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John Palacios

College Student/Apprentice Aircraft Mechanic

What are your career goals?

I hope to one day be an aerospace engineer.  This goal requires that I dedicate quite a bit of time and money, but I hear that it can be very rewarding.  Before I even start on that, I am going to get my Aircraft Maintenance Technician's certificate (Airplane mechanic's license), then my Inspection Authorization rating (meaning that I can do more than before).

My father was a large influence on my career choice; he is an AMT-IA.  I have also always had an interest in science, math, outer space, technology, law, and drawing and art.

What classes did you like best in elementary and high school?

Elementary school is a blur in my memory, but I do remember that I liked to build when I was at play.  That may help to explain why I have such an active imagination and the ability to see things in all three dimensions in my mind with great ease.  In high school, I always enjoyed the subject matter of my science classes (though, I did not always do all of my assignments).  I always liked the abstract thought and most of the stories/novels of my literature classes; in fact, it was in high school that I found that I liked to read.  My English teachers came to appreciate my work and I received an award for my efforts.  Art and industrial drafting were fun; I wish that I took more of those classes.  My senior social science class was a blast and I performed well, despite the class consisting of papers.  Economy/Government was the one social science class that I got to really think, state an opinion, and defend my point of view against thirty of my peers and my teacher, I enjoyed that.

What classes did you like the least?

I liked the material and basis of some of my classes, but others I would choose having a root canal over attending.  In elementary school, we were assigned pages and pages of basic math problems.  I was so bored and put off by this that I hardly did any of it.  This decision hindered me greatly, but that sort of drone work was what drove someone to invent the calculator.  History classes were designed to be the perfect sedative and the desks were quite comfortable that I could not resist drifting off into a comatose slumber and dream of Hitler yelling off of a balcony to his audience.

What kind of student were you in high school?

In high school, I was usually the quiet smart guy in class.  In my freshman year, I knew the answers, but I rarely did my homework.  My work habits improved in my junior year (eleventh grade) and my grades followed this trend.  Dungeons & Dragons occupied quite a bit of my free time throughout high school; I even helped found a short lived gaming club at my school.  In my junior year, I picked up junior Olympic inline roller speed skating, a very demanding and competitive sport.

What courses are you currently taking?  What do you enjoy the most?

I am currently taking a twelve unit class called aviation maintenance and technology, power plant.  This course consists of two parts, the first being lecture, and the second part being shop or lab.  Lecture teaches related laws and sciences, technical details of aircraft systems and parts, while lab is hands on projects ranging from inspecting compressor blades and aerodynamic/volumetric efficiencies on jet engines to overhauling engines and inspecting their electromagnetic fields or closely checking for cracks under black light.

What is college life like?  How does it compare to high school?

Since I am only starting my college career, it is much like high school.  Being that is not high school, there are differences: the teachers are not constantly hounding you to do your work.  If you wish to, you may walk out in the middle of class and few would care, the teacher would not send security after you to bring you back.  All of my classmates are older than me and adults.  The campus programs are geared toward adult needs and interests, etc.

What is your college schedule like?  What degree are you working towards?

I am a full time student at Mt. San Antonio College.  My schedule varies by the day.  Monday from eight o'clock in the morning to noon I work in the shop.  Tuesday and Thursday I am in lecture from eight o'clock until ten o'clock at which point I start lab until two o'clock when I go home.  Wednesdays and Fridays I start my day at seven thirty.  Friday I work in the shop until noon, then I go home.  Wednesday is like Tuesday and Thursday.

I am working toward my associates in science.  Later I plan to work toward my engineering degree.  To do that, I will transfer to a university.

Do you have a job outside of school?  What do you do?

I work part time for spending cash.  I work for a company called DPAir as a repairman under a certificated A&P IA.  In other words, I am an apprentice airplane mechanic.

How did you get your job?

My father owns and operates this business.  He named it after himself: David Palacios.  My father gave me the job because he could use my help and he saw it as an opportunity for me to gain experience in my future career.  I would rather work there than some other places because I have a valuable opportunity to gain experience, before I get my first mortgage or rent bill, in a field that is relevant to my career.  This will translate out to be a nice pay check and a comfortable life style.  I cannot complain much about the flexibility of the hours either.

What interests you most about airplanes and aviation?

You want to know what interests me most about aviation?  Man's quest to become close to God has led him to devise his own techniques to achieve abilities that once belonged to birds and insects alone: flight.  We used to say, "the sky is the limit".  Now our dreams have no limits.  The human race fascinates me with its ability to solve problems and create new ones.  I intend to help with the solving of these problems.  There are no limits on the will of man.

Are you interested in becoming a pilot?

I would love to become a pilot.  I would not mind being paid big bucks to baby-sit a giant aluminum computer that can practically fly itself, so being a commercial pilot would be right up my alley.  Being a private pilot would be cool too.  I would love to learn to fly everything from Cessna 150 Aerobats to Sikorsky X-wing Aircraft.  I would like to pilot manned or remote controlled spacecraft as well.

What inspired you to enter this field?  Did you ever want to do something else?

Deciding on a career was a tough decision.  I thought about many other careers: psychological medicine, medical doctor, law practitioner, etc.  In the end, the practicality and convenience of aviation and space was what sold me, not to mention that having the opportunity to be on the scientific cutting edge was very attractive.

What do you see yourself doing in 10 or 15 years?

In ten years, I see myself graduating as one of the youngest and most certificated aerospace engineers in my class.  Five years later I see myself as an engineer on a deep-space vehicle project.  Fifteen years later, my ship will begin its trip out of the solar system.

Do you have any advice for students reading this interview?

I have some advice for those who would take it, decide what you are going to do early on in life, and do it: let nothing stop you.  Remember, even a journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step.

Do you have a favorite quote?

In dealing with the way some people behave, I must remember this quote, "to each his or her own way."  It means that no two people will always agree as to what is right to do, or how to do it.  We must all learn to accept this fact.  In beginning your journey, remember the words of Albert Einstein: "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." Don't be held back by your own fear of failure.

- 10 May 2004


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Last Updated:
10 May 2004

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