93-Year-Old Airplane Mechanic Still Going Strong

July 10, 2024
Ralph Holaday has been working on all kinds of airplane engines for over 60 years. He works six to eight hours per day at St. Joseph Aircraft Service. Much of the work is done at Rosecrans Airport.

Jul. 7—If you take a trip out to Rosecrans Memorial Airport, you might come across a 93-year-old man providing guidance to younger mechanics or newly-licensed pilots about how to do their jobs safely and effectively.

Ralph Holaday has been working on all kinds of airplane engines for over 60 years. He works six to eight hours per day at St. Joseph Aircraft Service. Much of their work is done at Rosecrans Airport.

"I started flying planes in my younger years," Holaday said. "Then I bought one of my own. I gave $800 for it back then."

Since then, Holaday has worked on just about every size of airplane. This includes his time in military service, as well as work he still does when he is away from the job in his private workshop at home.

"At first, I worked out at Rosecrans part-time in the wintertime, back when I had a Marine business in town," Holaday said. "Pretty soon, I ended up here, and I work with some very good people."

Those people include several airplane mechanics and pilots he has worked with over the past few decades. Paul Rush, who started working with Holaday during the Missouri floods of 1993, said that he still marvels at Holaday's consistency, kindness and energy.

"His vast knowledge of all sorts of items amazes me," Rush said. "He even helps train pilots about safety and helping them troubleshoot their aircraft. He also mentors a lot of younger people. At 93, he still wants to work and has great health."

Holaday's most recent mentee is a 19-year-old named Joseph Brewka, who started at St. Joseph Aircraft Service this summer.

"Right now I'm going to school, and this has really helped me," Brewka said. "Getting away from the classroom and getting hands-on experience, especially from Ralph, has made a big difference for me."

Brewka said Holaday is particularly skilled at trouble-shooting, even when it comes to complicated electronic issues involving aircraft. Brewka added that Holaday's ability to calmly assess what is wrong and quickly solve problems for pilots is a skill he wants to acquire.

Holaday plans to continue to work on planes and pass his many years of knowledge along to both mechanics and pilots in training as long as he is physically able. Holaday said that many of his family members are deceased, and he sees the people he gets to work with on a daily basis as part of his family. They seem to feel the same way.

"I guess when I get old, I'll retire," Holaday said. "I love to do what I do, and they help me as much as I help them."

Charles Christian anchors the evening news for News-Press NOW and also serves as an ordained minister at United Methodist Churches in Union Star and Helena, Missouri. Charles can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter: @NPNowChristian.


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