New MRO Career Opportunities for Transitioning Veterans

VIPER Transitions' primary instructor, Paul Spychalski (left) with Mark Moraes (center) and Sean Johnson (right).
Credit: VIPER Transitions

A nonprofit working to help service members transition from military to civilian life has just launched its first aircraft maintenance workforce program.

“The system to transition veterans back into society is broken. Sometimes, people get left behind,” says Kyle Kaiser, president, VIPER Transitions. Although the nonprofit says approximately 200,000 people transition out of the military each year, it notes that many of their skills are not transferable to the civilian workforce, which leaves many without the resources and support they need to build a new career.

The nonprofit’s central goal is to reduce the number of veteran suicides through meaningful employment and connections to veteran service organizations. “We make a personal connection, and once they leave the program, if they need assistance, now they have a resources network they can come back to,” says Kaiser.

According to VIPER Transitions, aviation maintenance was chosen as a new focus area due to its immediate need for long-term, quality workers. Unlike other existing bridge programs that are available for service members with aviation experience, VIPER’s program is open to any veteran in the U.S. “It’s designed to take anybody with any skill level,” says Kaiser. “Our goal is to give them the tools to be successful in whatever career they choose.”

The program is being launched through VIPER’s partnership with AAR, which has provided funding to pay for tools and equipment through a $25,000 grant from the Lumina Foundation. The nonprofit also received the donation of a Douglas R4D-8Z aircraft from Peter Pan Seafood Co LLC.

VIPER Transitions will begin training its first cohort of students for MRO careers in May. The students will receive 12 weeks (480 hr.) of training from the program’s temporary home at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, including general aviation curriculum developed and donated by the Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) and a week each of airframe and powerplant instruction. Upon completion, the graduates will choose between continuing their training at any one of AIM’s 13 campuses or to begin work at a VIPER partner company such as AAR to pursue their airframe and powerplant certification.

According to AAR, military veterans make up 24% of its U.S.-based workforce and half of its business relates to government and defense operations. The partnership with VIPER will expand its existing Skillbridge programs, through which AAR works with transitioning military personnel to provide hands-on aircraft experience and soft skills training related to the civilian workforce.

While VIPER’s program will launch in Alaska—which it says ranks among the most veterans per capita in the country—the nonprofit is looking to eventually find it a more permanent home. It is actively seeking to partner with employers and individuals in the aviation industry that are willing to teach future courses, hire graduates and help fund the program.

Lindsay Bjerregaard

Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.