Open Letter: AMT Recognition

This is an open letter to all mechanics and technicians, working in repair stations, manufacturer’s overhaul facilities, FBOs, and airline maintenance facilities who have ever complained that they are not treated with respect by their company/union, or grumbled about their pay, or working conditions, or their boss(s), or their peers, or even the snooty retorts from the parts room guy.

So I have to ask you. Do you want some respect? Do you want recognition for the work you do? Perhaps even earn a bunch of self-esteem at a national level? But, why stop there? Do you want your career field and your contributions to aviation safety to be recognized by Congress and the President of the United States? Well do you?

What am I talking about?

I want May 24 to be forever known as National Aviation Maintenance Technicians (AMT) Day. To make this happen, the May 24 National AMT Day resolution has to be passed by Congress and signed by the President of the United States. This is no small achievement.

Yeah, I know you have been hearing about this AMT Day just about forever. And you also know nothing has happened since the first National AMT resolution was submitted in 2003. Now almost four years have slid by and anyone in their right mind would be right to figure that the AMT resolution is dead in the water. Well, that is not necessarily true any more.

First a little history lesson

In case you are wondering, the May 24 date was picked as the U.S. National AMT recognition day in honor of the birthday of Charles Taylor, the Wright Brothers’ mechanic.

The idea for an AMT recognition day was born in the mind of Giacinta “Gia” Koontz, the former director of the Portal of Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation where Charles Taylor is buried. The idea was given form by FAA’s Richard Dilbeck of the Sacramento FSDO who on April 12, 2002 drafted the resolution and got Senator Pete Knight (R) (Burbank) to sponsor May 24 as California’s AMT Recognition Day. It passed.

The first attempt at creating a “National” AMT Day resolution was a House Resolution (HRES 586) that was drafted by Richard and sponsored by Congressman Dan Lungren (R-CA) in 2003. This time it did not pass; no grass-roots support at a national level. Strike one.

In 2005 the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association’s (PAMA) president, Brian Finnegan and Richard Dilbeck collaborated with Maryanne DeMarco, the former head of Legislative Affairs at AMFA representing 20,000+ AMTs on Capitol Hill. Maryanne crafted the resolution in the proper legal language and with strong support from Aircraft Maintenance Technicians Association (AMTA) and PAMA, Congressmen Oberstar (D) and Lungren (R) reintroduced the AMT resolution as House Resolution 4582 on Dec. 16, 2005. But like the Bible story about the good seed thrown on rocky ground, the May 24 resolution again withered away from lack of support. Strike two.

Richard Dilbeck now decides to build on his original California AMT recognition day and begins a nationwide campaign to get all the individual states, commonwealths, and territories to recognize May 24 as AMT Day. Helped by legions of committed mechanics and supporters many states quickly signed their own AMT resolution. As of this date, only the states of Idaho, New Hampshire, Louisiana, Ohio, New Jersey, Delaware, Alabama, West Virginia, and South Carolina have not signed off on their pending State’s May 24 resolution. Of the six U.S. territories only the Northern Marianas, and American Somoa May 24th resolutions are still pending.

Now enters an unlikely hero — Ken MacTiernan. Ken’s full-time job is being a line mechanic for American Airlines at San Diego International Airport for the last 21 years. In his spare time he serves as the director of Aircraft Maintenance Technicians Association (AMTA) based in Chula Vista, CA (as well as being an AMTSociety board member). Ken, like Richard, uses a different approach to get recognition for mechanics and technicians.

AMTA has now donated $6,000 busts of Charles Taylor to maintenance facilities, museums, and aviation-oriented colleges. So far seven busts of Charles Taylor have been donated as of the date of this publication. One of Ken’s biggest accomplishments to date was to donate a bust of Charles Taylor to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum at Dulles on Aug. 11, 2006. You can read all about the event in the December 2006 issue of AMT Magazine.

You should not blow-off this accomplishment at the Air and Space as being as easy as a slam dunk by a 7-foot-tall basketball player. It was the equivalent of sucking a plate of cold grits through an ear trumpet. The Smithsonian’s bureaucracy makes the FAA’s way of doing business look like a lean, mean fighting machine. To make my point, until that day in August 2006, there was not one artifact, display or even a casual mention of the contributions of mechanics found anywhere in the Smithsonian’s Dulles or DC’s Air and Space museums.

Let’s fast forward to April 15, 2007 when Ken, now tired of the lack of progress on AMT Day, sends a letter of petition to Congressman Oberstar (D) requesting the congressman re-introduce the May 24 resolution. The good congressman replied back that he is now chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and he would like the ranking member of the Aviation Sub-Committee, Congressman Robert Filner (D) to introduce the resolution.

God works in mysterious ways. Congressman Filner of San Diego, CA, is Ken’s congressman. Balancing work, a lovely wife that is eight months pregnant, and all the rest of the problems that life throws at us, Ken decides that a face-to-face meeting with the Congressman would be a very important first step to move the May 24 resolution forward.

The meeting

On May 18, 2007 at 11 a.m., Ken and Maryanne DeMarco now the legislative director with the Passenger-Cargo Security Group, found themselves outside of Congressman Filner’s office in the Rayburn Building in Washington, D.C. The congressman welcomed them into his office, where Ken launched into his well-rehearsed but short speech. The congressman listened carefully and then said OK. Then he told them that he would put forth the resolution the following week. The whole process from “Good Morning Congressman Filner” to his buy-in, took all of 15 seconds. At 11:10 the meeting was over. Sometimes, this democracy of ours can move very fast when it wants to.

On the same day, Ken got the word that FAA Administrator, Marion Blakey will send a letter of support of his letter to Congressman Oberstar for the May 24 AMT Day resolution. Special thanks go to Dave Cann, manager of the Aircraft Maintenance Division, Jim Ballough, director of Flight Standards Service and Nick Sabatini, associate administrator for Safety because without their support the Administrator would have never seen the letter, let alone sign it.

Now what?

Remember the lack of grass-roots support I mentioned earlier that killed off the two resolutions? Despite the hard work done by Richard, Ken, Maryanne, and the letter of support from the FAA Administrator, this third attempt is not by any stretch of the imagination a done deal. While it’s a great start, one successful meeting on the Hill and some letters of support are not a guarantee of success. We have to move our collective butts right up to a keyboard, and start sending emails to our congressmen and senators urging them to support House Resolution #444 that fixes May 24 as U.S.National Aviation Maintenance Technician Day.

To make this idea of AMT recognition prosper, Congress needs to see an electronic blizzard of emails choking their servers over the next couple of months. The emails and letters of support for the AMT resolution must come from a broad range of aerospace companies and manufacturers, large and small airlines, FBOs, repair stations, associations, A&P schools, unions, and all branches of the military.

But even more importantly, the blizzard of emails has to come from us. A lot of us! Why us? Because, every one of the mechanics and technician’s emails are taken very seriously by each congressman and senator. How so? Simply put, mechanics and technicians vote! Companies and associations do not! And let’s not forget that 2007 is a big election year and your vote means a lot to the people on the Hill so this is the time of year politicians on both sides of the aisle really want to make you happy.

How to make it happen

Besides bugging your company management to send letters of support of AMT Day to Congress, you need to send three emails of your own. One goes to your congressman in your district and the others go to your two senators. Getting in touch with your congressman or senator is as easy as making a new safety wire hole in your thumb. As soon as you read this, put the magazine down and get on Google or Yahoo or whatever your favorite search engine is and type in or Find your congressman and your senators’ email addresses and write an email that says something like this:

Honorable Congressman/Senator (Put in the appropriate name and title), My name is (your name), and live in (your town or city) and I am an aircraft mechanic/technician. I am writing to you regarding a very important bill that will come before you for a vote this session. The bill is House Resolution #444 and is cited as the “U.S. National Aviation Maintenance Technicians Recognition Day.” This bill, when passed into law will assign May 24 of each year as the National Aviation Maintenance Technicians Recognition Day. This will help recognize all the quiet heroes who for the last 100 years have labored without recognition to ensure that the thousands of aircraft that fly everyday are airworthy.

So, as my elected official I am asking you to co-sponsor this important piece of legislature along with Congressman Filner, and vote YES when the time comes. Thank you.                                                      

(Print and sign your name. A&P number is optional.) 

Some administrative notes

A few of you will figure that if you could send one email or a single letter with 114 names on it, you could make a major impact for the cause. Sorry, under the government way of doing business one letter or one email still counts only as one, no matter how many signatures are on it. Also, please try to personalize the email or letter with your own thoughts. If all the emails look like the sample I provided, it would have the same impact as sending your congressman a thousand Xerox birthday cards. After a while he would not read them anymore.

A warning

If we only send a light dusting of emails to Congress instead of the blizzard that is needed we will lose this third attempt at being recognized. I do not want to strike out! If we fight among ourselves to see who gets the credit, or assign blame, and in the process of name calling we forget the goal we are trying to achieve, then we lose our integrity. If we fail to win our recognition and lose our integrity in the process by pointing fingers, then perhaps we mechanics and technicians do not deserve to have our own day of recognition. Maybe then we will deserve the title of “semi-skilled laborer” or worst yet, to be forever referred to as “just a mechanic” by pilots, management, and the flying public.

Life is a series of choices, let’s make the right one!

Bill O’Brien
A&P 1809539 IA