Exactly two years ago today I took my seat in the first quarter of airplane mechanic school. At that time all I knew what that it was time to make the leap from my corporate desk job to an aviation career. I knew a few things about airplanes, like what makes them stay in the air, but I had never touched one except as a passenger.
I was two weeks out of a job that had been sucking up all my time and mental energy for the previous couple of years and had not tossed even a glance back over my shoulder. I knew that leaving the job was the right thing to do, but, despite my excitement about the new endeavor, I had no idea whether I was really going to like it. I mean, really … what if I turned out to dislike airplanes? Or what if I retained my love for airplanes but discovered the people in the industry were not my people? Or …?
There was one moment in class, early on, where the lecture subject for the day was a bit dull. It was about 10 in the morning – 3 hours in to a 6-hour day, and I was overcome with restlessness and boredom. For a moment I thought “Uh oh, I made a mistake. I shouldn’t have blown up my life this way.” But, the boring day passed, more quickly than I thought it would, and the next day was fine.
Last night, I stood on a lift next to a 757, with my hand on the leading edge of a wing, talking to one of the mechanics at my internship about how I wound up there. Before that she showed me how to do an engine runup. The day before that I crawled under a running engine to check for leaks after it had been serviced. Before my internship I didn’t even know that that was a thing. I was kind of scared, but I had seen it done, and the mechanic who was working with me that night showed me how not to get sucked in. I’m making that my goal for 2015 – don’t get sucked into a jet engine. And don’t fall off a lift.
I’m pretty sure that if I had applied for the internship fresh out of Microsoft I would have been laughed out the door. There are still some steps between me and a full time job at a major airline like the one I’m interning for, but no biggie – it will happen.
As an aside, next time you fly somewhere, look out the window while you’re in the gate area, and while you’re on the plane. Before I started this internship I was unaware just how much activity is happening on the ground while passengers file up and down the jetway, oblivious to the cabin cleaners, caterers, ground ops people, baggage handlers and mechanics bustling about below. Who knows, maybe you’ll even see me.