TCC aviation student Rodolfo Baez Astacio always wanted to fly.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Rodolfo remembers going to the beach and seeing the huge passenger jets land on a nearby runway, their aluminum fuselages almost close enough to touch. He knew then, before he could even speak, what he wanted to do.
“I’ve only ever had one goal,” he says. “I always see people and ask them what they’re up to. One day, they’ll want to do something, but the next time, it’s something else. That’s not me. I’ve always had airline pilot as my dream job.”
He’s pursued a career in the aviation industry with single-minded focus. When he was 17, he Googled “Tulsa Airport Jobs.” There was a spot at Quiznos, so he called about it. He got the interview, then the job.
“From there, I was in,” he says. “You have to provide so much information to work at the airport. Background checks and everything. But once you’re in, you have an inside track on other airport jobs.”
From Quiznos, he began moving closer to the planes, with stops at the FedEx cargo facility and Allegiant Airlines. Rodolfo currently serves as a ramp agent for Piedmont Airlines, a regional operator for American Eagle.
“I’m the guy who loads the bags when it’s hot,” he says. “It’s part of the job. But we have a good crew, so it’s fun. It’s something I really enjoy doing. I like working with my hands. I could never work in an office. But I love aviation so much. I love being part of the industry, and I’ve learned so much.”
He still makes time to fly at the TCC Aviation Center, which is located at the TCC Riverside Community Campus. Rodolfo already has his private pilot’s license and more than 60 hours of flight time, all of which he earned through TCC.
“I fly when I can, when I have the money,” he says. “That’s extremely helpful for me. Economically, I’m only able to afford maybe an hour or two every two weeks. But when I’m not flying in real life, I’m flying in a simulator at TCC.”
Rodolfo credits TCC’s program for allowing him to pursue his dream on his terms and pace, and credits his instructors for his success.
“I have so much one-on-one time with my Certified Flight Instructor,” he says. “I feel like if I went somewhere else, I’d be rushed. If I have a question, I can talk to someone in person and they’ll explain it to me. And I feel good knowing what they’re telling me is accurate because of their experience.”
His plan going forward is to finish his degree at TCC, perhaps get a bachelor’s degree, and get his commercial pilot’s license. From there, the sky’s the limit.