“Aviation offers a type of freedom, movement and travel that nothing can surpass,”
notes David Turner, recent Midland College Aviation Maintenance Technology graduate.
Turner has had an affinity for airplanes and flying most of his life; however, his
chosen career has nothing to do with airplanes or flying. For the past 46 years, Turner
has been a practicing orthodontist!
He grew up in San Antonio and graduated from Thomas Edison High School in 1962. Turner’s
first experience with a community college was at San Antonio College, where he attended
before transferring to the University of Texas (UT) in Austin. In 1969 Turner graduated
from the University of Texas School of Dentistry in Houston and joined the U.S. Army
as a commissioned officer stationed at Fort Knox, KY and spent one tour in Vietnam.
He served in the U.S. Army two years on active duty and five years on active reserve.
It was during his time in the Army that Turner took flying lessons and obtained his
private pilot license in 1970 at Fort Knox.
“I kept my pilot license while I was in private practice in San Antonio and a member
of the faculty at UT Dental School in Houston, but I didn’t do much flying” explained
Turner. “Then when I moved to Odessa in 1997, a friend encouraged me to begin flying
again. The weather in West Texas was certainly more conducive for flying that in Houston!”
Turner once again entered private dental practice in the Midland/Odessa area and enjoyed
flying in his spare time. Between 2000 and 2016, he and two other partners owned a
“Each year, the plane required an annual inspection and other service,” said Turner.
“The inspections on the planes are much more detailed than inspections for our cars.
My two other partners had to quit flying for health-related issues. In 2016, when
the annual inspection was due, I could not afford the cost of required maintenance,
and had to sell the plane. That was when I decided that if I was ever going to have
a plane again, I needed to know how to maintain it and inspect it correctly,”
Turner did some research and found that he could train to be a licensed airplane mechanic
right here in the Permian Basin. In the spring of 2017, he met Tommy Brannon, chair
of the Midland College (MC) Aviation Maintenance program, and then he made an appointment
to see MC Advisor Dawn Finley. Finley found out that he was a Vietnam-era veteran,
and she put him in touch with the MC Veteran’s Assistance Office, where he was able
to receive a scholarship for tuition through the Texas Veterans Commission’s Hazlewood
“I started Midland College’s Aviation Maintenance Technology program in August 2017,”
stated Turner. “A year after that, I obtained my FAA Powerplant mechanic license.
Then, I continued in the program another year, and I’ll take the FAA written exam
for an Airframe license soon. So, within two short years from the time I started taking
classes at Midland College, I’ll have both FAA mechanic licenses. You can’t beat that
timeframe! It took me four years of undergraduate school, four years of dental school
and three years of residency before I could become an orthodontist!”
During his time in MC’s Aviation Maintenance program, Turner was an inspiration to
other students and a favorite among program personnel.
“Being a semi-retired orthodontist, David brought a tremendous amount of maturity,
determination and character to our program,” said Tommy Branon. “He was a great influence
to all of our students. He constantly encouraged students to finish the program and
to study for and take the FAA exams. And, he blessed all of us with donuts, burritos
and kolaches every Wednesday!”
Turner recently sold his dental practice and is only working a few days each month.
He isn’t sure where he will seek employment as an aircraft technician, but he said
that at the minimum, he will be able to service his own plane.
Turner and his wife Krista are the parents of three boys—the youngest passed away
at the age of 37 with metastatic colon cancer. The couple also have eight grandchildren
ranging from third grade to medical school.
At a time in life when most people are thinking of retirement and slowing down, David
Turner took a 180-degree turn in his career to learn a skill that will enable him
to enjoy his passion for flying.