Central Texas College (CTC) recently named a new chairperson for the school’s Aviation Science department – someone who is no stranger to the program. Abe Molina Barcena completed his flight training at CTC seven years ago, served as one of the school’s flight instructors for the past five years and now leads the department after accepting the chairperson position this summer.

Molina Barcena’s flight career took off after he completed his aviation studies at CTC in 2015. He then attended Texas A&M University-Central Texas where he graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in aviation science professional pilot and a minor in business administration in 2017. “I completed my flight instructor training at CTC right after receiving my bachelor’s degree and was hired as a part-time flight instructor in November 2017,” said Molina Barcena. “In January 2020, I was hired as a full-time instructor.”

Going from the role of student to an instructor was a huge transition for Molina Barcena, let alone now working for the school from which he received his flight training. “You feel responsible to have all the knowledge in the world about what you are supposed to teach,’ said Molina Barcena. “It was a scary experience to know that just a week before you were a student. When I became an instructor, it was very difficult to explain information in front of the other instructors who were once my teachers. You always had this feeling of ‘I better say it right, otherwise they will hear me making a mistake and it will be embarrassing.’ With time, things became easier to remember because of how often I was flying.”

Molina Barcena discovered his love for flying at an early age while growing up in Mexico City, Mexico. At the age of eight, he would get excited when his family drove by the international airport and he witnessed the airplanes flying low during the approach to land. To help nurture his passion for flying, his parents got him his first computer flight simulator when he was a little older.

It was at age 11, Molina Barcena knew his life was headed skyward. “We moved to another house which happened to be really close to a local aerodrome,” he said. “My dad started to drive me to the airport’s parking lot to look at the airplanes fly. One day, the owner of one of the hangars, Miguel, invited us to walk in and look at the airplanes from a closer spot. After my dad told Miguel how exited I was about aviation and also my bad grades, Miguel made a deal with me. He was going to allow me to come help or even fly with some of the pilots if I brought him good grades. If my grades were bad, he was going to stop letting me spend time at the hangar.”

Needless to say, Molina Barcena’s grades improved to the point where he earned a spot on his middle school’s honor roll and they have been honor-roll level ever since as he completed his studies graduating with highest honors.

Molina Barcena would volunteer at that airport with Miguel for six years until 2013 when he moved to Texas and became a student at CTC. “My uncles live in Cedar Park in a pilot community where they were told about CTC,” said Molina Barcena. “I chose CTC because those pilots spoke so highly of CTC and of the more affordable costs.”

While in CTC’s aviation program, Molina Barcena absorbed all he could to fulfill his dream of becoming a professional pilot either for a major airline or corporation. “The last few years of my training, I started to steer towards staying in the flight school because I wanted to have a family and be there for them,” said Molina Barcena. “I see myself as a family-oriented person, but I still wanted to be able to fly so this job became a way to maintain both goals at the same time. After several years spent at CTC, I knew the potential the program had and wanted to be able to do something to push it forward.”

And now with his wife, Alexis, and five-month-old son, Alexander, Molina Barcena will have that opportunity as the program’s new department chairperson. “My flight training and professional practice was fully done at CTC, which shaped the way I teach and interact with students,” said Molina Barcena. “CTC has also helped me put all the skills I was taught to practice. The welcoming environment here made it easier to become better as a professional pilot. Without the college I would not be able to be where I am.”

His time as a student, flight instructor and now department chairperson helped broaden and further fueled Molina Barcena’s love for aviation which he will continue to pass on to students.

“Aviation is an art and a science at the same time” he said. “It is a challenging field that requires passion and a lot of constant effort. I think every student needs to find that one motivation that helps them push forward through all the challenging moments. Set a big goal to achieve but know that to get there you must complete many smaller milestones. These milestones are important and should be celebrated.”

Photo cutline: Abe Molina Barcena (top), the new department chairperson of the Central Texas College Aviation Science department, assists a student with the a pre-flight check while he was a flight instructor last year