Racing to Aviation

Project Description

Keith Koontz

Hagerstown Branch Campus, MD
Program: Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT)
Employment: Republic Airways, Senior Technician

For recent Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics (PIA) alumnus Keith Koontz, his path to a rewarding career in the highly sought-after field of aviation maintenance all started with his lifelong love of cars.

“I’ve always been around cars and machinery, both maintaining and racing them,” says Koontz, who also competitively races vehicles in the Northeast Ultimate Super Late Model Series. “After I had been working at a CNC machine shop for about four years, I wanted to learn how to work on bigger and more advanced machines.”

To obtain his Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certification in just 16 months, Koontz enrolled in 2015 at PIA’s Hagerstown, MD, campus. After graduating in 2017, Koontz accepted a job offer from Republic Airways at Reagan National Airport (DCA), where he works as a Senior Technician. Koontz’s career path from mastering smaller machines to larger ones has helped him land one of the most in-demand jobs in the U.S.

That’s where eager students like Keith Koontz — and trusted schools like PIA — come in.

“The most beneficial part of my training at PIA is that it was focused on figuring out how to solve problems,” says Koontz. Analysis and problem-solving are crucial skills that he now deploys each day — because, as he explains, “you never know what kind of day you’re going to have, or what kinds of challenges you’ll need to solve. And for me, that’s the best part.”

Koontz says his typical workday starts at 5 A.M., when he arrives at Reagan and makes sure all of the Republic Airways airport trucks and equipment are ready for the day. Then the planes that were overnighted at the base get powered up and prepared for the arriving pilots. Along with their scheduled daily maintenance checks, Koontz and his team also get gate calls for the planes that come and go throughout the day. Sometimes those aircraft have maintenance needs that must be tended to before their next flight. Finally, before his shift ends at 5 P.M., Koontz makes sure all the trucks are checked and ready for the night crew’s use.

What advice would Keith Koontz offer to anyone who is considering pursuing a career in the aviation field?

“Never stop expanding your knowledge and skills,” says Koontz. “You can never learn enough.”