[image_frame style=”framed” align=”right”]https://www.mountainaviation.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/DSC02122-300×225.jpg”[/image_frame]Don McCarty is a man of few words. Those who have worked with him however, know that his actions speak volumes. Don has worked as an aviation technician for the last 50 years- and he has done it with the type of professionalism that comes with realizing how important his job is and taking great pride in doing your job to the best of your abilities. For all of his dedication to his craft he is being honored with the Charles Taylor “Master Mechanic” Award.
The Charles Taylor “Master Mechanic” Award is named for the man who helped design and build the engine that helped launch the Wright Brothers into the history books. Only those technicians that have dedicated themselves to 50 years of maintaining aircraft are considered for this award and this year Don is being honored as one of those individuals.
Don started his career in the Navy in 1963 graduating from the Navy’s Aviation Mechanical Fundamentals School and then going on further to study Hydraulic systems. After the Navy, Don spent a year with a small commuter airline in Denver called Aspen Airways. From there, he moved to San Francisco and worked in the sheet metal shop for almost 13 years. Wanting to come home to Denver, Don then went to work for a mining coming in Golden, CO getting his first taste of corporate aviation maintaining a Falcon 50. When the mining industry took a downturn and the flight department was disbanded Don worked for a couple of smaller companies before being hired on as a Line Maintenance technician for Stevens Aviation in Broomfield. It was during that time that Don traveled to Italy attended the first training class for the new Piaggio Avanti aircraft. Currently he is a line technician for Mountain Aviation where he has worked for the last several years.
While Don is proud of his accomplishments during his career this award, all of the “hubbub” surrounding it are just an unwelcome distraction to him. Don was recently asked “What makes a great mechanic?”. “You have to have an eye for detail. You have to be hard on yourself at every turn. And you have to be prepared to be hard on your colleagues in other parts of the operation. You have to get used to the idea that they will always want the job done, and the aircraft back in service quicker. You have to be prepared to say “No- it doesn’t leave the hangar until the job is done and done right.”
[image_frame style=”framed” align=”left”]https://www.mountainaviation.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/don-mcC-business-aug-2010.jpg”[/image_frame]Like most mechanics Don has favorite parts of his job and certain aircraft that he likes to work on. Don has a passion for the King Air and the Piaggio Avanti. When talking about the King Air Don says “Oh, I’ve worked on every King Air model there is. The thing about general aviation aircraft is that if you are working on an airliner, there’s plenty of room to put components. In a smaller airplane though, space is tight and things tend to get buried. Beech has done a better job than most in this area and I guess I have just grown into the King Air family. When you have that degree of familiarity with a machine you just naturally grow fond of it.” When Don talks about the Piaggio he smiles “Well when the Piaggio was brand new I was in the first class of US mechanics who went to Italy to do the training. It was five weeks and pretty intensive. I still keep up with two of the other guys in that class- they now work for Piaggio.”
During his career Don has devised some ingenious ways of getting the job done quickly and correctly. Aware that engine overhauls are usually completed at the same time on many twin engine aircraft, Don took it upon himself to design and build a pair of color coded engine stands for the PT-6 engines. This ensured that in a crowded hangar engines and parts would not be installed on the wrong engine. A simple idea but one that works and helps keep the job running smoothly. Don has also devised several strategies to complete complex sheet metal jobs. Don was working with a junior mechanic to complete a repair to the leading edge of a Citation. During that repair Don showed off his ingenuity by instructing his counterpart how to use a template he had designed to locate, drill and sink over 250 rivets on a curved complex shape. All in the precise location needed to ensure no misalignment or induced stresses.
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Don was also asked “How can you tell if a new mechanic is going to perform during his career?” “Well you can tell a lot by looking at his work site. If it’s messy and cluttered you’re probably not looking at a great mechanic. I take pride in bringing to a task only those tools I know I am going to need. I’m 70 but I can do most jobs quicker than a lot of guys half my age. I sometimes find myself doing an oil change, say on a twin with another mechanic doing the other side. It’s noticeable, and sometimes distressing, how often you can tell which side is mine from 50 yards away!”. Does he ride the junior mechanics hard to try to get them to do better? “Not really no. If someone has the makings of a good mechanic, he or she will respond positively to correction of their work, but not of themselves. And if they don’t have what it takes no amount of bawling out will do any good. And I’m hard on myself too. If others see that, they take criticism of their own work much better.”
Away from work there is Don’s family, which has a good deal of aviation running through it. Don’s dad was also in the Navy and worked as an aviation technician in the South Pacific. Don’s two sons are also in the field, one who is a mechanic in Boise (“He picked it up from me”) and the other is a pilot in the Air Force. They, along with Don’s ex-wife, (“We divorced 21 years ago which is why we get along fine”) who is also in the field working as a flight attendant for 42 years, are all thrilled for Don that he is receiving this award as well they should be.
The Charles Taylor Award goes to those who have dedicated their lives to making aviation safe and anyone who has had the chance to work with Don or fly in one of the airplanes he has maintained know Don is the epitome of what this award stands for.
See Youtube video at URL : http://youtu.be/tKFTmnbtbHw