Thursday, March 21, 2013

If you've ever flown, you can thank these guys.

If you've ever flown, you can thank these guys.

And thousands of men and women just like them, who are dedicated to the safety and comfort of airline passengers all over the world.  Here's my confession:  I'm married to the really cute one (second from the right). He's the kind of guy who loves his work so much that he cares enough to teach me about the technical details of his career.  I'm getting familiar with the names of different aircraft and the systems that work together to make them fly.  But when I'm on my own, managing the daily tasks of keeping up a home, I rarely consider what a miracle it is that large planes are flying overhead until I'm sitting in one.

Last week, I was given a rare chance to see the work that goes into making gigantic aircraft like this one soar through clouds and over highest mountains, across oceans and above the quilted landscapes of Earth.

Being invited to attend the AMT Society's 2013 Maintenance Skills Competition in Las Vegas with my husband was a privilege and an honor.  It is now a memory that I will hold in my heart for years to come. While I didn't cover my face in team colors, or wave a big foam finger in the shape of #1, inside my chest I cheered for Richard and his teammates during two days of intense challenges.  I stood in my seat during the times they were on the "hangar" floor, anticipating and hoping and silently praying for success.

Here's a shot of Richard at the most challenging event, an event which veteran teams at the competition sent five people to complete.

Here's a random shot of the pseudo "hangar."  I liked it because of the pretty circles on the flight deck.  I might not comprehend avionics systems or hydraulics, but I do understand art! This event had something to do with sealing up the front windshields.  I guess if glue is involved, I might be able to do that one.

Given 20 minutes to complete each challenge, even the written tests were a bear to complete.

Added to the challenge, the hangar floor was crowded with officials, photographers, and volunteers who organized the events.  It was very easy to be distracted by a comment spoken over a shoulder, or the unexpected arrival of a fellow teammate who had already completed his challenge.

Yet Team TIMCO met these challenges with integrity and professionalism. They didn't need to use binoculars to observe test questions to report to their team.  They didn't need cameras with zoom lenses or prints of schematics from last year.  They even got by when headlamps were promised and not provided.  This team worked well together and supported each other with positive encouragement no matter the outcome.

And earned second place in their division!

At the awards ceremony, the event organizer reminded everyone that there are no winners or losers. Then he told a story about the team from our United States Coast Guard.  He noted the absence of the Air  Force, and explained that federal funding to send the US Military teams had been withdrawn just weeks before.  Instead of backing out, the Coast Guard team pooled their resources and funded their entire trip, including the competition fee, all their meals, airline tickets and hotel expenses.  Everyone in attendance was so inspired by their choice that it sparked generosity and random acts of kindness.  They naturally won first prize in their division, which included a substantial amount of tools from Snap-On, raffle tickets (care of my husband), and a surprise gift from Team FedEx to help with the cost of their expenses.

The energy of this group of professionals in support of the Coast Guard and for each team who participated was incredible.  Several colleges also competed, and those students gave some of the most experienced professionals a run for their money.  It was exciting to sit in the stands and support those technicians who go beyond average expectations.  Each competitor took a big risk in demonstrating their skills and knowledge in a public setting. Team UPS only had one week to prepare.  Some teams studied for nine months.  Aircraft Maintenance Professionals are not the first people you think of when you fly.

US Coast Guard Team

They might not be the first people you think of when standing on the beach, looking out over a peaceful ocean.

But they are incredibly important to me.

Especially this one.

Congratulations Richard!  I love you and appreciate the work you do that keeps people who fly safe.  I am humbled by how much you sweat and sacrifice every single day. Your committed integrity and professionalism are truly something to celebrate.

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