Taylor Richards recently graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, one of the nation’s most prestigious training grounds in the country for people seeking careers in aviation.
But his education is continuing this summer at Tampa International Airport.
He began work in June as an intern in the operations department and will remain on board until August. The internship, funded by a $5,000 grant from Florida Airports Council (FAC), is a first for Tampa International Airport.
“This is a really exciting program for the airport,” said John Tiliacos, Vice President of Operations and Customer Service at TPA. “As one of the best airports in the country, it makes sense for us to extend learning opportunities for future aviation professionals and highlight the importance of aviation to the local economy. It also helps us build relationships with our community partners, both in the world of education and the airport industry.”
Richards, 28, is already hard at work on a study of how long it takes passengers arriving at TPA to retrieve their belongings at baggage claim. Preliminary results show that the typical TPA passenger waits about 15 minutes for baggage.
“Every day since I’ve started this internship has been great, and every day has been different,” Richards said. “I’m learning so much and every day I’m able to contribute a little more.”
Richards grew up in Sarasota, and after he earned his associate’s degree he landed a job with a company that manufactures equipment for airplanes. That sparked an interest in aviation, and before long he had earned his pilot’s license and entered the Air Force’s officer candidate school.
He soon found out the military wasn’t the kind of life he wanted, so he left the Air Force and enrolled at Embry-Riddle, earning a bachelor’s degree in professional aeronautics. He was living in Clearwater with his wife Courtney when he learned about the internship in Tampa and applied.
Florida Airports Council funds five to 10 internships every year at general aviation and commercial airports throughout the state.
“Tampa International is one of Florida’s leading airports and the quality of experience a student will get there will be monumental in their career,” said Bill Johnson, executive director of FAC. “They get a wide variety of experiences that helps them truly understand what airports are all about from multiple angles.”
Tiliacos said he hopes this is the start of a continued educational relationship with the Council.
“First and foremost, this type of program helps foster the development of students and provide real-world exposure that enhances the classroom environment the student has been pursuing,” he said. “But it’s also great for us. As we think about job growth and we think about filling positions, quite frankly the advantage to the Aviation Authority is it helps identify quality individuals that could be future leaders within our organization.”