By: Jennifer Butler Edited by: Jul DeGeus & James Clary
It’s no surprise that the Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) Houston Campus Skills Team would represent AIM in a dynamic event celebrating Aviation Maintenance Technicians. The AIM Houston Hawks are comprised of a vibrant group of students that are driven, dedicated, and passionate about aviation maintenance. They have proven themselves individually; each member excels in a particular set of skills. But the unique dynamic that sets Hawks apart from other teams is their ability to recognize each other’s strengths and use those strengths to the teams overall advantage.
This team is comprised of seven students; seven students with a strong work ethic. Seven students who are organized and know how to set and accomplish goals. Seven future Aviation Maintenance Technicians that take pride in the career for which they are training for. Seven students who will one day become as valuable employees as they are students. When combined, they are an unstoppable team. They are AIM Houston’s epitome of success. They are the AIM Houston Hawks, 2017 Skills Team; Joshua Borel (Team Captain), Fernando Viertons, Vijay Parsan, Brandon Daniel, Cordero Garcia, Roberto Moreira (Alternate) and Christa Isenhower (Alternate).
When AIM Houston announced the need for the skills team, there were an overwhelming amount of students interested. To recruit those who were most qualified, the school held a competition. Brandon Daniel, one of the talented students who won a spot on the team, recollects, “What a spectacular and life changing experience! Although the 2017 AIM Houston Hawks Skills Team’s journey was truly amazing, it was not easy. We competed against each other for a spot on the team.”
Once assembled, the Hawks worked together to develop their talents as a team and as individuals. Focused with their eyes on the prize, they had one goal in mind: Prepare for and place at the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA) Southwest Regional Olympics held in Ft. Worth, Texas. Team Captain, Josh Borell, set the standard for his team. “All of us went in with a job to do: bring home the gold.”
The PAMA Southwest Regional Olympics introduced the AIM Houston Hawks to new challengers: AIM Dallas, Texas State Technical College, TULSA Tech, Tarrant Community College and Letourneau University. Many of the competing teams had worked together for several years and were veterans of the competition. Some of the teams even had multiple victories under their belts from a previous year at the PAMA Olympics. But this year was different; this year an aviation school from Houston, Texas stepped up to the plate and challenged the winning streak of Tarrant County Community College and Letourneau University. The results were in and AIM Houston Instructor and AIM Houston Hawks Coach, Mike Riccardelli, was elated with his team’s success:
The Hawks took 1st place individual, 3rd place individual, 1st place Overall Team and 2nd place for Operation C.H.A.O.S. This is a first for PAMA Southwest Regional Olympics. The Houston Campus Instructors were very instrumental in prepping this team and it takes an awesome team to become a winning team. This was a win for all of AIM!
It was a “welcome home” worthy of heroes as the Aviation Institute of Maintenance Houston Skills Team returned to their campus the Monday morning after the PAMA Olympics. Collecting 4 awards, including 1st place individual and 1st place overall, the team was met with a path of adoring students and spirited faculty, whose cheers of support and pride echoed throughout the hangar.
“After months of practice, blood, sweat, and tears we completed our job. We proved that making deadlines, hard work, and dedication pays off,“ said Borel. Not only did AIM Houston show what commitment and team work look like, they reminded competitors not to underestimate passion and devotion as a motivator for success.
After the thrill and excitement upon their return hushed in the hangar, the Hawks has a message for their campus, as well as their sister schools. This honor wasn’t just theirs; they graciously dedicated this win to all AIM students and instructors. “Our team has the skills and motivation, but what sets them apart is their passion for aviation maintenance and their passion for success,” Aaron Armendariz, Campus Executive Director of AIM Houston, articulated with pride.
But the Hawk’s journey didn’t stop there.
Shortly after the win at PAMA, Armendariz received a call with an invitation for the team to attend the Aerospace Maintenance Competition (AMC) held in Orlando, Florida the week of April 24-27, 2017. Only this time, they were no longer the AIM Houston Skills Team. Representing all of AIM, the Hawks title graduated to the Aviation Institute of Maintenance Skills Team.
The date of the competition had finally arrived and, though the team was in Orlando, AIM Houston was steadfast with support. Time stood still as the entirety of students and staff gathered to anxiously watch the live feed of the AMC.
Questions plagued the campus community: Would they win? How would they do overall? What if they didn’t place? But regardless of the outcome, one thing the campus knew for sure was that the skills team would represent AIM with pride and give their all to succeed. Each day that passed students and staff could see the successfulness of the team; they knew this would be a close race and that the AIM skills team was one of the top contenders.
And then, the moment the campus and Skills team had been waiting for came: The announcement of the winners.
The room was silent as the AMC MC announced second place, overall. It was AIM! Second among all 22 schools that were competing, seventh of 56 teams competing and number one in the Schools Category for the Geared Turbo-Fan Engine Event. Hawk, Vijay Parsan, reminisces, “I enjoyed performing all the events as I knew in my heart that I was on the right path on building my future. Winning the cup, however, showed and proved to me that hard work and determination pays off immensely.”
The Hawks triumph could not have been attained without the help of their coach, Mike Riccardelli, as well as countless faculty such as Brian Thompson, who rigorously helped prepare them for the different skills required for their success. “Being around the team is a reminder of “You get out of it, what you put into it.” They have their own bar, their own standard. And it is set very high,” Thompson boosts about the group.
As winners of the event, the AIM Houston Hawks received Pratt & Whitney scholarships totaling $16,000, Mechanix Certificates totaling $600 as well as Snap-On/Grypshon and Mechanix Wear for $800 of tools and equipment per team member. Team member Christa Isenhower left the event with the future on her mind: “This is an experience I will never forget and is a great start to a new career.”
The AMC competition was the experience of a lifetime for the AIM Houston Hawks. Roberto Moreira, Fernando Viertons and Cordero Garcia put into words the experience of the competition and their admiration of their team:
It has been both an honor and a blessing to be a part of the AIM Houston Maintenance Skills Team. I am so proud of each and every accomplishment the Hawks have achieved. From winning first place in the PAMA Olympics to having the second lowest time among schools at AMC, the team has really worked hard to get to this point. To see the amount of time, dedication and teamwork the guys had while they practiced was a sight to see. -Roberto Moreira
One of the things I learned in this amazing experience is that no matter the obstacles, be level minded, follow procedures and have fun. GO HAWKS! -Fernando Viertons
It was a wonderful opportunity to see all of the new technology and equipment being used in the field right now, as well as, being able to compete with some of the best in the profession. I look forward to going back and winning next year. -Cordero Garcia
This is a win for all the students who want to finish school and earn their certification. This is a win for all the individuals who need to be reminded that staying true to yourself and remaining loyal to something important truly pays off in the end.
AIM Houston is proud of this gifted group of individuals and we look forward to witnessing all their future success. Soar high, Hawks. You did it!