Airmen, what does that mean? Ask and a high percentage of the population will probably respond ‘people that are in the Air Force or people that fly airplanes. In reality, the term airmen are plural of airman.
Let’s focus on what it really stands for: All people, regardless of gender, that work in an aviation field!
For years the FAA has utilized the term to impart on individual, a means to identify qualifications and skills through issuance of an airman certificate. This includes more than pilots! Mechanics, repairmen, flight engineers/navigators, flight attendants, parachute riggers, dispatchers, and even air traffic controllers.
The FAA issues a certificate (not a license) to designate qualifications and skills an individual has obtained; that means you put in a lot of time (and $$) into obtaining training and testing your knowledge and skills to prove yourself worthy to hold that certificate.
A dedicated, common-sense FAA official, (Bill O’Brien, self-proclaimed Washington Bureaucrat to those who knew him.) understood the professionalism of certificate holders. He worked to establish an award program to recognize those long-term mechanic and pilot certificate holders. As with any recognition it is not easy to achieve. Fifty years of service to the industry. This program was created and controlled by the FAA. There was a budget for awards given by the local FAA officials.
These programs have become The Wright Brothers Master Pilot and Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award Program. For those which have received them, they are a treasured measure of their career. An acknowledgment by an industry they gave so much for has reached out to say, “Thank You”.
Over the years, the FAA has backed off supporting these established programs. In addition, our industry is starving for replacements of these master airmen. What can we do? Well after spending nearly 40 years in varying aspects of aviation, culminating in retirement as a Flight Standards District Officer (FSDO) manager, I asked the same question.
While staying involved in the industry and working with the Gulf South Aviation Maintenance Seminar team (gsams.org) we worked to create a Master Airmen Foundation, (mafgiving.org). A nonprofit to help support the FAA Award Program.
It is our goal for both organizations to help provide support for upcoming and existing aviation professionals within the industry. We want to grow long term professionals and recognize those within their unique area of aviation. Visit our basic website to view our mission and pillars.
Please consider donating whatever you can to support future and present aviation professionals. It’s time aviation corporations to step up in supporting newcomers and old timers give back to the profession that provided a fun and exciting career. What the foundation can do is dependent upon the support that it receives. God Bless America!
Retired FAA/USMCR but not retired from Life!