Following in the family footsteps has been an inspiring journey for Vaughn graduate, Mahdi Macbahi ’13, and his two brothers. As fate would have it, their father’s trade as a carpenter was the steppingstone to pursuing degrees in the aviation maintenance industry by studying at Vaughn College.

This month, we spotlight Macbahi and the story of how his aviation maintenance management degree from Vaughn was instrumental in not only helping him land his current position at Delta Air Lines, but also in helping him become an instructor at the College as well.

Family connections

Growing up in Astoria, New York, Macbahi always had a passion for aviation. From a young age, he dreamed of becoming a pilot. It wasn’t until he reached high school, however, that he decided to pursue a career in aviation maintenance. “Being that my dad was a carpenter, I loved working side-by-side with him on the weekends, helping with his projects,” said Macbahi. “It was during that time that I honed my skills and knew I wanted a job that would combine the two things I loved the most—working with my hands and aviation.”

Discovering Vaughn

Mahdi Macbahi fixing plane engineKnowing how eager Macbahi was to earn his degree, a family friend recommended Vaughn as the perfect institution for him to pursue his degree. “I knew about Vaughn College from doing my own research and seeing advertisements but hearing about it from our close family friend really sealed the deal for me.” In 2008, Macbahi enrolled in the College’s Aviation Training Institute, where he pursued an associate degree in occupational science (AOS) in aviation maintenance and then went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in aviation maintenance management. “As someone who loves to work with his hands, I knew I chose the right path,” he said. “At Vaughn, you get your hands dirty and learn as you go. That’s what makes this program so special. The program teaches you how to be a better technician—a better mechanic.”

Nurturing a new passion at Vaughn

As he pursued studies toward his own degree, one of Macbahi’s advisers offered him a tutoring position to help fellow students. “I never thought of myself as a teacher but tutoring gave me an entirely new perspective on a career path,” he explained. After completing his associate degree, Macbahi inquired about becoming an assistant instructor in a sheet metal class. “I was thrilled to learn I would be working with my professor in one of my favorite classes,” he said. With a new position at the College and his newly earned associate degree, it was time to get to work. For the next four years, he worked for regional airlines at LaGuardia Airport—all while working toward his bachelor’s degree. Then, life really took off for Macbahi!

Blending passions

Shortly after graduating with his bachelor’s degree, Macbahi accepted both a new position at Vaughn to teach a hydraulics lecture class, as well as one at Delta Air Lines—stationed at John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport—where he has been working for the past seven-and-a-half years. “It’s a big operation at JFK,” he said. “With approximately 230 mechanics, we all have a busy schedule, but I love it. The best part about my job is we learn something new every day.” He says that although his job is demanding, his schedule is flexible enough to accommodate being able to teach at Vaughn. “I never imagined I would discover a new passion of teaching while pursuing my dream in the aviation industry. I suppose you can say I found success by blending my passions.”

How Vaughn made it all possible

At 30-years old, Macbahi says that when reflecting on his life, he owes a great deal of gratitude to Vaughn for making his career possible. “Vaughn gave me the skills and mindset to prepare for a career in the aviation industry,” he said humbly. “Not only am I living my dream—working in the industry—but I’m providing real-world experience to the future generation of aviation mechanics.” As for his personal life, he said he’s grateful for the opportunities provided to him to support his wife, Methela, their young son and a new baby on the way.

Bringing life full circle, Mahdi says his father’s craft as a carpenter and his success at Vaughn not only influenced his career but that of his two younger brothers. “My brother Ali also graduated from Vaughn with a bachelor’s degree in aviation maintenance management, and our youngest brother Rida is currently enrolled at Vaughn, pursuing his AOS in the Airframe and Powerplant program,” he explained. “Our dad, Abdelillah, may not work in the aviation industry, but his strong work ethic, knowledge and skills in craftmanship have molded us into the men we are today.”

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Since George Tavares ’15 was a young boy, he had an interest in aviation. His father worked at LaGuardia Airport for many years and brought home lots of entertaining aviation-related items like toy planes that continued to fuel his interest. He was not quite sure what his father’s job was at first, but even years later when he learned his father was a chef at an airport restaurant, not a pilot, his intrigue with aerospace never wavered.

Tavares didn’t know that at the time, but his aviation maintenance training would land him in a different, but related field: a utility company. His current position as an electrical, mechanical, construction, and maintenance manager at Power Generation, allows him to continue his passion for working on turbine engines and training others with his knowledge.

His aviation journey began when he set his sights on becoming a pilot, but the cost to pay for the fuel proved too expensive for himself and his family, so he needed to change direction. His parents came to the United States from the Dominican Republic and did not have a lot of extra income while raising six children. Tavares and his five sisters, all first-generation Americans, were the first to attend college in the family.

When Tavares was very young the family lived in Washington Heights and then moved to Corona, Queens. At that time, this was a rough neighborhood and there was a lot of criminal activity taking place. Tavares remained on the straight and narrow due to his family’s religious nature and stability that helped keep him grounded while setting his sights on achieving his goals. He had a friend who attended Aviation High School and then Vaughn College—known as the College of Aeronautics at the time. Tavares applied to the Air Force with the hope of flying, but when he was not accepted he decided to follow in his friend’s footsteps and attend Vaughn.

Tavares enrolled in 2012 at the Aviation Training Institute. “I loved the College. It had small classes and I fell in love with what I was learning,” he said. While working towards his airframe and powerplant (A&P) certificates, he secured a part-time internship at a job fair held at the College and that led to an offer of a full-time position at Lucas Aerospace. “I jumped at the chance, and didn’t wait to finish the A&P program because I thought I had all the classes I needed to succeed.”

Unfortunately, the aviation field suffered a downturn after 9/11. Though Tavares wanted to stay with aviation, a friend told him to look at positions at Con Edison. While not widely known, power generation and utility companies have gas and steam turbine engines that are utilized for restoring power quickly, and regularly hire graduates with A&P certification. Tavares went on an interview where he was slated for a position, but a hiring freeze was in place. Fortunately for Tavares, KeySpan took over the company, interviewed him, and he was hired to work at the Ravenswood Generating Station in Queens.

Tavares soon learned that in order to move up the ranks he needed to finish his degree. He was offered various positions that included construction, maintenance, electrical and mechanical supervisor—but all required a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Tavares returned to Vaughn and finished his associate in occupational studies and A&P certification in 2015 and began working on a bachelor’s degree in airport management in 2016.

After working for several years at Ravenswood, Tavares was offered a management position at Eastern Generation in Astoria, where he’s been working for the last 10 years.

Tavares is married with four children—two girls and two boys—and his career choice has allowed him to provide for his family and buy two homes. “I’m grateful to Vaughn for helping me through out my journey,” said Tavares.  “I owe my success to the College. It’s a great place to study.”