Lakeland’s new flight school to train mechanics desperately needed by airline industry

Airline mechanics have been in short supply for years, and the industry desperately needs them.

"Airplanes don’t fly without mechanics, and airplanes don’t get built without mechanics," commented Steven Markhoff.

Markhoff is the CEO of Lakeland’s newest school, International Aero Tech Academy.

The academy teamed up with Piper Aircraft, which manufactures planes, to be able to offer new students a deal they may find hard to refuse.

Piper is offering qualified students a job when they complete their training. They would also get a $3,000 signing bonus and $2,400 a year that could be used to pay off their tuition loans.

The cost of the 15-month course runs about $35,000. Starting salaries can range between $40,000 and $50,000 a year.

"Those that put in the work will have a really good opportunity in front of them," said Chris Metzger, a mechanic and employee of the school.

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Finding a job shouldn’t be difficult upon graduation.

Before COVID-19, the airline industry needed 11,000 new mechanics every year and schools graduated less than half that.

Once the pandemic hit, things went from bad to worse. Airlines had to belt-tighten, so they offered senior mechanics retirement packages and many took them.

"So right now, the whole industry is scrambling to get as many replacement mechanics, as they can and get them properly trained before the rest of the older mechanics retire," explained John Detrick, the chief mechanic instructor at the academy.

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The first class is at the end of October.

For more information, visit, or call (863) 401-3592.

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