|Al Blackman and tthe mural of him at the hangar|
"Every day I get up and am thankful for the day," he told me yesterday when I met him at the American Airlines maintenance hangar at JFK airport. A mechanic since he was a freshly-minted, 16-year-old graduate of Aviation High School in Manhattan, he has never grown tired of turning a wrench, though these days he's supervising other mechanics as a crew chief in Hangar 10.
Boeing 747s. Al has changed as well. He uses a computer now - and no longer drives on the ramp. These are the necessary evolutions. Underneath, there is a constancy, a loyalty that is attention-grabbing by its infrequency.
When I asked him when he thought he'd want to quit working, Al shrugged as if the thought hadn't occurred to him before, though I know it must have. "Since I enjoy working, this never is a chore," was his only reply.
|Pete Trapani works with Blackman|
I'd been invited to meet Al at the hanger and join him on a flight on the vintage DC-3 Flagship Detroit, a plane owned and maintained by the foundation of the same name. The flight would be a gift from American Airlines to its longest-serving employee. Truth be told, it was the flight that drew me to the story because this would be a very rare opportunity to fly in a plane that carried American Airlines passengers from 1936 to 1947 and is truly a piece of living, flying aviation history.
Zane Lemon. Together they restored the plane to near-original condition with the exception of more advanced flight avionics and more fire-resistant seat fabrics. The airplane looks like it did when it was hopscotching around the country at 10,000 feet with a full load of 21 passengers.
|Gene Christian and Dave Buffington fly the DC-3|
|Zane Lemon President of Flagship Detroit Foundation|
Follow the travels of Flagship Detroit at the blog As the Cyclones Spin.