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Tales from an Aviation Life

A boy slumps in his chair as the teacher furiously strokes a piece of dusty chalk against an old faded blackboard. Caked in years of lessons long forgotten; the surface is dull and difficult to read from the back of the room. Not that the kid is trying all that hard to understand or even see it, for that matter. As the hour drags on, he fidgets with the buttons on his heavily worn Levis blue jean jacket and tries with great effort to stay coherent. Suddenly the intercom crackles to life, and a voice announces over the loudspeaker, “all those students interested in taking the ASVAB report to the library in five minutes, this is an excused absence from class.” The boy straightens up, gathers his belongings, nods in the direction of the teacher, and exits the classroom, shuffling his way into the hall.

A bold step

As you most likely have guessed by now, the kid in the faded blue jean jacket was me. The year was 1988 and, I desperately wanted to leave class, and taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) was just the ticket. That fateful decision would set my life on a trajectory that has provided me with a lifelong skill, fed my family, and taken me around the world. The recruiters began calling me, and I soon settled on the US Navy, with a dedicated A School to work on aircraft. I left my home in Peachtree City, Georgia, for Recruit Training Command just a few months after my 18th birthday. The flight was my first commercial airline trip ever. During my time in the Naval Reserve, I learned the true nature of maintaining aircraft. Using the GI Bill, I entered college and in 1993 graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Aviation Maintenance Technology, along with an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) License. My career seemed solid because, in 1991, I signed on with Delta Air Lines as a Mechanic’s Helper in Depart 250 Line Maintenance. With a new wife and a 30-year mortgage, I was on my way. Little did I know that the way I headed was down.

Unexpected detour

Delta Air Lines should have been a dream job. The economic downturn of the early 90s, coupled with a questionable merger with Pan American Airways, soon soured the future of Atlanta’s hometown airline. I was out of a job at 24, just eight months after getting married and buying a house. I would love to report that the next 27 years were smooth sailing, but that would be a bald-faced lie. It was tough; nine job changes left me dizzy, especially early on when times were the leanest. There was even an 18-month stint into Information Technology (IT) consulting that was particularly brutal. Things did settle down in the later years. I owned and operated a Part 145 Engine Shop for ten years and then returned for corporate for a stint in outside sales covering my Dad’s old territory in the Southeast. Yes, my Father was in aviation sales as well. Flightpaths rarely follow a straight line, and such was my career.

Full circle

I graduated from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University just three days after my 50th birthday during the darkest days of the pandemic. Completing my Bachelor’s Degree from the world’s most prestigious university was a triumph for the kid slumping down in his chair that fateful day. The confidence boost it injected into my soul sent me on another quest, this time to return to the beginning of my commercial airline career. Joining Delta TechOps has brought me full circle to where it all began. My colleagues and I work to manage engine overhauls for some of the most well-known names in aviation. The tenacity, professionalism, and integrity of these men and women are second to none. I am honored to be among their ranks.

In retrospect, the middle years of my career taught me valuable lessons. The skills I learned along the way have made me who I am today. Of course, I realize that is the most overused cliché in history, but I am pretty tired because MRO Services’ day starts long before the sun has come up. Hey, you’ve read this far so, you might as well finish it out.

November is National Aviation History Month. Instead of yet another post about the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart, and the Concorde, I told you a brief history of my aviation story. I hope that by reading, you come to understand how diverse this field is. I have worked on military jets, helicopters, trainers, puddle-jumpers, and jumbo jets. Yet, with all the technological advancements, lean manufacturing, and SpaceX’s future, the real stars of aerospace are the people. My time is not up, and although I hope to fly over the horizon one day, my thoughts will be with all the people that impacted my life. I honestly would not have it any other way.

Thanks for listening.