By Christine Osborn
In 1962, Pittsburgh was a hub of activity. The steel mills were booming and jobs were plentiful. Bill Earnest was getting ready to graduate from high school and met with his guidance counselor. The counselor listened to Bill talk about his skills and interests and suggested aviation mechanics, a field that was heavily recruiting for skilled workers.
A week before high school graduation, Bill began attending the Pittsburgh Institute of Aviation. After 18 months of training, he was immediately hired by Mohawk Airlines as a mechanic. He’s been through mergers, names changes, and closing stations, but 50 years later, he’s still doing the job he loves.
On May 4, Bill Earnest was presented with the Charles E. Taylor Master Mechanic Award. The award, named for the Wright Brothers’ mechanic who designed and built their aircraft engine, is presented by the FAA to mechanics who have performed in their field for 50 years. It’s a prestigious honor that represents a lifetime of hard work and dedication.
Bill has enjoyed his 50 years with US Airways, the last 22 at Tampa International, and describes his career as a blessing. “I‘ve raised my kids, put them through college and my wife hasn’t had to work. It’s been a very good living for us,” says Earnest.
What’s the worst part of the job? “I still don’t have weekends off,” he says. “Not the whole weekend.”
He’s seen a lot of changes in aviation and describes today’s aircraft as an amazing advancement from the DC3s that he started out working on.
But in the end he says, no matter what changes, it’s still just nuts and bolts. Earnest laughs when says, “I tell people that a lawnmower and an airplane are the same…except one can’t cut grass, and the other can’t fly.”
Bill Earnest has plenty to celebrate in 2012. In addition to his 50 years with US Airways, he’s also celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary and the award ceremony just happened to land on his 70th birthday.
But Earnest says that although he loves what he does, he’s looking forward to retiring sometime soon and spending more time with family. He’ll visit his three kids, his six grandkids, and he’ll finally have weekends off.