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RPMN: What is your current position?

I’ve been with a major Part 135 helicopter operator for more than 31 years and recently volunteered for transfer to our GOM operations as a field mechanic.  Outside my day job, I also provide technical writing and research services through my side business, TEK Aviation LLC.

RPMN: What are some of the industry positions you have held in the past?

I started out as a mechanic’s helper and progressed to a repairman within our Part 145 operation.  After several years, I obtained my A&P certificate and moved up the food chain, eventually becoming the maintenance manager for our operations in Peru and Bolivia.  After my return to the States, I worked as a lead mechanic and Part 145 quality assurance inspector until transferring to my current position.

RPMN: What has been your most challenging job in the industry?

My time spent in South America.  The actual job was the easiest part.  The different cultures, learning another language, and making the individual pieces of the operation work together was the challenge.  Simple things like ensuring the required parts were available, or verifying the replacement crews made it in country and were not lost somewhere provided a unique adventure every week.

RPMN
: How did you get your start in the helicopter industry?

I flew the nest at 19 and ended up in Seattle trying to figure out which direction to follow.  My best friend headed south and called me from Louisiana saying there was a helicopter company that hired helpers off the street. Since it seemed like a good direction to pursue, I headed south.  He left a month after I got there, and I decided to stick around.

RPMN: When and how did you choose helicopters? Or did they choose you?

My first helper job was actually in the fixed wing department.  I still wasn’t sure aviation was my calling until one day I was on the flight line when a mechanic removed the transmission cowl on a Bell 206L-1.  After asking a million questions—which he very politely answered — and wondering how all those lines, tubes, blades, servos, swashplate, etc. could make this thing fly — I was hooked!  So I guess the helicopter lured me in.

RPMN: If you were not in the helicopter industry, what else would you see yourself doing?

A fireman.  I actually kept this dream well into adulthood, but finally realized that maintaining helicopters was the thing that made me click.

RPMN: What do you enjoy doing on your days off?

Days off?  Well if I had some…I’d probably be tinkering with an old tractor, or working on an entry for a writing contest, or simply taking an extended power nap.

RPMN: What is the oddest situation you have been in during your career?

If I had to pick one today, it would be the time I was looking for a hydraulic leak on a running Bell 206B.  I grabbed the pump return hose and it popped out of one end fitting.  When the hose came loose, I sort of fell off the work stand and in the process of trying to catch myself — without releasing the hose — I was banging and kicking the side of the aircraft.  What made it memorable was the poor pilot didn’t know what was happening except that I was flopping all over the place, there was a large stream of red fluid squirting all over the blades and aircraft, and the other people around were running in different directions.

RPMN: What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?

Not upsetting my bosses to the point where they wanted to shorten my career. 

RPMN: In your view, what is the greatest challenge for the helicopter industry at this moment in time?

I think there is a two-fold challenge developing on the horizon: 1) the increasing retirements of the Baby Boomers who built the industry; and 2) the impending experience gap that resulted from the reduction of the industry workforce during the mid-1980’s through the 1990’s.  A majority of the mechanics and pilots who were laid off during the downturn didn’t re-enter the helicopter industry, as there was limited incentive to do so.  The oil industry is experiencing this same issue now with a shortage of qualified and experienced personnel to manage projects.  I’ve always considered aviation to be an industry operated more on experience rather than just following a book.  I think the learning curve is about to become very steep again as we lose that large group of people who have been running the industry for the past 20-25 years.  

RPMN: If you could give one or two pieces of advice to young mechanics, what would it be?

Never stop learning, and never stop asking questions.  The politics of the job sometimes blur the need for continued learning or further inquiries.  But if you persevere and do the best you can, you will always come out on top.

Posted in: Human Interest

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