A Reader's Two Cents Worth
After spending the last hour and a half shoveling heavy packed snow and ice that the snowplow driver dumped all over my sidewalk and driveway (which I had already cleared the last time it snowed a few days ago), I am tempted to go on a rant and vent about how I think winter in Wisconsin sucks and share my theory that snowplow drivers are evil, sadistic people who relish making winters even more miserable for everybody.
Instead, I’m going to let a reader vent. Mr. Grube read my editorial column “The Farming Ground for Aircraft Mechanics” from the Jan/Feb issue of D.O.M. and Patrick Kinane’s article “Where Have All The Mechanics Gone” in the same issue. They struck a nerve, and he sat down and sent an e-mail to me last week. Here are his thoughts:
I just read the articles "The farming Ground for Aircraft Mechanics / "Where have all the Mechanics Gone" by Patrick Kinane.
I thought I'd also throw in my two cents worth on being "engaged" while I'm at it.
I'm a 59 year old, male who grew up as an Air Force brat. I finished high school in 1971 and went to A&P school. I worked in the United States and overseas. I got my IA in 1988. I had an aircraft recovery and salvage business until insurance and salvage prices went through the roof and I had give it up.
All the time and most places worked I was told “A&P's are a dime a dozen” and “Don't make waves.” I had my share of BS and people trying to make me sign off un-airworthy work. I worked all the bad days and weather like everybody else. Several companies had layoffs or went under.
I loved the ones that told me how well they were doing just before the pink slip and the last HOT pay check as you were shown the door. After the first hot check I kept $2,000.00+ reserve to get me to the next job or situation, whatever it was going to be.
In 1992 I was hit with a frivolous lawsuit for helping owners maintain their aircraft for FREE. I was just supervising their work, not doing it.
It cost me four years and $20,000.00. In the end nobody got anything but the attorneys. I was trying to start a one man general repair aircraft maintenance shop and the other shops didn't like it. I heard through the grapevine that the idea was to break my bank account so I couldn't open the shop. Well it worked, but also backfired as most of the local aircraft owners were so mad that they refused to do business with them and one folded and the other one came down with cancer and died in 1995. So they are both gone.
That was the next to the last straw. I went back to school to become a "BMET" (Biomedical Equipment Tech.) It is very similar to A&P work.
The program instructor stated, "Aviation is the next step up above medical repair" I did very well in it and had several job offers when school was finished. Some medical corporation came in and bought up various local hospitals, dumped all the BMETS in a pool and fired half of them. They were already short-handed , but the bean counters don't care. The job offers were withdrawn.
I worked for a dental supply company for 90 days and was fired because I was doing my job of repairing dental equipment. I found out my boss didn't want it fixed. He was thinking I couldn't fix it and he was priming the doctors to sell new equipment. So being honest and repairing the equipment got me fired. He got caught screwing around with his female traveling sales lady and his wife killed his company for him. What goes around comes around!
So I worked for another company for 11 months until they folded. Then I went back to work for my mother on her rent property. In the mean time I was helping a few friends on their general aviation fixed wings.
Then comes the last straw when the FAA came out with their two year IA renewal. I jumped through the hoops for several years going to renewal meetings that were 100 miles each way and were all-day dog and pony shows.
This past year it hit the fan when the FAA called and asked where my paper work was for the previous year. I stated I had sent it in last year. Well the post office didn't make it and the FAA had nothing in my file. So I went looking for my copy and finally found it in cabinet drawer that a cat had decided to have kittens in and it was a total loss.
So now I have no proof of anything and my IA is running out. I have had it, I told the FAA I was no longer "engaged” – I wasn't going to work for somebody three years to get it back and they could just keep it. The FAA said they would give me permission to retest to get it back. I am going to sell my planes and forget the low pay, paperwork nightmare and let all you "professionals" handle all these great times you write about. I have met at least twenty ex-A&Ps over the years that have gotten out for all the same reasons – they are fed up, can't feed their kids and are tired of moving from one job to the next, the sword hanging over their head for every nickel and dime problem.
Many told me their blood pressure went down and their life greatly improved by getting into another profession.
I'm done, finished and screw it all.
Some of my friends are not happy that I won't help them out any longer, but so what. I have spent most of my life trying to make a living in aviation and it's been one crash after another. I have looked out for everybody, played by the book and all it's gotten me is older / poorer with no retirement.
I did mobile urine collections for almost ten years for DOT drug and alcohol screening. It paid $15.00 a collection, and $25.00 for a BAT. You could do four to six an hour if the donors could go – better pay than I ever made working in the great career of aviation maintenance. Actually I made more money collecting urine than working on aircraft. There was not enough numbers in DOT collections in this area to make a decent living after expenses and I knew the lab was having problems, so that job would blow up in the future. So I started working on my future.
For eight years I scrapped every nickel together and built a general repair welding machine shop. It's debt free and I don't take any BS from anybody and can't be down-sized or fired without my permission. Many years ago I read an artice titled "Much Grease and Little Glory" about a new A&P and what happened to him when he started out. It fit's my background and many others.
Many A&P's have a very similar personal history. THAT'S WHY and WHERE ALL the MECHANICS have gone. The people you write about are the 1% of the field and I’m glad they made it to the top. I was sick of being at every employer’s mercy and whim. Since aviation is dying, who needs mechanics? I say let the airlines and others starve due to their past treatment of all people they screwed over. I don't recommend anybody to get in aviation. I can't even get people to show up to sweep the floor, let alone get their hands dirty working on an aircraft or machine tools. Nobody wants to do anything but play with their phone or ride around town screwing off while on the clock. The dumbing down of America is about complete and we are the losers. I refuse to hire people because they are dumber than a rock, won't show up, get mad when I tell them to get off the phone and to work. They want $20.00 an hour to do nothing and I'm sick of it. I just do what I can and forget employees. they are not worth all the trouble and cost. I know many other businesses that feel the same. Then everybody asks "Where's all the jobs" or "How come nobody will give me a chance?"
Many of them can't pass a drug test and I don't need them getting hurt in my machinery of which I get sued or pay doctor bills.
The other big deal was once I turned 45, I was always "over qualified" for jobs. Several other ex-A&P business owners have said the same thing. So we just started our own. If you won't hire us, then you will have to compete against us for market share.
(Sorry this got longer than I wanted and could have made it a lot longer too.)
There's my $00.02 and I won't bother you again.
Ex-IA, A&P, Pvt Pilot
Here are my two-cents worth. Sure, there are problems in aviation. The past decade has probably been one of the most turbulent periods in aviation history. But there are also problems in other careers (as Mr. Grube pointed out in the other jobs he has held in the past.)
A career is a life-long journey. Mine has taken me from going to college to study petroleum engineering to working in aviation maintenance and then publishing. Mr. Grube’s has taken him to owning a welding shop. The main advice I can offer is to do what makes you happy. If you are happy at what you do, odds are you WILL be successful.
Thanks for reading!