Compared to the bustle of the airport, the maintenance hangar in Albany appears to be a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere. But underneath the calm surface is a strong current of efficiency — Trained professionals who get the job done, while still managing to learn from one another. The men and women in maintenance aren’t as high profile as the pilots flying the planes. They seem more serious than the flight attendants with large smiles. But they are every bit as critical to CommutAir operations as the direct service providers in the air.
There’s nearly 124 people on the team in Albany, with another 148 spread out at CommutAir (C5) bases and outposts. And it takes everyone on that crew to keep a fleet of nearly 40 aircraft in the air.
Maintenance (MX, for short), is a broad term for a department that encompasses a variety of positions, some that never touch a wrench, turn a screw, or test air pressure. But they all have one thing in common: they love the people that they work with.
Thirty years ago, CommutAir was founded with a culture that emphasized family. Even through the exponential growth in the years since, employees in MX (and every department) still cite the family culture and the camaraderie as their favorite part of the job.
THE CHANCE TO EXPLORE
The newer members of the team were drawn to C5 because the growing company has a reputation for promoting from within, and, also encouraging employees to move laterally to help them see the bigger picture within the company and the industry.
“We’re still small enough that our mechanics get their hands on every part of the plane,” said Leath Taylor, a C5 Recruiter. “School doesn’t teach you EVERYTHING you need to know, so at CommutAir, you have an enormous amount of hands-on experience. This is a really unique opportunity for new grads to grow professionally, to build experience, and determine if they like the variety, or want to focus on a specialty.”
Jim Connor, base manager at the ALB hangar, agrees. “We have a good mix of seasoned employees, but most of our techs have only been here a few years and came to us fresh out of school,” he said. “Sure, some use it as a springboard to mainline. But at a mainline carrier, you typically specialize on only one aspect of the plane. At CommutAir, you get to work on the entire aircraft. Our employees really enjoy that variety day to day.”
Aaron Stocking worked retail before attending Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC) in Rome, New York. “I came into [mechanics] late,” he explained. “I didn’t have a mechanical background, but I enrolled in a year-long program at MVCC and got my FAA certification. No student loans and absolutely no trouble at all finding a job.” He worked for another aviation company but kept hearing about C5, and so he applied.
He’s only been with the company for two years, but he knows he made the right decision. “Within that short time, I was promoted from Mechanic to Inspector,” he said. “There is just so much opportunity for promotions and position changes to expose you to even more.”
As a quality check inspector, Aaron is responsible for inspecting the planes to ensure that the mechanics’ jobs were completed correctly and to regulation. “I’ve heard some people call it policing the mechanics, but I don’t see it that way. I enjoy it because it gives me an opportunity to teach,” he said. He acts as a second set of eyes and uses the “teaching” time to share the knowledge he acquired when he was a mechanic himself. “Plus, because I’m involved in a lot, I still learn a lot myself. It definitely goes both ways. There’s always something to learn in aviation.”
A CAREER PATH WITH GROWTH
Supervisor Mike Rouley has been with the company 29 years – starting just one year after C5’s founding.
“A pilot friend of mine recommended CommutAir, and I never left,” he explained. “It’s definitely a good company with a lot of chances to improve your skills, learn, and upgrade your position.”
In the beginning, he was hired as a washer and fueler —entry level positions that many might not appreciate. But Mike has a philosophy that he shares with all new hires: “This isn’t just a job. It’s your career. Work like it.” It’s advice he took himself.
He wanted to do more, so he worked as an apprentice and eventually got his FAA A&P license (Airframe & Powerplant). In just a few years as a mechanic, he moved into a supervisory role. In the nearly three decades since, he’s earned a dizzying array of certifications to be an examiner and trainer for run/taxi, forklift, aerial lifts, and tug/tow. He’s an Amos SME (subject matter expert) and is Hazmat qualified.
“The flexibility day to day is great,” he said. Because of his experience and longevity with the company, he played a large role in the maintenance base openings at Newark, Dulles, and Syracuse – before finally returning to the main MX base, the Albany hangar.
John Pierce is another long-time employee, clocking 22 years (“and two months!”, he said.) Currently, he’s a receiving inspector. When the parts come in, he inspects them to make sure they are serviceable to be on the C5 aircraft.
But his position has changed, too. He began as an apprentice, then a mechanic, then an inspector. For years he worked in maintenance control, and now is a receiving inspector.
“If you apply yourself, the advancement is there waiting for you,” he said. “But you have to be willing to learn. Some are happy to stay within one area, but I wanted more. I wanted to try to better myself and do more for the company,” he said.
Like everyone at C5, John likes the people he works with. But what gets him out of bed each morning is the chance to solve problems and teach others. During his career, he’s learned a lot and become a valuable resource for his colleagues. “I’ve learned so much about the systems. It makes me feel good to be the one to solve the difficult problems.”
Henry Bullock worked in MX parts and receiving, sometimes called “stores”, until this year when he made the move to MX Records. Henry researches all the parts and log pages that come and go from Albany and the outstations. “Each part has its own paperwork to go with it,” he explained, and the records department maintains those papers. Unlike the MX outstations, Albany MX crews work inside of the hangar, relatively protected from the elements. But in Henry’s previous role, he ran parts from the hangar to the line. “It’s nice to be in an office but still be connected to the department,” he said.
LICENSE TO LEARN
The Albany hangar recruits its MX teams from Aviation schools up and down the East Coast, and many right in the Albany area, like MVCC.
“Working for a large company close to home is a big draw for new grads,” Leath explained. “Most programs are only 12 to 18 months long, so new grads tend to start their careers young. Being close to home allows them to start their careers in a safe setting.”
“In our apprentice program, we hire right out of school with no licenses. We provide on-the-job training, schedule and pay for all testing needed to acquire an A & P.”
Leath attends career fairs; she is able to answer most questions the students may have. If there are additional technical questions that can’t be answered on-the-spot, Leath will get the answer and follow-up with student.
“We’re really there looking for a good attitude, curiosity, and an openness to continue learning,” she explained. “We provide the training, so attitude is what makes or breaks a job offer. And I will hire on the spot if the candidate is a good fit.”
Jim, who jokes he came with the hangar – having worked at the airport for nearly 30 years at a variety of airlines – said that the most successful employees are those that came in flexible, willing to learn. “The industry is always changing, so you have to be nimble and ready for change.”
“CommutAir itself has changed so much, even in the five years I’ve been here. I can see the growth trajectory and its continuing,” he said. “But what’s most impressive is that even through all the change, it still feels like a family, and there is obviously an effort to keep it that way.”
Join Our Team
MX Technicians are in demand and CommutAir is growing the team at the main hangar in Albany, as well as at our bases and outstations. We are hiring at all levels.
- Paid, on the job training
- Paid for qualifications and shift differentials
- Flexible shifts
- Clear career growth paths
- Unlimited free travel with United Airlines
- A robust health and wellness package