In 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt was President, Humphrey Bogart starred in the new movie, “Casablanca,” and Al Blackman began his career with American Airlines. Obviously a lot has changed since `42, but while the President has changed 11 times and movie stars have come and gone, at least one thing remains the same—Al Blackman still works for American. He is celebrating his 60th anniversary with the airline.
In an industry where as many as 30 years of service is not uncommon, Blackman`s 60 years is believed to be a record. He joined the company just shy of his 17th birthday as a sheet metal mechanic working on Sikorsky Flying Boats—the over-water aircraft of the era. Now 76, the New York native is an aircraft maintenance crew chief at the company`s maintenance base at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
A witness to the many changes to the business as well as the technology of aviation, Blackman has worked on all major aircraft models American has flown, including the famous DC-3, which had the capacity to carry an astounding 21 passengers during the 1940s. He now supervises a staff of 24 mechanics who work on the company`s newest aircraft, the premiere 245-seat Boeing 777. In 1997, Blackman was awarded the FAA`s Charles Taylor Award, which recognizes senior mechanics for life-time achievement.
Blackman has no plans to retire soon. “I love what I do,” he says. “It`s like working on a hobby and getting paid for it. Even if I won the Lotto, I`d keep working, as long as I can and I`m able.” He works 40 hours per week for American then volunteers a few days a week restoring vintage aircraft at Floyd Bennett Field in New York. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife. They have two children and one grandchild.