Pilot Finds True Calling in Maintenance

Allison McKay 2019 Winter

Cover Photo

HFI scholarship winner Derek Galla

Growing up in Westfield Center, Ohio, HFI scholarship winner Derek Galla was fortunate enough to live next door to a pilot for Continental Express. They forged a friendship playing flight simulator games together.

Galla even had the opportunity to tour the training facility where his neighbor worked and to fly a full­motion Embraer ERJ145 flight simulator. This really sparked his interest in aviation and is ultimately what led Galla to pursue his private pilot license.

Once he obtained his pilot rating, Galla realized that although he was passionate about aviation, maintaining aircraft was his true calling: “I enjoy working with my hands and the challenge of troubleshooting.” He looked forward to seeing a helicopter that he worked on all day take off, knowing that his work helped make that happen.

Galla enrolled in the Aviation Mainte­nance Technology program at MIAT College of Technology in Canton, Michigan. To offset the expense of his training, he applied for and won an HFI Maintenance Technician Certificate Scholarship. He completed his training in October 2018.

With demand for aviation maintenance professionals at an all-time high, Galla is glad he pursued his A&P license. “My advice to others is to look into and experience the different career paths (pilot, mechanic, air traffic controller, airport management). See where you will be the happiest. Don’t just go with a high-paying career that you will be miserable in. You want to wake up every day excited to go to work.”  

Galla looks forward to continuing his training and obtaining his inspection authorization (IA) and nondestructive testing (NDT) certifications and training, as well as a bachelor’s degree. His ultimate goal is to attain a leadership role by becoming a director of maintenance. 

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