Sports, clubs, part-time jobs, and internships play a major role in a teenager’s high school experience.
Two years ago, two Millennium High School students landed the internship jackpot with the chance to work on planes at Phoenix Goodyear Airport.
Mike Buben bought a 1956 Cessna 172 in 2020 from Lloyd Tirrill, who owned it for 56 years. The plane had not flown for 22 years and was in a state of obvious decline. Buben swore to restore it.
He quickly recognized that the task required more help with, perhaps, students. Luckily, he stumbles upon Maddy Westcott’s Facebook page, which describes her interest in aviation.
“These young people renewed my faith in today’s youth,” Buben said. “I couldn’t be more proud of these young people. If I offered them anything, it was to give them the opportunity to be in an environment that showed them this aviation community that really wants to see them succeed.
Westcott began his internship with Buben as a senior at Millennium. Now, the 19-year-old is a freshman at ASU, pursuing a degree in professional flight, with hopes of becoming a commercial pilot.
“I’ve always been interested in travel and was looking for careers that paid well and had a good travel schedule,” Westcott said.
“There wasn’t one better than being a pilot, because you can just fly around different places yourself. My stepfather is also a pilot, and he was in the army and he was always traveling to new places.
When Westcott was approached about the internship, she admitted she was initially skeptical. Quickly, she felt comfortable with Buben.
“Working and spending time with Mike is awesome,” she said.
“He’s the kindest person, the most generous person you’ll ever meet. He’s like a universal father or grandfather. Even if you don’t know him, even if you’ve met him once, he will remember you and want to help you, no matter where you are from or who you are.
Buben even has ASU apparel courtesy of Westcott, a brown T-shirt with “ASU Dad” embroidered on the chest.
As she continued to work at the shed, Westcott brought along a friend, Aidan Holton, to help with the restoration project.
“It really helps me understand the basic mechanical-type things,” Holton said.
“Being here brings me back to my passions, which are mechanics, engineering and hands-on learning. That’s what I like to do, I like being a student. And I can play that role here.
As a four-year-old wrestler who was accepted into the Naval Academy, Holton said the internship helps him decompress from the stresses of preparing for life after graduation.
“It was an escape for me,” he said. “I’m super busy all the time, and although I think of it as work, when I’m here I don’t think of anything else. It’s like I’m here, and it’s very calming.
Buben allows students to work on the aircraft under his supervision. He allowed Westcott to develop his riveting skills and had Holton drill dozens of holes in the plane.
While some may be weary of letting teenagers fix a classic airplane, Buben said he has complete faith in his students.
“We can always fix it,” he said.
“It is worth it for me to give them the opportunity to do so. Even if they fail, it’s worth it to me. It builds their confidence, and because of the confidence they both possess, they aren’t afraid to do anything they’re asked to do.
Together, the three are working on what they call the “Cessna Project”. The goal was to restore the aircraft before Tirrill, its original owner, could take flight. However, Tirrill died before he had the chance.
Tirrill’s widow, Doris, was asked to partner with Buben in the Cessna’s first flight soon.
In the meantime, the team can be found most weekends in the hangar at Goodyear Airport, finalizing the restoration of the aircraft.
“This plane was bought for a reason – it’s going to stay in the family forever. Planes are going to die in my family,” Buben said. “These two, given the chance, can fly it. and learn to ride it whenever they want.”
As for the trainees, they are satisfied with the experience.
“Every time I come here I learn something else that Mike can do. His skills are very diverse,” Holton said. “He’s like a puzzle that keeps unfolding. Mike.