Putting Techs to the Test

Bethany Robarts of Mike Smith Aviation

News Center – February 2020


Imagine the SATs … but on rocket fuel. That’s the test you’ll have to pass if you want to become an airplane mechanic.

Graduates of the Sacramento City College A&P program must pass an excruciating, eight-hour exam, covering 40 subject areas and three written examinations.

“Going into that test, I was obviously stressed because there is a lot of pressure on it,” says program grad Bethany Robarts. To her surprise, by the time she finished, she hadn’t even broken a sweat.

“I felt very over-prepared when I came out of it because Sac City had done such a wonderful job giving me all the knowledge I needed — and then some!”

Robarts has always loved airplanes, so when she was working on her general ed requirements at Sac City, she decided to sign up for the A&P classes, too. She became fascinated with taking things apart and putting them back together — fuel pumps, carburetors … even piston and turbine engines. That’s when Robarts knew she wanted to make airplane mechanics a lifelong career. And she knew she was in the right place.

“I really liked how compact it was,” she says about the full-time, four-semester program. “It made things go really quickly.”

Robarts was hired shortly after graduation by a small shop and flight school called Mike Smith Aviation.

“I called them up, had an interview that day, and started work the next Monday,” recalls Robarts. Hired initially as a part-time employee, Robarts quickly went full-time, diagnosing mechanical problems on small two- to four-seat airplanes, performing annual inspections, and taking care of “pretty much everything.”

Robarts’s boss is an international safety consultant for airplane maintenance shops, and while he made his frequent trips around the world, she worked solo and held down the fort.

“I’d only been working there about three months when he left for two weeks to Africa,” Robarts says. “I was basically running the shop by myself within a very short amount of time.”

Smith knew he could count on her, not only because she was incredibly talented, but because she carried the Sacramento City College pedigree.

“Bethany is the fourth graduate from Sac City College that we’ve had working with us,” says Smith, who continues to be impressed with the College’s A&P alum. He says he felt confident leaving things in Robarts’s capable hands because she knew her strengths and limitations and would ask for help if she needed it.

For Smith, having Sac City College nearby is a huge boost to his business.

“The college has outreach with the industry to be sure that they’re producing candidates that meet our needs,” he says. “They do that by engaging with us frequently.”

Such partnerships are what keep the A&P program connected to industry, and ultimately, what connected Robarts to Mike Smith Aviation.

The boss, for his part, is quite happy with the arrangement, especially when it comes to Robarts.

“We love her!” beams Smith.