Winging It - Bryan Castle
Posted on 11/15/2021
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Winging It - Bryan Castle

Aviation Maintenance Technician Program Takes Flight

Bryan Castle pulled his ’98 Geo Metro out of the gas station and never looked back. Ringing up snacks and sodas at 7-11 was honest work, but he needed a career.

He was 48 years old, with a future as nebulous as a contrail. Could he alter the trajectory of his life with one phone call?

“It seemed impossible,” says Bryan. “I almost gave up. But I decided to contact the financial aid office at Metro Tech. My options were way better than I expected. I enrolled with something I hadn’t had in a long time: HOPE!”

After graduating from the Aviation Maintenance Technician program at Metro Tech, Bryan began working on AWACS aircraft at Tinker Air Force Base. In the first year, he earned seven times the amount of his tuition. That number more than doubled when he left TAFB to work for a national defense contractor. So how did the father of four who once depended on EBT funds to buy groceries land a job working on drones?

Two of Bryan’s instructors can answer that question. “Bryan was passionate about the program,” recalls Lead A/F Instructor Robert Hensley.” And he’s a team player.”

“He was good at math,” adds assistant tech instructor Ron Gunder, “and good at working with his hands.”

The 18-month-long program covers General Aviation, Airframe, and Power Plant. Students get hands-on experience working with sheet metal and composite materials such as Kevlar, graphite-epoxy, and honeycomb cores; overachievers get to open the treasure-chest freezer and experiment with carbon embedded resins. “My classes were full of diversity,” recalls Bryan. “There were people from all sorts of backgrounds, each with different skills, but the material was taught in a way that made learning easy for everyone.”

Those who graduate from the program are eligible to take FAA certification exams. “I passed the tests with ease,” says Bryan, “because the courses taught at Metro Tech were excellent and the instructors were nothing short of incredible.”

“I became a Certificated Airframe and Power Plant Technician, which allows me to work on anything that flies. I have a ton of job opportunities.” 

And a ton of places to go. As this story goes to press, Bryan’s in Belize; over the past five years he’s been to London, Kuwait, Cyprus, Dubai, Paris, and Istanbul, but his favorite is Africa. “The African people are so humble,” says Bryan, “and believe it or not, so giving even when they have nothing themselves. It really opens your eyes to how fortunate we are as Americans.”

“Every time I get to a new location and join my new team there, I'm in awe that this is really happening. At times, I still can't believe this is my life.”

Landing the Leadership Plane

Before Bryan Castle climbed into his first AWACS plane or performed maintenance checks on a drone in the African Sahara, he learned his craft from Robert Hensley and Ron Gunder. These instructors prepared Bryan for his new career while modeling a specific leadership strategy adopted by Metro Tech and inspired by the book The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner:

Model the way

Inspire a shared vision

Challenge the process

Enable others to act

Encourage the heart

For example, Bryan says of Hensley, “He instructed in a way that made me good at what I did, but he added skills that became invaluable as I progressed in my career.” This enabled Bryan to transition from traditional aircraft work to drone maintenance. “The most satisfying thing about my job,” says Bryan, “is the feeling that I matter. I get to be part of something that makes a difference in the world.”

Of Ron Gunder, Bryan says, “He was a huge help. He had gone through the program himself and was always available for some extra tutelage.”

Bryan returned the favor by teaching Gunder about photography. “He taught me to take a picture that tells a story. I miss Bryan and his family. When students spend eight hours a day on campus, we get to know each other pretty well.”

Sometimes that family bonding takes places in the cockpit of Robert Hensley’s Mooney©, which he affectionately calls his “poor man’s Porsche.” “Students with the highest test score can choose to fly with me,” says the pilot. (Barrel roll requests are considered, but only granted if all passengers are on board.)

“But,” warns Hensley, “you won’t make it through the Aviation Maintenance Technician program if you don’t work hard. On the other hand, sometimes we can change people’s lives.”

“Most people who are where I was five years ago could do what I did,” says Bryan. “It could be nursing school, a respiratory therapy program, or becoming an aircraft mechanic. It comes down to learning how to make it possible. For me, that moment came when I called the financial aid office at Metro Tech.”

Learn more about the Aviation Maintenance Technician Program.

Bryan Castle enrolled in Metro Tech’s Aviation Maintenance Technician program as an adult. High school students can get a head start by taking the Aerospace Maintenance Foundations course, which is free. Call 405.424.TECH or visit #MT4LIFE