Azriel “Al” Blackman started working as a mechanic for American Airlines in 1942 when he was 16.Today the airline celebrated his 70th year of service by taking him on a ride on a vintage DC-3.
Blackman says he has no plans to retire, according to the AP.
We talked to the Ken MacTiernan of The Aircraft Maintenance Technicians Association (AMTA), which honored Blackman with a Master Mechanic award.
MacTiernan relates an anecdote from a few years ago when American held troubleshooting scenarios in a joint session with crew chiefs and management: “Whenever a question came up that no one had an answer to, the instructor would ask them ‘What would Al do?’“
“The guy is a wealth of knowledge, respected by both management and labour,” says MacTiernan.
Blackman’s full bio from AMTA:
“Al” or “Blackie” started his aviation career back in 1942 at LaGuardia Airport in New York working on “Flying boat” aircraft such as the Sikorsky VF44, PBY, PBM and the PB4Y for American Export Airlines. During WW II American Export worked under contract for the Navy, which is where Al was exposed to military Seaplanes. American Export was a steamship company, sold their airline division to American Airlines in the middle 1940s.
Young Al who was only 17 years of age had to get permission from his mother in order to work. The airline had to agree not to assign him to night shift due to his young age. Of his early employment Al says, “I was left on their doorstep and they took me in, I thought they hired me, so I went to work.”, and 64 years later Al is still at it.
Al served his country in Korea from 1950 to 1952 as a Helicopter Crew Chief in the Army Light Aircraft Division servicing and repairing M.A.S.H. helicopters. In 1960 Al transferred to Idlewild International Airport, which is now JFK. In 1965 he became a Crew Chief, and to the present remains in that position. It comes as no surprise that not only is Al the number one man in seniority at American Airlines but he has been for nearly as long as anyone can remember.
Al’s love of working on aircraft has not withered over time. In addition to working on aircraft for a living Al is very active in aircraft restoration. His experience and skill are invaluable. Those who know Al have seen him create obsolete and irreplaceable parts from raw stock. The man defines the phrase “Master Mechanic”. He took part in the restoration of the Sikorsky VF44 that is the showpiece of the Aviation Museum at BDL in Connecticut and is an active volunteer at the Floyd Bennett Field Museum in Brooklyn NY.
So far his amazing career has spanned from the era of the Flying Boats (like the Sikorsky VF44) and the DC-3 to the Concorde and the Boeing 777. Those who know Al are amazed at his boundless energy and enthusiasm. His attitude and humour make his workplace a much more pleasant place to be. When his coworkers ask him why he doesn’t retire he replies, “Who would hire me at my age?”.
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