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.