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The perfect opportunity to reinvent myself as an Aircraft Maintenance Technician

Imagine driving along, listening to the radio when you hear something that could change your life. This is how Avionics Technician Dounell Griffin discovered a career opportunity at Piedmont Airlines.

Dounell heard a radio advertisement from the Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) promoting an educational opportunity that pays 100% of their tuition and guarantees the student a job upon completion. After moving back to Virginia and seeking a career change at age 48, this opportunity sounded too good to be true.

Piedmont Airlines’ Tuition Payment Program (TPP) in partnership with AIM in Norfolk, Virginia offered an opportunity that Dounell had been waiting for. “After being selected for the program, I received an education in 12 months with 100% paid tuition and a guaranteed job with Piedmont upon completion of my certification,” shares Dounell proudly. “The TPP Program offered the perfect opportunity to reinvent myself with a reputable company and work in the exciting aviation industry; something I had always wanted to do.”

Growing up in a military family, Dounell found an interest in aviation while he lived on a military base and often saw jets flying overhead. Originally from Hendersonville, North Carolina, he moved around a lot with his military family before settling in Chesapeake, Virginia. After graduating high school, he pursued a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Shaw University before leaving school to support his new family. Dounell later moved to Florida where he worked as a printing press operator printing lottery scratch-off tickets for the Florida Lottery. After 15 years in the industry, he moved further west to Texas before returning to Norfolk, Virginia to seek a new beginning.

Dounell heard Piedmont’s radio advertisement while working as a fuel handler for Signature Flight Support at Norfolk International Airport. “I was familiar with Piedmont Airlines as I took my first flight on a Piedmont plane,” he reflects. AIM’s accelerated 12-month program meant that Dounell would be in class 40 hours a week, which resulted in him leaving his full-time job to attend school.  “It was challenging without a full-time job to support myself financially, but I had a great opportunity in front of me and I was committed to sticking with the program.”

Once in class, Dounell realized he was 25 years older than his fellow classmates, but he didn’t let that deter him. He is competitive by nature and proudly shares that himself and fellow classmate now Piedmont co-worker Abi Creager were the top students in the class. During training, he was assigned as the class lead. Twelve months later, Dounell received his Airframe & Powerplant certifications and began his new career as an aviation maintenance technician in October 2022. “All the work I put in and the sacrifices I made were all worth it. Early on I knew that AIM and Piedmont wanted to see me succeed. All I had to do was put in the work, study, and grow.”

Piedmont’s maintenance base in Salisbury, Maryland was suggested to Dounell as the best choice for him to utilize his skills and knowledge where he could continue to excel. “I’m glad I chose to work at the Salisbury base, and I definitely like it here,” shares Dounell. “Piedmont is small enough for me to learn every aspect of the aircraft from nose to tail without all the fast-paced pressure of a major airline.” After working as an AMT for eight months, Dounell transferred to an Avionics Technician position in Salisbury. “One thing that I really like about this industry is if you put forth the effort to obtain certifications, you can promote yourself. You don’t have to wait for someone to promote you.”

Dounell highly recommends the TPP Program to anyone who is mechanically inclined, is curious about aviation maintenance and willing to commit to the career path. “It was a challenge for me at my age, but I have no regrets,” shares Dounell. “You have to want it and I wanted it. I started a different job in a different city and experienced many changes along the way, but I was determined.” He is a firm believer that if he can accomplish changing careers at age 48 then anyone can.

Dounell works night shift where he enjoys maintaining the Remain Overnight (RON) aircraft. “Every day is different. Each aircraft comes into the hangar at night with a different set of circumstances requiring different inspections. My training from AIM and my hands-on learning from Piedmont prepared me for this role and to be successful in the field.” AIM recently recognized Dounell as their Graduate of the Quarter for his accomplishments in school and post-graduation.

“The aviation industry commands respect. I perform maintenance on aircraft every day that affects the safety of our passengers and crew members that fly with us.” Dounell is proud of what he has accomplished and proud to be an essential part of our airline’s success.

Interested in a new career path and exploring an exciting career in aviation maintenance? Learn more about Piedmont’s Tuition Payment Program here.