By Christy Barritt
The day Edwin Capone starts having a job is the day he said he will stop working.
That's why the 75-year-old is still employed as an aviation mechanic in Chesapeake. Capone said his career has never felt like a job because he loves it so much.
The College Park resident has worked in the industry for 50 years and was recently recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration, which presented Capone with the Charles Taylor "Master Mechanic" Award.
Named in memory of the first aviation mechanic in powered flight, the award recognizes the lifetime accomplishments of senior mechanics.
John Beaulieu, president of Horizon Flight Center and Aviation Services at Chesapeake Regional Airport, has been a pilot for 40 years and said he has never met anyone else who has received the award.
"It's one where his name is on a plaque at the headquarters of the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington D.C.," Beaulieu said. "For maintenance people, it's the ultimate award the FAA can issue. Pilots always get awards for doing this and for doing that. Behind all of those pilots are the people who do the maintenance and allow them to fly."
Capone, who works for Horizon at the West Road airport, developed his interest in aviation as a teenager when a family friend took him to see his private plane. He knew then that he wanted to work with aircraft. Capone has held many titles in his career, including Marine Corps mechanic, airplane inspector, maintenance troubleshooter and manager of more than 300 people at a major airport. His career has taken him from his native Syracuse, N.Y., to Pittsburgh, Charlotte and Norfolk.
Capone met his wife, Shirley, while he was stationed with the Marine Corps in Edenton, N.C. They were married in 1955, and they have seven children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Capone retired from US Air in 1993, but he always maintained an interest in light aviation, which led him to take a position with Horizon. He has been working for the company ever since.
Capone has seen many changes in aviation since he started.
"I can remember back in the day when there was an aircraft incident - a crash landing or a gear-up landing - and the entire industry lost maybe two or three days where their boarding went way down," Capone said. "People wouldn't fly. ... Nowadays, they think nothing of it. They'll take off and there's a burning airplane right on the runway."
The way people dress when flying also has evolved.
"When I first started in the business, people got on an airplane and they looked like they were going to a party," Capone said. "The ladies were all dressed up, and the guys wore suits and ties. I go to these airports today and I see some of the costumes people wear flying and I'm like, 'Whew, that would have never happened 25 years ago.'\"
Capone may stick around long enough to witness more aviation changes. He said he has no plans of stopping work.
"Like I've told so many people," Capone said, "I'm not going to die in a rocking chair."
Christy Barritt, 651-6166,
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