A Rare Blend of Opportunity and Timing: the Light Sport Aviation Mechanic

February 27, 2010

Someone once said, “Someday your whole life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.”  

Along the same lines, I read somewhere that about half of all people don’t really like their jobs. And I thought, “What a waste of a life that is to get up every morning and do something that you really don’t like.” So it is exciting to work with people who sign up for the 3 week long- 120 hour Light Sport Repairman Maintenance Course to start their own business, usually as a second career.

There are few occasions when a great opportunity crosses our path, and it is rarely when the timing is just right. So with great enthusiasm that both timing and opportunity were merging,  Ted Finck signed up for Rainbow Aviation’s Light Sport  Repairman Course offered in November 2008.  

While the course itself is an incredible opportunity, Ted capitalized on the initial investment by adding the Powered Parachute and Weight shift modules. “These two modules just added a week to my trip, for a total of four weeks. But with the added ratings, I have tripled my customer base.”

But Ted went one step further, taking advantage of the opportunity to earn his Powered Parachute Instructor’s certificate at the same time. “It was a great opportunity. Morris Yoder and Lee Woodriff  were also taking the repairman course at the same time and are both powered parachute instructors. So we would train in the morning before class, in the evenings after class and on weekends. I took my practical exam with Morris Yoder on the last week of the course and left with not only my Repairman Maintenance Certificate for  airplane, weight shift and powered parachute and my Rotax repairman service level certification, but also my powered parachute instructor certificate.

Course participants comprise an incredible, diverse community, attending the course for a variety of reasons. Some owners take the course to maintain and inspect their own SLSA aircraft, some participants are already airframe and powerplant mechanics, others are aircraft manufacturers, and some are instructors who want to perform their own 100 hour inspections, but most, like Ted, are interested in starting their own full time or even part time business. And after participants earn their LSRM certificate their businesses comprise yet again an incredible, diverse community.

For example, Clyde Poser owner of Rule Aviation Services in Buckeye, WA is a retired airline captain. Clyde used the LSRM certificate as a stepping stone to earn his DAR authorization (designated aircraft representative), he then used his LSRM and DAR certificates to qualify to become a contract instructor for the 2 day Repairman courses. He also offers both powered parachute and weight shift flight instruction, so he gave flight lessons while attending the three week course in California. “There’s almost an advantage in some respects to waiting until mid-life to make a significant career change because often times,” Clyde explains,  “the experience you had in your previous career can be utilized and can benefit the next chapter in your life.”

As you might have guessed most participants have high expectations for their businesses.  Mike Zidziunas ( known as Mike Z.) is no different. Mike is a sport pilot instructor and realized early on that light sport was going to be the future of aviation so he earned his LSRM in August of 2006. “I was not prepared, however, for the incredible opportunities the certificate would offer.” And Mike is taking full advantage of those opportunities. He has opened a  Rotax Service Center, he works with manufacturers assembling SLSA aircraft and he plans to expand his business by becoming an  A & P mechanic. Maintenance is Mike’s primary focus and he will soon be able to include Amateur-Built aircraft inspections to the list of services he offers.

On the other hand, Aldo Sibi, who earned his LSRM in May of 2006, works full time for Indus Aircraft. He is the Manager and Director of Production and the head of Research and Development. He has made over 56 modifications to the Thorpedo design and has protyped and built the first Thorpedo Diesel engine/airframe combo. Like mIke, Alod is also in the process of becoming an A & P mechanic.

Roger Lee is retired from the Tucson Fire Department  has a business in Arizona , Roger’s LSA Service & Repair. Roger works on  all LSA aircraft, but he specializes on the Flight Design CT aircraft and the Rotax engines.  Roger works as a LSRM out of his truck. He also takes his mechanical skills on the road performing maintenance and inspections  at his customer’s location. “I didn’t want to go back to work full time, but there is enough work there to keep me plenty busy.”  Roger comments. Roger is able to keep his overhead down and his customers appreciate the lower rates. “This (work) is quite a bit different than being a firefighter because I haven’t had to do CPR on an engine, start an IV in the fuel line or defibrillator a carb.”

The FAA has created an incredible opportunity with the Light Sport Repairman Maintenance Course for an individual to start a new career or a homebased, low-cost business that is rewarding- not just financially- but personally.  Additionally, an individual can earn the certificate quickly- in just three weeks. This is incredible when you compare that to the 1900 hour requirement for an Airframe and Powerplant mechanic. This powerful three week course is what entrepreneurship is all about: success.