Q: Why did you decide to become an aircraft mechanic?
A: As a young boy, I had a fascination with airplanes. My first small airplane ride was in a Cessna and we flew over the Hoover Dam at night. It was amazing. Later, I was working as a VW mechanic at a small auto shop and one of my roommates was working at the airport. He invited me to see where he was working. That day I saw my first aircraft engine and realized it was very similar to the VW engines I was working on and that moment planted the seed that would eventually grow into reality for me.
Q: Is a career as an aircraft mechanic something you would recommend for others? Why?
A: Yes, Aviation Maintenance is a challenging career; it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. If you have a desire to do things correctly, are willing to put in the time it takes to become good at it, you enjoy working with your hands, and you like solving technical problems, to then see your hard work fly away, it might be for you.
Q: How does someone become an aircraft mechanic?
A: There are different paths you can take to become an aviation mechanic. One is to attend a formal Aviation Maintenance program at a local community college or private school. There are several around the country that provide the curriculum needed to obtain your license. Another way is to apprentice with a licensed mechanic for approximately 3 years and then get signed off to take your A&P license exam. Yet another option is to go into the military and get your training there.
Q: How long have you been the Director of Maintenance (DOM) for Keystone Aviation?
A: I have been the Director of Maintenance here at Keystone for almost 16 years now.
Q: What other experience did you have before becoming Keystone Aviation’s DOM?
A: I had been a Director of Maintenance for several other firms prior to my coming to Keystone. I had been involved in the helicopter industry as well as air freight and general aviation business, all as a DOM.
Q: What do you like about being a Director of Maintenance?
A: I like being involved in the planning and execution of logistical challenges. It is always rewarding to put something together and have it work well and know that you had a part in the success.
Q: What are some of the challenges of being a Director of Maintenance?
A: The dynamic nature of the industry can be challenging. Learning how to adapt the business to new equipment, new regulations, new people. Also, the pressures that some aircraft owners and operators put on maintenance can become a difficult challenge if not dealt with in the proper way. Typically, people do not like maintenance, as it is a cost and takes up time. They would rather be out flying their aircraft as opposed to than having maintenance done to it.
Q: How has aircraft maintenance changed during your career?
A: More complex equipment, less latitude to accomplish the job and, of course, more rules.
The maintenance industry has had to become more technical. With the advent of “digital aircraft,” we have had to adapt to new technical procedures involving more electronics and a better understanding of computers and how to use them. The internet has also required technicians to sharpen their knowledge base of the aircraft they maintain. The owners can go on-line and talk to others in the industry and get 2nd and 3rd opinions much more easily now. Sometimes these “internet mechanics” are not always accurate and we have had to learn how to help the customers navigate through those situations.
Q: What is it like working with the FAA?
A: Working with the FAA can be challenging, especially if you don’t try to understand their point of view and have a cooperative attitude. We all have a part in the aviation industry and we need to be able to work with everyone to help the aircraft owners have a good experience and want to keep their aircraft and use them. The FAA is part of that equation. They have mandates that they have to accomplish and we as an industry need to be aware of those. On the other hand, that does not mean that we should just roll over and accept everything that they give us. We need to take an active role in the process by participating in the FAA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) process and have dialogue on these issues. We should know the rules that govern our industry as well as or better than the regulators.
Overall my experience with the FAA has been good. I have learned a lot from the various inspectors and managers that I have worked with.
Q: What is the next “big” development for aircraft maintenance?
A: I see the industry adding more capabilities as a business model, like the larger Maintenance Repair and Overhaul shops (MROs). This is a shift from the past when there have been more “Mom and Pop” shops specializing in a small segment of the industry.
Q: What are some of the issues you’ve worked on as Chairman of the National Air Transportation Association Maintenance Committee?
A: The navigation database update rule and the new NPRMs on repair station rules, among other things.
Q: Is it true you have traveled to all 50 States?
A: I had a goal to see all 50 states prior to turning 50. I accomplished this goal by seeing North and South Dakota 1 month prior to my 50th birthday. In addition, I have traveled to approximately 30 different countries around the world.