Your Airframe and Powerplant Superheroes
A Celebration of Outstanding Certificated Aircraft Mechanics
By Jennifer Caron, FAA Safety Briefing Magazine
“The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It’s doing something that you appreciate, something you believe is worthwhile.” — Julia Child
“It’s not just doing the work of a mechanic — you can do that on a car. You need to have a love for aircraft,” explains Mike Dunkley, the 2021 National General Aviation Technician of the Year.
Aviation maintenance technicians (AMTs) are a unique breed of consummate professionals dedicated and proud to serve as safety stewards of the sky. Without their work to inspect, maintain, and repair aircraft, coupled with their commitment to continue learning and sharpening skills, our lives (and our aircraft) would be at risk.
No one works in aviation maintenance to get an award. Technicians do it because they like the work and find personal and professional satisfaction in the crucial responsibility of aviation safety. An award is just the icing (albeit the delicious part) of a multi-layer cake — with inspiration and motivation on the bottom, hard work, training, and accomplishments in the middle, years of commitment to the craft, inspiration to others, and dedicated service on the top.
Award-winning technicians like Dunkley were chosen from their peers to recognize their distinguished careers and long-term contributions to general aviation safety, education, and professionalism.
Let’s take a look at three top FAA award programs that celebrate our airframe and powerplant superheroes:
🏆 The Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award
🏆 The National General Aviation Technician of the Year Award
🏆 The William (Bill) O’Brien AMT Awards Program
Not Just “The Third Man” — The Best Man
The Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award 🏆 acknowledges the lifetime accomplishments of senior mechanics. It’s the FAA’s most prestigious award for aircraft mechanics industry-wide, recognizing individuals who have exhibited professionalism, skill, and aviation expertise for at least 50 years in the aircraft maintenance profession.
The award was named to honor Charles E. Taylor, the first aviation mechanic in powered flight who designed and built the engine for the Wright Brothers’ first successful aircraft. Immortalized as the “unsung hero of aviation,” Taylor was self-taught, uniquely talented, yet overwhelmingly modest. He never sought any accolades for his due credit. But it was his hand-crafted engine that forever changed our world and propelled the Wright brothers into transportation eternity.
The awards are processed year-round whenever an application is submitted.
Each Master Mechanic Award recipient receives a certificate of achievement, signed by the FAA Administrator. The FAA presents the award wherever the recipient prefers. Many choose to receive their prize at the Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo award ceremony in Lakeland, Fla., and on occasion at other major aviation events.
Names of the Master Mechanic and Master Pilot award recipients are added to the FAA’s online Roll of Honor. You can find the list of all current and previous award holders online at FAASafety.gov here and every year in the March/April edition of FAA Safety Briefing magazine.
“Accolades like the FAA Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award are excellent examples of significant positive feedback to help aviation mechanics appreciate their roots, their technical heritage, and the importance of their dutiful, safety-minded work,” says Dr. Bill Johnson, 2020 Master Mechanic Award recipient. “Our work is full of daily, safety-critical activities that surely benefit from an occasional ‘job well done.’ Take a moment to give positive feedback. Don’t wait for a mechanic to change an engine in record time before commending great, conscientious, safety-minded work.”
And don’t forget — May 24th (Charlie Taylor’s birthday) is Aviation Maintenance Technician Day. Spend some time saying thank you to the people you know in the maintenance profession.
The Best of the Best
The National General Aviation Technician of the Year 🏆 is awarded to general aviation pros in three categories: Aviation Technician of the Year, Flight Instructor of the Year, and FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) Representative of the Year to acknowledge their contributions to aviation, education, and flight safety.
In a cooperative effort between the FAA and the aviation industry, the General Aviation Awards Program, comprised of volunteer board members and judges, administers the program to recognize the great work of their fellow aviators.
“They probably don’t think of themselves as national winners, but rather as aviation professionals who work hard to serve their clients and improve our industry. These are the kind of people we want to select to represent their peers and our industry,” says Arlynn McMahon, Nominations Coordinator of the General Aviation Awards Program Committee.
National Award winners receive gifts from sponsors and contributors (such as the King Schools, AOPA, and NAFI) and funds towards a trip to the awards ceremony at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisc. There, the FAA presents each winner with individual plaques and a certificate of merit signed by the FAA administrator. Each recipient has their name added to the large perpetual plaque located in the lobby of the EAA AirVenture Museum. You can find all the current and prior award winners online at generalaviationawards.com.
“This program is unique because both the FAA and industry seek out those individuals who possess the traits that are seen as ‘the-best-of-the-best,’” says McMahon. “It’s a 50-year program, and it’s still valid today because holding the bar high, being the best, and striving for excellence is always in style.”
It is with great pleasure that we introduce you to the 2022 National General Aviation Technician of the Year, Michael Everhart of Charlotte, N.C. Learn more about his road to excellence at generalaviationawards.com/news. You can also join us at the awards ceremony at EAA AirVenture in July to meet and congratulate all of this year’s National General Aviation Award winners in person.
If you know an AMT who you think deserves recognition with a Master Mechanic or National Award, we encourage you to nominate them. Or, if you are an aviation professional with a distinguished career, don’t hesitate to apply. You never know — you might just get the icing on the cake!
Above and Beyond
Last but not least is the William (Bill) O’Brien AMT Awards Program 🏆 that recognizes and rewards AMTs and their employers for excellence in aircraft maintenance and their commitment to aviation safety.
Named for the late Bill O’Brien, who was a FAA national resource specialist and instrumental in establishing the FAA’s Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award, O’Brien initially conceived the AMT Awards Program in 1991.
The AMT Awards Program is an online automated training program to encourage AMTs (A&P Mechanics and Avionics Technicians) and employers to seek and complete training courses to enhance safety and improve their professional knowledge. The program awards eligible AMTs and employers who receive, promote, or foster initial and recurrent training.
“We specifically tailor the initial and recurrent technical, safety-related, regulatory, and human factors training for you, the AMT,” says Guy Minor, Aviation Safety Inspector and FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) Airworthiness Program Manager.
Technicians who successfully meet the program requirements within a given calendar year will obtain an AMT Award certificate of training based on the number of training hours. Bronze Award (12 hours), Silver Award (40 hours), or Gold Award (80 hours plus three college credit hours or 40 hours in a career-related subject).
“One of the best features, other than the training itself, is a personalized training record, and it’s free. Once you register on FAASafety.gov, you can document your training and awards by year. The website stores everything in your permanent training record,” says Gary Knaggs, FAASTeam Aviation Safety Inspector.
The program has several levels, or phases, of recognition for both you and your employer. Aviation maintenance companies that initiate and sustain highly effective training programs to improve safety, quality, reliability, and technical knowledge, and exceed standard FAA regulatory requirements, are recognized with a Gold or Diamond Award of Excellence. The type of award is based on the number of technicians in the company who receive an individual AMT award each year.
AMT Employer Gold is awarded to eligible employers with a minimum of 50% of its eligible employees receiving an individual AMT Certificate of Training in a calendar year. Diamond Awards are given to employers with 100% of its eligible employees receiving an individual AMT Certificate of Training in a calendar year.
In 2021, AeroGuard’s Flight Training Center received the FAA’s AMT Employer Diamond Award of Excellence for its fourth consecutive year. AeroGuard was also honored in 2019 when their Flight Training Center’s repair station and aircraft interiors and maintenance services both received the AMT Employer Diamond Award. All 40-plus AeroGuard maintenance employees completed a minimum of 12 hours of additional training in subject areas like aircraft systems, workplace safety, and regulatory compliance.
“Our staff understands the importance of safety, quality, and professionalism, and the Award is a testament to their hard work and dedication,” says Shawn Rockey, AeroGuard’s director of maintenance.
Employers who participate in the AMT Award Program demonstrate their commitment to the continued safety of the aviation maintenance industry.
Here’s how AMTs can participate in the awards program.
- Register on FAASafety.gov to enroll in the awards program.
- Complete the online Core Course — Ethics for Aviation Maintainers (ALC-718). Each year there will be one or two new required core courses. Click on the Maintenance Hangar tab, then My AMT, and you’ll find it under Core Training Courses. This course introduces seven key principles of ethical behavior and a moral decision-making framework for making mindful decisions based on the seven ethical behaviors.
- Eligible training also includes aviation maintenance career-related training in technology, human factors, and certain courses from an accredited trade school or university.
Train From Home or Hangar
You’ll also find thousands of free, online safety and risk reduction seminars and webinars that you can attend virtually. There are online courses available too. Most are free or low-cost.
Need to renew your inspection authorization? There’s a list of IA renewal courses and programs as well.
Take a look at the special training projects on risk management and human error in the maintenance hangar tab, and you’ll also discover resources on everything from maintenance alerts and safety tips to standards, regulations, and scholarships for up-and-coming mechanics.
If you have any questions or need help, contact Guy Minor at Guy.D.Minor@faa.gov.
The learning process never ends. Keep an open manual and an open mind. As the Mechanic’s Creed says, “… the safety and lives of others are dependent upon (your) skill and judgment.”
Jennifer Caron is FAA Safety Briefing’s copy editor and quality assurance lead. She is a certified technical writer-editor in the FAA’s Flight Standards Service.