Changing Lanes

Sept. 26, 2006
Bill O’Brien’s farewell as he enters the fourth career stage

With a tinge of regret I must inform you and my editor that this is the last article I will write for the AMT as an FAA inspector. On Jan. 3, 2007, if there is no major disruption to my master plan, I will leave the FAA and seek employment in the aviation industry elsewhere. Why? There are many reasons, both personal and professional, but overall I am relying on my gut feeling that has been constantly telling me that after 30 years with the FAA and 42 years in aviation maintenance that it is time to depart. I also feel that the job change must be done quickly while my somewhat tattered reputation is still intact. 

Some folks will call my decision to quit my cushy government job, “retirement,” but I do not. I look at this decision as just changing lanes as I am heading toward a destination, not the destination itself. Besides, I don’t like the word “retirement,” it has the word “tired” in it and at 63, I am not even sleepy yet. However, I cannot deny the fact that I am entering the fourth and final stage of an FAA inspector’s career.

For the record, the first stage of an inspector’s career is when someone in the FSDO asks; “Who is Bill O’Brien?” The second stage is “get me Bill O’Brien!” The third stage is when someone says: “Get me someone like Bill O’Brien,” and the fourth stage is: “Who is Bill O’Brien?”

One day, if you are lucky the fourth stage, which some call retirement, but what I call changing lanes, will happen to you. But you must plan and prepare well in order to survive your “golden years” and have enough free time left over so you can start studying for finals.

Some of you young bucks reading this are in denial, thinking that getting old will never happen to you! However, my friends the real truth is we are all victims of time and gravity always wins.

As one changes lanes, it is traditional, as well as good manners to thank those who helped you along the way. First, I must thank the Good Lord above for his protection and many gifts, he has given me. I sincerely hope I have not disappointed him. Next, I wish to thank my wife, Marie. She is my parade, -- my cheerleader. She never lost faith in me, even when I almost lost faith in myself. Of course I want to especially thank my Mom and Dad who, by their example, prayers, and hard work, kept me on the straight and narrow. I would also like to thank all the other folks whose list of names are legion, who lent me a helping hand along the way. I also would like to apologize to those people I failed to come through for or got angry with, be it planned or unintentional. However, I do not apologize for what I said about the guy who designed the jump seat on the Cl-600 regional jet. Sometimes, you cannot apologize for the truth. 

This is also the time when I should leave you with some pithy words of wisdom. Well, I did that in the last month’s AMT article I wrote called “Lessons Learned.” What I want to do is leave you with the aviation maintenance values that I tried to live up to.

These maintenance values are identified in the Aircraft’s Mechanic’s creed. The aircraft mechanic’s creed was written in 1941, by Jerry Lederer, then director of the CAA Safety Bureau, he later founded the Flight Safety Foundation. I would like you to consider Xeroxing a copy of the creed and hanging it in your break room. I believe it is a document that should be read over and over again to remind us what our duties and responsibilities are when we head out to work on the hangar floor.

In closing, I want to remind you that the world of aviation is a small one. I am sure that I will have the opportunity to see many of you again. But as I prepare to change lanes, allow me the honor to leave you with my signature good-bye. It is the same one that I have signed off every one of my IA Renewal seminars with.

“If you work with your hands and your hands only, you are a laborer!

If you work with your hands and your mind, then you are a craftsman!

But if you work with your hands, your mind, and your heart, then you are a professional!”

It has been my great honor and privilege to work for and with professionals for the last 30 years, and until I see you again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand.

Thank you and God Bless.

The Aircraft Mechanic’s Creed

UPON MY HONOR I swear that I shall hold in sacred trust the rights and privileges conferred upon me as a certified mechanic. Knowing full well that the safety and lives of others are dependent upon my skill and judgment, I shall never knowingly subject others to risks which I would not be willing to assume for myself, or for those dear to me.

IN DISCHARGING this trust, I pledge myself never to undertake work or approve work which I feel to be beyond the limits of my knowledge nor shall I allow any non-certified superior to persuade me to approve aircraft or equipment as airworthy against my better judgment, nor shall I permit my judgment to be influenced by money or other personal gain, nor shall I pass as airworthy, aircraft or equipment, about which I am in doubt either as a result of direct inspection or uncertainty regarding the ability of others who have worked on it to accomplish their work satisfactorily.

I REALIZE the grave responsibility which is mine as a certified airman, to exercise my judgment on the airworthiness of aircraft and equipment. I, therefore, pledge unyielding adherence to these precepts for the advancement of aviation and for the dignity of my vocation.

About the Author

Bill O'Brien