During most of her time in college, Carissa Shea dreamed of becoming a pilot, but that all changed at the tail end of her senior year at Metropolitan …
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During most of her time in college, Carissa Shea dreamed of becoming a pilot, but that all changed at the tail end of her senior year at Metropolitan State College.
Shea said she suddenly realized flying a plane was no longer the right fit.
She instead pursued an interest in airport management with the same passion that helped her land an internship at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport shortly after graduating from college. That was nearly six years ago.
Shea, an airport communications specialist, said the internship connected her knowledge with real-life experiences.
“Those four months were fantastic,” she said. “I took an NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) class about aircraft accidents, and we really went into depth with that in school. Being out here at the airport, you truly get to see that kind of emergency management firsthand.”
To provide this same service for other students, the Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners authorized the disbursement of a $14,560 matching contribution for the year-long internship, which is also subsidized by the state Department of Transportation’s aeronautical division.
Kenneth Maenpa, the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport’s director, said any applicant must be enrolled in a four-year aviation management or professional-pilot degree program at an accredited institution. Although the application deadline has already passed for this year’s internship, he said, it is offered each year in the spring and requires a one-year commitment.
Other airports, including those in Centennial, Greeley, Loveland-Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, also offer annual internships, depending on availability of city and county funding.
Maenpa said the airport’s internship opportunities are particularly advantageous for college students, because like Shea, past interns have been hired when job openings sporadically arise during the course of an internship.
Shea said she felt more prepared to take on her job at the airport following her internship because it exposed her to different administrative functions, such as zoning and property management.
“I was still relatively new to airport management at the time, so to see how all the pieces work together to keep everyone safe was really important,” she said. “There’s a lot of coordination occurring between the airport and pilots, and a lot of effort put into ensuring that the runways are maintained and communication with air traffic control is being done properly.”
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