SFU names inaugural director for new Aviation Maintenance Technician School

Marie Young, University Communications & Marketing | 10/10/2023

Brianna Pavkovich

Brianna Pavkovich will serve as the inaugural director of the university's Aviation Maintenance Technician School in Johnstown.

Saint Francis University has appointed Brianna Pavkovich of Rockwood, PA, the inaugural director of the university's newest workforce development initiative, the Aviation Maintenance Technician certificate program. As the new director, her first duties include guiding the program through the FAA approval process with the goal of beginning classes in Fall 2024.

Pavkovich, an experienced FAA Airframe & Power Plant Licensed aircraft mechanic, brings 11 years of industry experience with Republic Airways (Pittsburgh and Indianapolis), Express Jet (Cleveland and Denver), and Micron Technologies (Manassas, Va.) to the position. Her formal education includes an Associate in Specialized Technology, Aeronautics from the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics and an Associate of Applied Science, Entrepreneurship from Pennsylvania Highlands Community College in Johnstown. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Saint Francis.  

For the AMT program launch, Pavkovich will work closely with the Division of Professional Studies dean, Dr. Tricia McFadden, and Engineering program faculty member, Br. Marius Strom, the lead of the university's Aviation Specialization, a flight training program delivered in partnership with Nulton Aviation Services.

According to Br. Strom, "Brianna is an excellent choice to help us develop this new career pathway program at SFU. With her wealth of industry experience and a passion for the industry, she will be indispensable in building our curriculum. She is already well on her way, centering the program in practical experience and melding its technical skills with a distinctly Franciscan contribution to this unique industry.” 

SFU entered the aviation education space in 2017 after receiving startup funds from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to develop a pilot training program in partnership with Nulton Aviation Services. Beyond the need for pilots, the university also recognizes a critical demand in aviation maintenance, with an estimated 132,000 new technicians needed in the United States alone by 2040.   

In October 2022, the university was awarded a  $1 million grant by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to launch an Aviation Maintenance Technician School through a collaboration with the Johnstown-Cambria County Airport Authority, Nulton Aviation Services, Cambria County, SkyWest Airlines, and Lockheed Martin Aeroparts, Inc.

The new Aviation Maintenance Technician School will be sited at the John Murtha Johnstown Cambria County Airport and will offer a 14 CFR 147-certified training curriculum for Aviation Maintenance Technicians. It will enable students to gain in-demand skills in a program under 19 months long and help create pathways into secure, well-paying, family-sustaining jobs in the growing aviation industry and related sectors.   

The AMT director position excites Pavkovich because it allows her to use her technical background while helping others enter a field she has found personally fulfilling. She recently sat for an interview to share her initial thoughts on the new program and provide insights into how she found her career path in aviation mechanics.  

An interview with Brianna Pavkovich

How did you decide to pursue an aviation career?

"For me, aviation is in my blood. My dad always took me to air shows at Latrobe when I was a kid, so I initially got into the field that way, but I also have a family history in aviation. My great uncle was the first person to test pilot the Bell X-1 rocket plane that Chuck Yeager broke the speed of sound in. I initially wanted to be a fighter pilot in the Air Force, which evolved into aircraft maintenance because I like to work with my hands."

What type of certification do students receive at the end?

“Successful students will get what's called an A&P license. It's an airframe and power plant license allowing you to work on aircraft.”

Are you limited to working on aircraft with this program?

“No, the program is great because the skills are transferable in terms of what you can work on after you have a license. It isn't limited to aircraft. It also translates over if you want to work on diesel engines or something like that. There's a huge need for people who can work on elevators and even slot machines.”

Do you see related programming on the horizon?

“Once we have the certificate courses developed, I want to work on "laddering" the certificate into an online degree program through the Division of Professional Studies. Dr. McFadden is confident that the organizational leadership degree has the flexibility to be a pathway for students who want to continue toward a bachelor's degree. I like the broadness of the organizational leadership degree because students can branch off to many different disciplines from there.”

How do you feel about being the inaugural director of the AMT program?

“I'm thrilled to be able to help other people find their way in the aviation industry. There can be many barriers to getting started. Being from the industry is great because I know what companies are looking for, and I can ensure students focus on what's happening in the real world.”

What kinds of traits does someone need to succeed in aviation maintenance?  

Curiosity: “Above all, you need the drive to learn constantly. You never want to stop learning. You have to be curious.

Working with your Hands: “You need to like to work with your hands, and being outdoors is a huge plus because with most aircraft maintenance, you're working outdoors, although there are a few places where you can work in shops.”

Interpersonal Skills: “You have to have excellent interpersonal skills, or at least be willing to work on them, because you'll be working with a team in an aircraft maintenance environment.”

Technical Skills: “You must have good technical skills and technical knowledge or the willingness to learn those aspects. You'll also need good computer skills. A lot of places use iPads instead of physical paperwork. You will also need the ability to read technical writing because understanding the manuals and documenting your work is a massive part of the job.”

Pavkovich lives in Rockwood, PA, with her husband Brian, also an aircraft mechanic. The couple shares their home with her 11-year-old stepdaughter Kayden, their 6-month daughter Zora, and their four dogs and three cats. She enjoys discovering new places and outdoor adventures with her family in her spare time, including hiking, kayaking, and fishing. "We both are aircraft mechanics, and a big perk of the industry is the ability to travel for free," she shared.


To learn more about the AMT program at Saint Francis University, visit https://www.francis.edu/academics/degrees-programs/amt.