Fine Print: New Beginning

I retired from the FAA on Jan. 3, 2007. On that day, my wife and I did a little "happy dance" outside FAA Headquarters to celebrate the start of our new life as a retired government annuitant. While doing a little Irish jig might seem a foolish thing for a 63-year-old to do in downtown Washington, D.C., I still have warm memories of the moment. After all a retirement should be a celebration, not a wake.

Less than a week after the dance, my wife Marie found out real quick that second generation Irishmen should not have too much leisure time. She failed to understand that a true son of the old sod tend to occupy our idle hands with cans of beer. So my Marie, being a no-nonsense Catholic girl from Philadelphia, told me: "Bill, I took you for better or worse, but not for lunch — so get a job!"

About the same time my wife gave me the ultimatum the publisher of this magazine must have sensed that I was experiencing a weak moment and sent me an email suggesting I start writing again. So once again I find myself back behind a computer pounding out my frustrations on the keyboard while I patiently wait for my dream job in the paint department at the local Home Depot to open up.

When you are on your own, this new freedom takes some time to get used to. For 16 years I wrote the FAA Feedback column on my own time and dime. In each article I had to skate on the fine line between being politically correct and being painfully honest. Always present in the background were the unsaid bureaucratic and political restrictions on what I could say and what I could not say in print. Now the only restriction on me is to do my personal best. Even saying that, just the ability to think and act without arbitrary restrictions is really the sweetest form of liberty. I will enjoy it.

In honor of my newfound editorial freedom I have elected to call the title of my new column: "Fine Print." In the next year, many of my articles will examine each new FAA rule or policy with a jaundice eye, giving special attention to those murky details buried in rules and policy that I call "fine print." I will try to give you a heads-up on what is on the FAA's drawing board. I will also attempt to write at least one article about our maintenance history. I always wanted to document where we came from, and what we mechanics have done for aviation industry over the last 103 years. I will start my research where most of our history resides, by interviewing Charles Taylor "Master Mechanic" award winners.

Finally, a couple of articles will be dedicated to asking the hard questions of the leadership of our maintenance industry. This includes the FAA management and special interest and support groups on what they are doing to raise the professional status of mechanics. For example, how they can help us obtain AMT recognition day in all 50 states before the end of this year. I will also look at how we can revise Part 147 curriculum and figure how we as an industry can slow down or even reverse the transfer of aviation maintenance jobs overseas.

If the design and purpose of the Fine Print column works out and you like my new approach, then that will be great! If not, well there is always the job running the paint can shaker at Home Depot — if they will have me.