2023 AMT 40 Under 40 Maintenance Professional: AJ Silva — Chief Technical Officer / Co-Founder, Legacy Warbirds LLC

Aug. 10, 2023

AJ Silva is committed to both the preservation of aviation history and the continued safety of modern aircraft. He spent much of his childhood at Carson City Airport in Nevada, which had a large warbird population and a decorated warbird restoration shop: Weaver Aircraft. 

Silva considers himself fortunate to have grown up at an airport that also was populated by knowledgeable and talented mechanics and pilots. They include George Byard, founder of Aircraft Cylinder and Turbine, who could diagnose issues by listening to an engine run over the phone; Neil Weaver of Weaver Aircraft, who let him push a broom until he was old enough to do more; and John Grub, who had a knack for all things mechanical.   

“Most of my mechanical knowledge came by way of mentorship and apprenticeship from the local mechanics at my home airport,” he said. 

As Silva got older, he realized the experience that he had at the airport was an exception and not the standard. Nonetheless, he wants anyone who looks up at a plane to have the same sense of wonder that he has. “It’s important to have physical objects, flying aircraft that can be seen, touched, smelled to help build a connection to the history,” he added.  

Legacy Warbirds was founded in September 2013 and is managed by Silva, Chris Stern and Matt Walsh to provide a turnkey solution for people interested in owning a warbird. Processes common in corporate aircraft management are used to assist customers with all facets of owning and operating a warbird-type aircraft from identifying the aircraft to buy, assisting with acquisition, training, insurance, maintenance, parts, upgrades, restoration and the like. 

Today, Legacy Warbirds also provides contract training to the military, and brokers lease and sales agreements for larger aircraft and fleets. The company specializes in turbine-powered aircraft, such as the Pilatus PC-7 and PC-9.It also supports fighter jets like the F-5Es and WWII aircraft, including the T-6/SNJ and P-51 Mustang.  

Silva moved to North Carolina in 2013 to assist Walsh with developing the aircraft management program for his corporate aviation company: Elite Aircraft Services (EAS). At EAS, Silva’s role was aircraft management specialist. During his time there, the aircraft management department grew from 10 aircraft to over 40, with about 60 percent piston engine and 40 percent turbine. 

In April 2014 Elite Aircraft Maintenance (EAM) was formed as a Cirrus service center to support the maintenance needs of EAS-managed aircraft. Today, EAM also services aircraft of outside customers, at times maintaining over 100 different Cirrus annually. Silva worked for EAM concurrently with EAS from 2014 to 2019 as the shop manager and continues to assist when needed. 

This year, Silva became the DOM for North Star Aero Services, a Part 135 charter. 

He received his associate degree (business) in 2012 from Western Nevada College, A&P in 2015, IA in 2021, then pursued a Bachelor of Business Administration at North Carolina State University, and he received his Private Pilot Certificate in September 2017. 

There are many aspects of aviation that Silva appreciates, but, he said, two rise to the top: “First, aviation has an incredible community at its core, people with from all different demographics, backgrounds, jobs are bound by the wonder of flight. The second is the feeling of complete peace and freedom that is so frequently felt when flying, the beauty out the window that so very difficult to put into words for those who have not experienced it.”