Bill O'Brien: 1943 - 2008

A tribute to Bill O'Brien


Bill O’Brien was born on March 15, 1943, in Philadelphia. His parents were Lillian and Hugh O’Brien and he was the middle child, having two brothers: Jack and Ed. Bill went to St. William’s Elementary School and graduated from Father Judge High School in 1960.

He was a helicopter mechanic for the U.S. Army in Vietnam (from February 1964 to February 1967). During his R&R, he went to Hong Kong and vowed that if he ever got married he would bring his bride there.

After the army, Bill attended Pittsburg Institute of Aeronautics in West Mifflin, PA, to get his Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certificate. While there, he acquired his private pilot license.
Bill worked for 12 years as an A&P mechanic. Ten of those years were spent in Philadelphia where he met his future wife, Marie. Marie was also a private pilot. They met when Bill joined the local Civil Air Patrol where Marie was already a member. After two years, they were married on Oct. 27, 1973, at St. Leo’s Church. They honeymooned in Hong Kong.

While Bill continued to work in Philadelphia, he acquired his inspection authorization (IA) as well as getting a commercial pilot and flight instructor license. He and Marie also had two sons — Michael and Patrick.

In 1980, they left Philadelphia and moved to Northern Virginia so Bill could begin his career with the FAA. Three years later, they moved to Oklahoma City so that Bill could teach at the FAA Academy. Then, one and one-half years later, they moved back to Northern Virginia where Bill spent the rest of his FAA career working at Headquarters.

Along the way, while balancing a career and family, he received his Bachelor’s degree and later his Master’s in public administration.

During his FAA career, he presented more than 777 FAA safety seminars to more than 100,000 individuals. He also wrote more than 180 maintenance articles that were published in AMT magazine.

There were two professional accomplishments that Bill was most proud of:

He created the FAA’s Charles E. Taylor Master Mechanic Award which recognizes aircraft mechanics who have achieved 50 years of working experience.

Bill also worked with Eastern New Mexico University at Roswell to grant 72 credits for the A&P license to allow mechanics to obtain an accredited Associate’s degree by taking four courses. Bill was honored to give the commencement speech at the university just before his retirement.

After his retirement, Bill continued to give FAA regulation seminars in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Bill delighted in his wife and family and was especially pleased to come to know Patrick’s wife Christina as well as his grandchildren, Alexander and Caitlin.

— Michael O’Brien

FAA Natural Resource

By Carol E. Giles, Manager, Aircraft Maintenance Division, AFS-300

The aviation industry — and particularly the aviation maintenance technician — lost an icon and a best friend on Sunday, Nov. 9, when retired FAA national resource specialist Bill O’Brien passed away.

O’Brien’s achievements and contributions were well-known and far-reaching throughout our industry. Since 1990, he wrote a regular column for Aircraft Maintenance Technology magazine.

They illustrated the hard work and dedication of aviation maintenance technicians in an often-humorous way. One such article, titled “The Grease Monkey,” was a passionate story about a maintenance technician replacing an igniter box on a PT6 engine. Leave it to a truly gifted mechanic to write passionately about something like that and keep the reader interested and engaged! Another was “Ode to a Jumpseat,” an amusing description of much of what takes place while obtaining and completing a ride in the “jumpseat” as an FAA inspector during a cockpit enroute inspection. For those of us who ever had to deal with any of these issues first-hand, his articles were a delight to read.

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