The benefit of experience

“I first met Bill years ago at an IA refresher meeting in the Boston area,” Fuller states. “I had no idea at the time who he was, but all the FAA inspectors in attendance acted like he was their best friend. In hindsight, I can see the reason for that. They were looking at him as a fellow mechanic, not as a Washington big shot.

“As he started his presentation,” Fuller continues, “he immediately made all the mechanics in the audience feel as though he was just one of the guys. His speaking style was informal and he encouraged questions from the audience, with honest, no B.S. replies that were straight from the shoulder. Clearly, this was no typical D.C. politician, despite his self-effacing protestations. At the conclusion of that talk, Bill announced his phone number and email address, telling us that we should all feel free to contact him any time we felt the need.

“Subsequent to that meeting, I took full advantage of his invitation and called Bill many times, especially whenever I was on the receiving end of conflicting regulatory interpretations from a FSDO. If Bill didn’t have the definitive answer off the top of his head, he’d find it within a day or so, and call me back. He always made me feel as though mine was the most important call of the day. I never realized until he was gone that he probably made everyone feel that way.  

“O’Brien gave selflessly of his time and experience, making salient points using his typical self-effacing Irish humor,” Fuller says. “In the face of newly changed regulations or FAA policy, he would take the initiative and call or email many of us in the field to give his typical heads-up. He also, if faced with an FAA screw-up or misinterpretation of policy, would call that particular spade a spade. I could always depend on Bill for an honest answer, untainted by politics. This rare quality endeared him to all who knew him and gained my total respect. I don’t know another mechanic who would disagree with that assessment.”

Peter Zeeb, director of maintenance for Harrah’s Entertainment and chairman on the AMTSociety board, says he received assistance from a mentor once he was working on aircraft. “I did have a mentor who helped me with his Falcon 20. His name is Rich Lindblad director of maintenance for McGraw-Edison. He would have me help him with inspections and I learned his troubleshooting techniques. At the time I was hired part time to clean his aircraft. I did have a full-time job working on small training aircraft for a flight school. I do think I learned more working that part-time job than I did working the full-time one. I believe it was because Rich was exciting to be around and the equipment was very interesting. That motivated me to move toward business aviation maintenance.”

“I’ve been with American for 23 years and fellow employees have been mentors,” MacTiernan says, “both good and bad. Some were light hearted but some really shined. You tend to gravitate toward those like a moth to a flame. I came from the Air Force but I was never made to feel dumb if I didn’t know something, someone would say ‘I’ll show you.’ And I do the same for new people.

“I was lucky to have good mentors early in my career,” MacTiernan says. “Mentors create the base of knowledge to help you do your job. You can think you’re a bad ass but there is always someone else that’s even badder.”

MacTiernan says, “I’m surrounded by mentors” on AMTSociety. “I learn from them and anyone who joins the Society can learn from them; they’re positive role models.

AMTSociety is a perfect organization for people to get involved in and learn. Using mentors enables us and the industry to keep the standards at the highest level.

“Charles Taylor was the first mechanic and the first mentor,” MacTiernan says. “The Wright Brothers had another mechanic after Taylor who was also named Charles, and he learned from the first Charles.” MacTiernan formed the Aircraft Maintenance Technicians Association (AMTA) to continue the legacy of Charles Taylor. “Taylor exhibited professionalism, not vanity. He’s a role model for people entering the industry today, there is a job to do and we do it.”

Being a mentor
Most successful, experienced professionals had mentors once themselves.

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