or emergency transport) or military aviation, AMTs can also work in other sectors such as theme parks or wind turbines.
  • Keeping people safe – at the end of the day, AMTs keep airplanes running smoothly which saves lives.
  • Opportunities for growth, continued learning and advancement – the aviation industry is constantly evolving and expanding as new technology is developed, which creates a continuous pipeline new jobs and opportunities. There is no limit to where this career can take you, as long as you work hard and continue to hone your skills.

Want to know what it takes to become an aircraft mechanic? Check out our blog, “A Day in the Life of an Aviation Maintenance Technician.”

What’s the next step?

What are your plans for the future? As noted above, Vaughn’s ATI program can prepare you for a job in the aviation industry in as little as 16 months. Learn more about this exciting opportunity at our Aviation Maintenance Info. Session on Thursday, December 15 at 6 p.m. We hope to see you there!