ATEC, FAA, and Choose Aerospace Recognize Industry Standouts During Annual Conference

An instructor, a student, and a master mechanic with more than 50 years of service were recently recognized at the 2023 ATEC Annual Conference for their outstanding contributions to the industry. The honorees joined a host of teachers, schools, and students presented awards through the Choose Aerospace scholarship program.

An educator at Liberty University and a student attending Alabama Aviation College have been named the 2023 recipients of ATEC’s most prestigious awards. The annual awards are made possible through partnerships with the Northrop Rice Foundation and, which provide cash prizes, as well as registration, travel and accommodations to the ATEC Annual Conference. 

Liberty University educator Richard Johnson was named the Ivan D. Livi Aviation Maintenance Educator of the Year Award for 2023, while Alabama Aviation College student Aaron Phillips was named the James Rardon Aviation Maintenance Technician Student of the Year for 2023.

Richard Johnson
From left to right: Choose Aerospace President and AAR VP Workforce Development Ryan Goertzen, Liberty University Aviation Program Director Don Trent, and Liberty University Instructor and ATEC Educator of the Year Richard Johnson

Johnson was recognized for his dedication to re-evaluating and developing curriculum that has set a new standard within Liberty’s part 147 program. With more than 20 years of experience in aviation maintenance, Johnson was able to lead Liberty through a program and curriculum overhaul that established clear guidelines and defined safety protocols for students and their instructors. 

Johnson retired as a Master Sergeant from the United States Air Force, serving as a Subject Matter Expert and Quality Assurance on three separate airframes. Johnson has also trained active duty personnel to become qualified aircraft mechanics and was involved in various projects with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Transportation. He holds a Master of Science in Aeronautics with a cognate in Aviation Education from Liberty University and is currently pursuing doctoral work through Florida Institute of Technology’s AvD program.

Following his career with USAF, Johnson realized he wanted to continue in a training role because of the impact he realized he could have working with new students and mechanics. 

“He is always busy learning, improving, and fixing things, pursuing excellence for himself and the students in his care,” said Liberty University AMTS Instructor David Parish. “On every occasion, Richard has on point and proficient in every task set before him.”

Nominations for educator of the year recognize AMT instructors who, either through a single event or over the span of a career, have a direct impact on aviation maintenance students. 

Aaron Phillips
From left to right: Choose Aerospace President Ryan Goertzen, Alabama Aviation College Campus Director Stan Smith, and ATEC Student of the Year Aaron Phillips.

Student Aaron Phillips was recognized for his selfless dedication to his student peers.

As a child, Phillips’ dream was to one day serve in the United States Air Force. That dream nearly came true, but shortly after his acceptance into USAF, Phillips was injured during a high school football game and underwent subsequent surgeries - effectively disqualifying him from USAF and fulfilling his lifelong goal. 

Phillips’ grandfather, a United Airlines pilot for more than 30 years, and his stepfather, an A&P mechanic, encouraged him to pursue AMT school and become an A&P mechanic. It was a departure from what he envisioned his life and career would look like, but he was soon thriving in AMT school with a renewed sense of passion and purpose. 

Phillips’ dedication and work ethic have earned him a very respectable 4.0 GPA, and he found himself wanting to give back and help others have academic success as well. 

“I made a vow when I started school to go all in. I’d help wherever I could,” Phillips said.

Whenever he heard of a fellow student struggling, Phillips would reach out to them. Answering questions from peers quickly evolved into more formalized tutoring, and now Phillips tutors those who need help with class materials or studying for their FAA written exams for free.

“I heard instructors talking about what a great student Aaron Phillips was, his high test scores and the extra things he does on campus, including repairing college equipment and tutoring students for free. Not only is Aaron the best student at our campus, but he is the best in the nation,” said AAC’s Campus Director Stan Smith.

Both Johnson and Phillips received a cash award and were honored at the ATEC Awards Luncheon on March 27 during the ATEC Annual Conference in Chicago.

Master Mechanic Fred Dyen, of Blue Ridge Community College, received the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award; his name will be placed on the Roll of Honor. This award is named in honor of Mr. Charles Taylor, who was the first aviation mechanic in powered flight and is credited with designing and building the engine for the Wright Brothers’ first successful aircraft.

The prestigious Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award recognizes the lifetime accomplishments of senior mechanics. It was presented to Fred Dyen by FAA Aircraft Maintenance Division Manager Kevin Morgan.

Dyen has more than 50 years of service as an FAA-certificated mechanic and has been a zealous advocate for aviation technician education. Dyen has served decades as an ATEC director and committee member and has been steadfast in his pursuant of common sense FAA regulatory oversight. He led the charge for FAA approval of distance learning for aviation maintenance education and was the first to achieve approval for his A&P program under the old part 147. Dyen was intimately involved in ATEC’s pursuit of regulatory reform and was instrumental to the council’s legislative efforts to promulgate a new part 147.

ATEC and the entire community is indebted to Fred for his tireless service to technician education.

ATEC and FAA awardees joined other student, school, and teacher scholarship recipients, which were also announced at the awards luncheon. These awards are made possible through the generous contributions to the Choose Aerospace Scholarship program.


Congratulations and THANK YOU to all those recognized at this year's event. Don't forget to mark your calendar for the 2024 ATEC Annual Conference in Tucson, March 17-20!