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Flying the Falcon: MTC Students Take to the Skies

Jan 30, 2024

Five television screens turned vertically. A perfectly pixeled skyline of the Las Vegas strip fills the LED screens. Bystanders begin to watch as the ground fades further and further in the distance. The simulated people turn into small dots, houses appear as dark brown specs amongst the cream sand, and a dark blue that represents the Colorado River. This isn’t any ordinary flight. This is Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Fighting Falcon demonstrator and Mavericks are in the cockpit. 

Students in the MTC Aerospace Engineering program, along with other engineering majors, got to feel the thrill of piloting one of the world’s versatile fighter jets. With two real F-16 pilots on both sides, six Mavericks simulated a 22,000 feet climb at a speed of 482 mph. In under a minute. They learned about the technology behind the jets, what countries are ordering them for defense, and how their studies translate outside the classroom.

Nick Rovinski, a student studying mechanical engineering, says that events like these are what remind him of why he wants to work with his hands. 

“Before I came to Midlands Technical College, I already got a degree in mechatronics from another tech school,” said Rovinski. “I had an internship with a medical technology company in Sumter, but wanted to do more. Having worked alongside engineers during my internship, I was fascinated with them being able to work with their hands and use the knowledge they learned in the classroom. So, I decided to enroll in Midlands Tech.”

Engineering Department Chair Eric Goff welcomes opportunities like the one with Lockheed Martin, and says they are the fuel that students. 

“This is a hands-on experience that is showing our students, you can get your education at Midlands Technical College, and still work in the Palmetto State after graduation,” said Goff. “These are dedicated, focused, and talented students who are ready to Transform Their Tomorrow, and it is opportunities like this with Lockheed Martin that are sealing the deal for them.”

Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Fighting Falcon is manufactured an hour and a half north of MTC in Greenville. Dating back to the late 1980s, Lockheed's S.C. location has grown from a small repair facility, to being the sole manufacturing site for the F-16 globally. Representatives from Lockheed Martin say that programs like MTC’s Aerospace Engineering are helping generate the diverse technical talent needed for their plant, as there are currently more than 120 opportunities to join their ranks.

As for Rovinski, he is looking forward to his next chapter.

“I graduate from Midlands Tech in the summer of 2025. After graduation, I am going on to get my bachelor’s degree from either the University of South Carolina or Clemson University. And who knows, maybe one day, I will be working with Lockheed Martin. I mean, it is my dream to work in the aerospace defense industry.”