The sky’s the limit for TSTC aviation maintenance graduate

Cortinas, a 2019 TSTC graduate, stands next to her toolbox with a mug full of coffee ready to start a 50-hour engine inspection on a Cessna 414. Courtesy photo

Ely Monalisa Cortina is ready to bring girl power to the male-dominated field of aviation. The Brownsville native knew that Texas State Technical College was the right college for her after a tour in high school introduced her to aviation maintenance, and it was in that moment that she fell in love with the complexities of an aircraft.

Cortina graduated from TSTC in December 2019 with associate degrees in Aircraft Airframe Technology and Aircraft Powerplant Technology.

The 21-year-old is not only well-equipped for her new career intellectually, but she also has the determination needed to help her take flight.

“There is nothing that can stop that girl,” said aviation maintenance instructor Leo Guajardo. “There is nothing that will get in her way to achieve what she wants, and I was so glad to have her in my class.”

Cortina discussed her time at TSTC, her new career, and even offered some words of advice for potential students who may walk in her footsteps.

Why did you decide to study aviation maintenance?

I decided on the aviation maintenance program because I’ve always found myself to be attracted to mechanical work. I’ve always enjoyed taking an object apart, learning how it functions and then putting it back together. Plus, who doesn’t think an aircraft is cool?

What motivated you to choose TSTC?

During my senior year of high school, I was able to take a tour of the campus and the programs offered. The aviation maintenance program caught my attention as soon as I walked into the hangar. I knew at that moment TSTC was the right school for me.

Who at TSTC has had the most influence on your success?

The person who influenced me the most would be my instructor Leo Guajardo. As a female entering a male-dominant field, he reassured me that my success is possible and there are no limitations as to how far I will go in this career. He is a well-rounded instructor who doesn’t mind taking the extra time to help a student understand a subject they are having trouble with, both in the book and hands-on work.

Talk a little bit about your new role.

My new role will be at the Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio. It will include engine work and structural work on the Beechcraft T-6 aircraft they use to train military personnel.

How has TSTC prepared you for this career?

TSTC has prepared me by challenging my critical-thinking skills. I enjoyed how the college provided us with different types of aircraft and engines to prepare us for the real world as much as possible.

Do you have a favorite memory at TSTC?

I have many favorite memories. Although one that has always stood out was when I was taught how to start a Cessna 175 aircraft during one of our class lectures. Hearing any aircraft always rekindles my love of aviation.

Do you have any advice for future TSTC students?

My advice would be to push through all the difficult days you will come by. Never lose sight of the finish line; you will be happy with the person you will become. All the knowledge and experience you will acquire will guarantee your success in whatever company you choose to work for.

To learn more about Aircraft Airframe Technology and Aircraft Powerplant Technology at TSTC, visit tstc.edu.