The Loss of an Aircraft Maintenance Leader
I recently learned of the passing of Richard McSpadden, AOPAs Air Safety Institute’s leader and past Thunderbird Commander. McSpadden’s popularity was nearly unparalleled as he hosted several podcasts and did public speaking and presentations on a regular basis. The pilot community has celebrated his life after the tragic accident that took his life — and rightly so!
We should also celebrate the lives of those who contributed greatly to the aviation maintenance community. In this column I’d like to recognize Bradley Richard (Brad) Townsend, who passed on September 27th of this year. Townsend was as much of a force in the maintenance community as McSpadden was in pilot circles.
Townsend was an A&P and private pilot. In his youth, he worked his way into an avionics engineering program where he learned from the best and brightest at the time — NASA engineers. He earned an opportunity to work in Honeywell’s D&E (Development & Engineering) lab, where he focused on SR-71 air data computers, laser gyros, and many other projects. According to his family, he took these early lessons and applied them to an impactful career in corporate aviation maintenance. One of his greatest honors was serving as chairman of the National Business Aviation Association’s (NBAA) Maintenance Committee.
Townsend was featured in D.O.M. magazine’s Sept/Oct 2009 issue when he ran Sprint’s corporate flight department. Townsend’s contributions to the aircraft maintenance profession were many and immeasurable. Many of his contributions involved efforts to elevate the role of the maintenance professional by first helping corporate flight departments understand the nature and importance of the maintenance professional’s role in flight operations, as well as encouraging mechanics to make every effort to become more professional in their day-to-day activities.
For example, Townsend himself spearheaded an effort to identify himself as an “asset manager,” and in fact, took on the role of asset manager when he went to Dupont’s flight department after the closing of Sprint’s department. As I recall Townsend told me at the time that positioning himself as asset manager for a flight department more clearly defined and elevated his role as the head of maintenance.
Townsend also was on the NBAA Maintenance Board, and helped them develop a professional development program called Project Bootstrap. Townsend was proud of his contributions to this program and was relentless in promoting the program at tradeshows and maintenance gatherings throughout the country. As he described, Project Bootstrap referenced the idea of “pulling oneself up by the bootstraps” to obtain higher achievements in one’s career!
Though it had been a few years since I had seen Brad, I still remember his smiling face and kind demeanor as he would greet all those who would give him a moment of their time to listen to why the aviation maintenance profession was so important.
Knowing Brad as I did, I’m quite certain that the angels in heaven are now following a professional development program and are “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.”
Thank you, Brad Townsend, for all you contributed to the aviation maintenance community!
Thanks for reading!
Greg Napert, proud to be an A&P