Dedication. Commitment. A drive to excel. A determination to always keep on learning. These are traits evident in successful businessmen. In my recent interview with Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award recipient Walter Mangon, it was evident that he not only possesses these traits, he encourages the same of his employees.
Walter began his career in aviation as a mechanic in the Air Force in 1952. It was there that his love of aviation was fostered. He worked on engines, “All the big round radial engines,” he says. Walter enjoyed his time in the Air Force. In addition to learning the ins and outs of being an aircraft mechanic, he had the opportunity to see the world.
One of the most memorable experiences Walter shared was a rescue mission of an SA-16 from the Greenland icecap. The aircraft was doing training missions in the area that included touch and go’s on the icecap. During one of the landings, a crewmember accidentally opened the doors to the air cooler. That was all it took. It was so cold the oil in the oil cooler gelled up immediately, stranding the aircraft on the icecap.
Walter was called in to help rescue the aircraft. It took 45 days to get the aircraft out of there. During the process, two C-47’s were wrecked (and abandoned there) trying to get parts and supplies to the mechanics.
Getting His A&P
While in the Air Force, Walt realized he wanted to have a career in aviation, and he decided to get his A&P. He was working part time as a mechanic at the local airport. He did work for Trans-International Airways and Capitol Airways, using his experience gained as a USAF mechanic.
He went to the FAA with necessary paperwork in hand and requested to take the FAA A&P tests based on experience. The FAA signed off, and shortly thereafter he received his A&P certificate.
Time to Open Shop
Walter retired from the Air Force in 1972, and by then had already opened a maintenance shop. He had been stationed at Hamilton Air Force base just before retirement and realized there was a lot of aviation activity in the area. He decided to open a shop in San Rafael, CA, at the Smith Ranch Airport. The shop opened its hangar doors in 1969.
Mangon Aircraft Repair Services is now located at Petaluma Airport CA and is a successful maintenance facility. Walter and his wife June have turned the business over to their son Ronald who is now the CEO of the business with Walter taking on the easier duties of CFO. Walter’s grandson works part time in the hangar and his granddaughter has gotten the aviation bug as well.
Words of Wisdom
When asked what tips he would give to fellow mechanics he had a few suggestions. The first tip is to always document your work thoroughly. “Clear and thorough documentation is critical,” shares Mangon. “That leaves nothing to guess. How can the FAA or an attorney say otherwise if you document exactly what work you performed?”
The second tip Walter gives is to never stop learning. “Always ask questions,” says Mangon. “Don’t be too proud to ask for help from your co-workers. Be like a sponge and absorb all of the information you can from the other mechanics.”
All of the mechanics at Mangon’s shop participate in the FAA’s AMT Awards Program, and the facility has received the FAA Diamond Award of excellence for five straight years. Walter has taken his passion for aviation and drive for excellence and passed it on to his family and employees.