Military Pilot Makes Career Move to Civilian AMT

Allison McKay 2018 Fall

Doug Sena

Doug Sena’s experience and passion are what made him stand out as an applicant for Helicopter Foundation International’s (HFI) 2018 Bill Sanderson Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) Scholarship. This scholarship is offered by HAI’s Technical Committee to promote the choice of helicopter maintenance as a career. Each AMT scholarship winner gets the opportunity to attend a course in helicopter airframe or engine maintenance offered by manufacturers.

After joining the US Army in May 1985, Sena attended flight school and then the UH-60 Black Hawk transition course in 1986. He was assigned to both the 5th Squadron, 17th US Cavalry Regiment and the 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment. Once he left active service in 1991, he entered the corporate world, becoming a senior scientist working for a Fortune 500 company developing packaging materials.

After raising a family, Sena and his wife began looking forward to the next phase of their lives. They both planned career changes to fields that have always attracted them, but they never quite committed to—until now.

In January 2016, Sena went back to college to obtain an Associate of Science degree in aviation maintenance technology from Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. By the end of 2018, he plans to have the NCATT Aircraft Electronics Technician Certification, his A&P certificate, and a CFI rating. He currently holds an FAA commercial pilot certificate in both helicopters and airplanes.

To continue learning, Sena applied for and won an HFI 2018 Bill Sanderson Aviation Maintenance Technician Scholarship to attend the MD Helicopters 500D/E maintenance training course, his No. 1 choice. “The training opportunities offered by this scholarship are unique and would be practically impossible to do on my own,” says Sena. After he completes his education, Sena will look for a full-time professional civil aviation career based in either the Midwest or northwestern United States.

For those considering a career change, Sena advises: “Everyone’s situation is unique, but when considering a major career change, you need to answer the following questions:

  1. Do you have enough? For example, can you live on a reduced income?
  2. Have you had enough? Are you ready to make the change?
  3. What are you going to do? This should be your passion.

If you are able to provide positive responses to all three questions, then you are ready for a change,” he says.

All Bill Sanderson scholarship winners are awarded funds to assist with the travel and accommodation expenses associated with their chosen training. They are also invited and encouraged to attend the HAI Technical Committee meeting held during HAI HELI-EXPO. In addition, they also receive:

  • Complimentary three-year HAI membership
  • Complimentary full registration for the scholarship recipient and a guest for HAI HELI-EXPO, including dinner for two at the HAI Salute to Excellence Awards luncheon
  • Subscription to ROTOR magazine and ROTOR Daily.

For more information about HFI or scholarships, visit

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