Paul “PJ” Santillo
Youngstown Branch Campus, OH
Program: Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT)
Employment: Senior Technician, Republic Airways
Paul “PJ” Santillo hadn’t even considered the fact that an aircraft would need a technician while happily working as an auto mechanic. It wasn’t until his father-in-law asked him for the hundredth time, “if you’re a mechanic, why not become an aircraft mechanic,” that he finally set up a tour at the PIA-Youngstown Branch Campus.
“It turned out to be one of the greatest decisions of my life,” PJ said. “Once I went into it head first and made that commitment, it’s amazing what turned out – all because I finally made a successful career choice with PIA.”
When PJ graduated from PIA-Youngstown in April 2011, he knew he wanted to end up in Pittsburgh, but he landed his first job at Constant Aviation in Cleveland, Ohio doing heavy check maintenance on corporate aircraft. It was a great experience for PJ, where he learned several different airframes, from small to mid-cabins. It was a versatile job with various responsibilities. He would see a Falcon jet one day and a Beechcraft the next. As it was his first job in aviation, he was able to take his knowledge from theory to practice and started learning good work habits and professionalism.
Today, PJ is exactly where he had always envisioned: working as a Senior Technician at Republic Airways in Pittsburgh, PA. Republic has a fleet of 170 Embraer 170s and 175s offering approximately 850 flights daily, according to their website.
“I have a lot of responsibilities,” PJ said. “My team works mostly on the airframe,” PJ said, “but it’s nothing for us to see an engine change in any given day. My job is to make sure everything is in place so the technicians can do their job. I prep the hangar, coordinate planes coming in and out, order parts, and reference the AMM [aircraft maintenance manual] every day.”
For PJ, finding a job came easy. As a PIA student, he interviewed with the aviation companies that came on campus for one-on-one interviews. That is when PJ accepted a job with Constant Aviation and then when a position opened at Republic Airways, he was hired within a week of applying.
“I was hired right away with Republic, and I was happy to get a nice bump in salary, too,” PJ said. “I love living in Pittsburgh. I’m ecstatic with my situation right now.”
PJ was one of 14 students who started in his class at PIA-Youngstown. His small class size allowed him to get one-on-one attention from his instructors, but it also helped to form great friendships.
There were classes, like electronics, where PJ lacked confidence, but he was pleasantly surprised by Bill Ogle who he calls, “the best teacher I’ve ever had.”
“I had zero clue about electronics. It might has well have been invisible magic. I had no idea what any of it had to do with anything, but today everything I know about electronics came from Bill Ogle.”
While car mechanic to aircraft technician seemed like a distant thought, it became a reality for PJ and a fruitful decision. As for the future, PJ plans to stay within the aviation industry and will most certainly stay in Pittsburgh.