Innovative new partnership is helping train next generation of aviation mechanics

A new partnership with the state’s largest airlines is helping to train the next generation of local aviation mechanics.
Published: Aug. 4, 2023 at 4:44 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 4, 2023 at 5:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new partnership with the state’s largest airlines is helping to train the next generation of local aviation mechanics.

Through the Aeronautics Maintenance Technology program, Honolulu Community College and Hawaiian Airlines are working together to provide hands-on training for local aviation students.

The two-year program begins lessons in the classroom. There, students learn basic aviation skills and fundamentals of mechanics. That’s followed by one-on-one instruction with Hawaiian Airlines professionals. If program graduates apply, they have the opportunity to be hired as apprentices under Hawaiian Airlines.

Established in 2016, the program aims to secure local jobs for local students passionate about aviation.

“It’s so key for our local students to find high-paying, high-demand jobs, which this one is for our technicians in the airlines industry. And we’ve found that a number of students are interested in this program, which is the only one of its kind in the Pacific,” said Karen Lee, Chancellor of Honolulu Community College.

There are at least a hundred students waitlisted for the program, and Chancellor Lee hopes to hire more qualified aviation instructors to increase enrollment. Currently, there are two Hawaiian Airlines instructors teaching the program for Fall 2023.

On Friday, Chancellor Lee visited two new Hawaiian Airlines hires from their program, who are currently training in simulation rooms before working on the aircraft. For recent graduate Hunter Kaleopa’a, finally working for Hawaiian Airlines has been the culmination of years of hard work.

“You do a lot of hands-on training, on top of that, we have to prepare for our licensing test after our degree. So it was a lot of work to get there, but I think it was worth it,” said Kaleopa’a.

Industry experts also say that programs such as this are crucial to fill a growing demand for aviation mechanics. According to the program’s lead Boeing 717 instructor Don Garabedian, Boeing has made a statement urging that the industry will need 300,000 mechanics over the next 10 years.

Over the past several years, the partnership has found success in producing quality aviation mechanics for Hawaiian Airlines. Out of their 15 aviation mechanic hires this summer, eight came through the HCC partnership.

The partnership provides an opportunity for classmates to become colleagues in the real aviation industry.

“We spent two years together, almost 40 to 60 hours a week together. You see them everyday, so you build that relationship,” said Kaleopa’a. “And I think that’s what’ll push you to the end and get you there.”