American Airlines team member Azreil “Al” Blackman, an Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) Crew Chief based at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), celebrated 75 years of service with the airline today. At a ceremony at JFK, July 18, the airline surprised him by dedicating a Boeing 777 in his honor.
Azreil Al Blackman has worked with American Airlines as an aircraft mechanic for 75 years. He started working for the airline as a 16-year-old apprentice in 1942, with a salary of $0.50 per hour.
Mr Blackman has worked on almost every aircraft American Airlines has operated since the 1940s. Last week, American Airlines surprised Blackman by dedicating a Boeing 777 featuring his signature to him.
“I’m just honoured to be here, I’m PROUD to be a mechanic, When you like what you do, it’s not work” Blackman said.
“On behalf of Al’s more than 100,000 team members, we are honored to celebrate him and his milestone 75 years of service today,” said American’s Chairman and CEO, Doug Parker. “Al has worked on nearly every aircraft American has flown since the flying boats of the 1940s to the Boeing 777s of today. His hard work and dedication to train and mentor others and safely maintain our aircraft has made us a better airline.”
“I’m honored to present Al Blackman with the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title of Longest career as an airline mechanic. This achievement, which speaks to his vast knowledge in the subject and his dedication to the aviation industry, has helped him to become OFFICIALLY AMAZING™,” said Andrew Glass, official adjudicator for GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS.
When Blackman was just 16 years old he graduated from Aviation High School in Manhattan and took a job with American Airlines (American Export Airlines at the time) as an apprentice in the Sheet Metal Shop for $.50 an hour. During his 75 years with American Blackman has worked on some of aviation’s most fascinating aircraft. Although his shift technically starts at 5 a.m. Blackman arrives at the hangar just before 3 a.m. most days.
“When I first started as a junior mechanic Al was my crew chief and he was celebrating his 45th anniversary. I thought to myself, ‘45 years with one company. That’s amazing,’” commented Robert Needham, senior manager Aircraft Line Maintenance, JFK. “Here we are celebrating his 75th, 30 years later, and it’s just mind-blowing.”
“The interesting thing about Blackie and myself, is everybody has a crew chief. We all had that first crew chief. It just so happens, Al’s first crew chief was my father, Charlie Hanna, when he started over at LaGuardia working on flying boats,” said Wayne Hanna, JFK-based AMT. “When I first started here, Blackie told me he tries to be like my dad every day, which was a great compliment to me.”
Twenty-five years ago Blackman was honored with the FAA’s Charles E. Taylor Master Mechanic Award, a feat only awarded to individuals with 50 years of experience in aviation maintenance as an accredited mechanic or repairman certified by the FAA for at least 30 years.
“When you like what you do, it’s not work,” commented Blackman.