A Hands-On Approach to Success

Project Description

Adam Claar

Pittsburgh Campus, PA
Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT)
Aviation Electronics Technology (AET)
Employment: Lockheed Martin, Large Assembly Mechanic

Adam Claar grew up fascinated by how things work — cars, planes, tractors, and anything else he could get his hands on while working on the farm, or in his uncle’s car garage in Bedford County, PA. Unfortunately, what Claar didn’t enjoy nearly as much was going to school.

“To me, high school gives you a mindset of ‘remember and forget’: just learn what you need for a test, and then forget it and go on to the next,” says Claar. “That ‘brain dump’ approach puts a lot of people off, including me. I didn’t enjoy school for that reason, and I was worried that college would be the same way.”

Luckily, a speaker from PIA visited Claar’s high school and showed students what a career as an aircraft mechanic might be like. After graduation, Claar was working in the auto garage when his uncle suggested he look into trade schools instead of colleges. With PIA fresh in his mind, Claar did his research and learned that aircraft mechanics earn higher salaries than auto mechanics, which inspired him to enroll.

“PIA was above my expectations for sure,” says Claar. “It was way more in-depth and hands-on than I expected, which made it a lot easier for me to learn. For example, when it came to engine run-ups and inspections, I figured they would just have us look at an engine and watch a plane start up. In reality, we tore down and rebuilt engines and propellers, did a full inspection on an aircraft, and actually took that plane out and got to run it and see our work in action.”

Shortly after graduating from PIA, Claar was hired as a large assembly mechanic at Lockheed Martin, where he builds the fuselage panel that contains the paratrooper door for the Lockheed C-130 Hercules turboprop cargo aircraft.

“It looks complicated and intimidating, but once you get the hang of everything, it’s a surprisingly relaxed place to work,” says Claar. “The people I work with really make the difference. Everyone is more than happy to help each other. It’s a real down-to-earth family atmosphere.”

Claar also appreciates the opportunity to keep learning on the job over time by moving through different departments. “Not many people leave Lockheed, and those who do often come back,” says Claar. “Our shift leads and supervisors have been here 10, 15 years. I can see myself working here until I retire.”

Five years ago, Claar had no idea what he’d be doing for a living; in fact, he didn’t even know his future career existed. Today he’s proud to be part of a company that already feels like home.

“If you’re a hands-on learner,” says Claar, “don’t let the pressure of high school book learning ruin your thoughts on education. Find a trade school that offers a different point of view. For me, going to PIA was hands down the best choice I ever made.”