Professionalism: Tom Hendershot

Jan. 9, 2017

Tom Hendershot’s career and love for aviation began at a very young age. At 7 he was rewarded for a successful Sunday school project with ride in a Piper J-3 Cub with Alice Gates, a well-known aviatrix at the time.

To satisfy his love of aviation, he built and flew U-control models into his early teens. He joined the Civil Air Patrol as a cadet, and attended West Technical High School specializing in aviation.

In May 15, 1955, Hendershot started part time as a maintenance apprentice for Sundorph Aeronautical Corporation (SAC) in Cleveland, OH. After graduation from high school he was off to the U.S. Air Force. Due to the Civil Air Patrol training, he entered as an A 3/C and attended maintenance school for the B-52H, T-33, and T-38 aircraft achieving a 43151 skill level.

Flying instructor to management

He started flying when he was 15 with the hope of having his private license by 16. Working for Sundorph and Rusk Aviation in Kankakee, IL, he was able to obtain both private and commercial licenses.

After working his way through flight schools for a few years, Tom ended up working as chief flight instructor at General Aviation in Willoughby, OH. One of his students owned a land ambulance business, and he ended up as director of operations. At the same time he was also vice president of operations and one-third owner of Air-Motive Specialties Inc. at the Willoughby airport.

From there it was on to a host of charter and scheduled service airlines. Tom held positions as a line pilot, check airman, instructor pilot, mechanic and inspector. He also held positions in management as director of operations, director of maintenance, and director of compliance.

His wife was asked by Jeppesen to move back to Denver, so they moved, and Tom worked for Mile High Aviation as director of maintenance, then to High Winds Aviation where he created the certified repair station from scratch and had the position of chief inspector and pilot.

At Casper Air Service, he served as director of compliance and chief inspector. He had a lot of FAA involvement, a characteristic that continues to this day.

Frontier Airlines

Then Frontier Airlines called and he worked as a quality assurance inspector, maintenance instructor, and director of the AMT program starting in 1999. While at Frontier Airlines, the airline became the first FAR 121 certificated airline to receive the FAA Diamond of Excellence Award. “This program included every A&P in the company from the vice president of maintenance to all on the floor, Hendershot says. “This was done for nine consecutive years.”

Bill O’Brien described him as a zealot in an AMT article, “History in the Making” (March 2000), “A year ago this undercover zealot, this man who passionately believes in our profession, arbitrarily decided that he was going to do something that was never done before. He was going to make Frontier Airlines the very first, large air carrier to have 100 percent of its 232 eligible mechanics earn FAA Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) awards.”

O’Brien was there to present the awards at Frontier when Hendershot made it happen. And O’Brien awarded Hendershot a Diamond Award that same day, recognizing the fact that he had received an AMT award every year for the last five years.


In 2005, an A&P affinity group was formed and in January 2007, Hendershot assumed the role of executive director of AMTSociety. The membership has grown to 2,900 and is still climbing. Under his leadership, AMTSociety has developed three scholarship awards worth $1,500: Charles E. Taylor, William F. “Bill” O’Brien, and Thomas E. “Tom” Hendershot (the board of directors surprised him with this one) awards.

As part of his AMTSociety duties he organizes annual Inspection Authorization renewal seminars working with industry speakers and the FAA for approval.

Industry involvement, recognition

Hendershot is involved in many industry organizations. He is on the boards of aviation schools and associations including the National Center for Aerospace & Transportation Technologies (NCATT), Aviation Technical Education Council (ATEC), National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA) Maintenance Committee, Northrop-Rice Foundation Executive board, and the General Aviation Awards Program advisory board.

He has received many awards over the years, including the Aviation Maintenance Technician of the Year Award for 2003, the Charles E. Taylor Master Mechanic Award in 2005, and the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award in 2005. And in October of last year he was inducted into the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame.

He doesn’t seek awards, he’ll say he’s just doing his job. And his dedication to aviation helps to improve the status and safety of the aircraft maintenance technician. Congratulations Tom!

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