Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

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Seth Hansen is soaring in role with Hillsboro Aero Academy

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Seth Hansen’s high-flying career as director of maintenance for Hillsboro Aero Academy (formerly known as Hillsboro Aviation) really took off when he enrolled in Portland Community College years ago. Now that relationship just keeps paying off for the Hillsboro resident and his company based at the Hillsboro Airport.

Hansen, whose grandfather was a pilot, came to Oregon from Utah when his father was relocated by Intel Corp. in 2001. Years later he started as a student at Hillsboro Aviation training to become a commercial airline pilot. Part way through training, the 18-year-old figured he might as well get a mechanical license and signed up for classes at the Aviation Maintenance Technology Program based at the Rock Creek Campus, 17705 N.W. Springville Road.

Last fall, Seth Hansen chatted with students in the Aviation Maintenance Technology Program about the Robinson helicopters his company maintains. About 60 percent of his employees are PCC alumni.

Last fall, Seth Hansen chatted with students in the Aviation Maintenance Technology Program about the Robinson helicopters his company maintains. About 60 percent of his employees are PCC alumni.

After earning his flight instructor and general airframe certifications, he was offered a part-time job on the shop floor as a maintenance apprentice and partial mechanic at Hillsboro Aviation. From 7 a.m. to noon, Hansen studied at PCC’s hangar shop at Rock Creek and in the afternoons he worked at the company.

“It was a cool experience for me, and I gained a lot of confidence and experience in a short amount of time,” Hansen said. “The location and the value are there. There are other private schools you can go to that are bigger, but they are more expensive. I think the value of what you get at PCC is great. You end up with a good certificate and a foundation of knowledge that prepares you to become a mechanic.”

Hansen nearly didn’t stick with aviation maintenance. Soon after earning his degree and power plant certification in 2009 from PCC, he left his job to be a diesel mechanic for a company that made snow tractors and remote access utility vehicles used at ski resorts and on rural roads. Part of that work included him spending time at the Arctic Circle to fix heavy equipment for the National Science Foundation. But being on the road so much (seven months of the year and weeks at a time) he returned to Hillsboro Aviation as a floor mechanic.

It was a good move. After four months, Hansen was promoted to shop lead and then months later he was supervising the operations. Not long after that, he was named director of maintenance for the company, overseeing the care of 90 aircraft at campuses based in Hillsboro, Troutdale and Prineville. Today, following the spin-off of Hillsboro Aero Academy from Hillsboro Aviation, Hansen oversees 75 aircraft and 30 employees at those locations.

The Hillsboro Aero Academy oversees 75 aircraft and 30 employees at locations in Hillsboro, Troutdale and Prineville.

The Hillsboro Aero Academy oversees 75 aircraft and 30 employees at locations in Hillsboro, Troutdale and Prineville.

About 60 percent of his employees are PCC alumni, including his Hillsboro lead mechanic and chief inspector, to name a few. As a hiring manager for a business within the aviation industry, Hansen has a strong partnership with the college’s Aviation Maintenance Technology Program. Sitting on the program’s industry advisory committee, Hansen and colleagues help guide the program on curriculum, practices and tools. He said for Hillsboro Aero Academy, he’s looking for mechanics with the broad knowledge base that PCC provides.

“At our shop, you’re going to do a little bit of sheet metal, a little bit of electrical, some piston engine stuff, hydraulics and more,” Hansen said. “What I like about Hillsboro Aero Academy is the diversity of what we work on. The experience I gained working out on the shop floor here I really do feel can transition you into many different facets of the industry. PCC gives you a really well-rounded foundation too and when you get into the industry you can start to specialize rather than starting out specializing.

“It’s good to get feedback from the industry,” he added. “Anywhere we can give feedback, whatever relationship we can build with the college, is good since we do hire so many graduates.”

Ever since the economy turned around, Hansen has seen a higher demand for aircraft mechanics and said they’ll continue to see an increase in demand for good trades people. The demand centers on desired technical expertise to work on such aircraft as the company’s Robinson-22 and 44 helicopters, which after 2,200 flight hours have to be totally dismantled, tested and rebuilt due to the stress they sustain in flight.

Watch a R-22 helicopter take off during the program’s Career Day last fall.

“Helicopters are more unforgiving on mistakes,” Hansen warned. “If a component fails on a fixed wing aircraft, it doesn’t cause the catastrophic problems it may cause on a helicopter.”

In addition, mechanics must maintain the airworthiness of fixed wing aircraft like Cessna trainers, various retractable gear aircraft, Piper Seminoles and a C90 King Air, which is a twin turboprop, pressurized, high performance aircraft. As a result, the group of mechanics will do, on average, 700 annual inspections, 30-40 engine changes and 10 helicopter overhauls every year. To keep up with work, Hansen needs qualified shop personnel to handle the load.

“I don’t think there is a big enough supply to match the future demand,” Hansen said of the skilled worker pool for hiring companies. “Going to PCC and getting some sort of trades degree; you are really setting yourself up for a good career.”

For more details on the Aviation Maintenance Technology Program, call (971) 722-7256.

  • Hansen talks with students at the Rock Creek Campus about aviation maintenance.
  • Last fall, Seth Hansen chatted with students in the Aviation Maintenance Technology Program about the Robinson helicopters his company maintains. About 60 percent of his employees are PCC alumni.
  • After four months, Hansen was promoted to shop lead and then months later he was supervising the operations.
  • Hansen, whose grandfather was a pilot, came to Oregon from Utah when his father was relocated by Intel Corp. in 2001.
  • The Hillsboro Aero Academy oversees 75 aircraft and 30 employees at locations in Hillsboro, Troutdale and Prineville.
  • Seth Hansen at Hillsboro Airport with Robinson helicopters in the background.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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Comments

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x by Thomas Boteilho 2 years ago

Great story! I am a native Hawaiian who is in the
Process of moving to Oregon and wanting to
Attend the AMT program in Sep,but not sure how to
Get prerequisites done? Can I do them online? Math 60
The reading and writing Anyone know? My wife is in Oregon
Now and I’m in Hawaii for a month or two more before I can
Make the move,no one from the school has contacted me and I have
Signed up online! Any help would be appreciated. ALOHA

x by James Hill 2 years ago

Hey Thomas, you should check with the program’s admin Erin Fivecoat at 971-722-7256/
erin.fivecoat@pcc.edu. Or check with an advisor at http://www.pcc.edu/resources/advising/. Hope this helps and see you in Sept.!

x by Engine donation to power college’s Aviation Maintenance Technology Program | PCC News 2 years ago

[…] at the Hillsboro Airport. The majority of mechanics at the company are PCC grads, including its Director of Maintenance Seth Hansen. Because his company relies on PCC for qualified workers, he sits on the program’s advisory […]

x by Eli Lopez 2 years ago

Hello Seth,
My Name is Eli Lopez, I just read your story and enjoyed it. I have a question for you; I was in the Navy for 9 years and I was and Aviation Machinist Mate (AD) that worked mostly on MH-60 Sea hawks. I have been toying with the idea of pursuing a career as an aircraft Mech, My question is, does the aircraft program offered at PCC Rock Creek Campus get you completely certified? Please respond and congratulations on the article.

x by Thomas Boteilho 2 years ago

Hey thanks for your help James!!! ALOHA

x by Marshall Pryor 2 years ago

Thomas and Eli, also feel free to contact me, Marshall Pryor, the department chair for AMT. I can answer your specific questions regarding AMT training at PCC mpryor@pcc.edu or call 971-722-7233

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