Azreil “Al” Blackman is an Aviation Maintenance Technician Crew Chief for American Airlines who oversees aircraft mechanics at JFK International Airport.  Like many mechanics he graduated from Aviation High School in Manhattan and, oddly enough, had to get permission from his mother to take the job with American, originally starting in the sheet metal shop as an apprentice.

Sounds somewhat typical right?  Here’s the thing: Al’s first day with American Airlines was July 17, 1942.  Yes, you read that correctly, 1942.

Today is his 75th anniversary at American Airlines!

American sent me all sorts of info about Al (who is affectionately known as Blackie), for example his very first ID picture at American…

Al Blackman, courtesy of American Airlines

…to pictures of him from his military days where he worked at a facility in South Korea across from the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (yes, MASH.  that MASH)…

Al Blackman, courtesy of American Airlines

…all the way up to the mural at JFK that was in honor of his 70th year of service five years ago…

…and a current picture of him and his family at a Yankees game.

Al Blackman and family, courtesy of American Airlines

Al also wrote a retrospective for American Way magazine, which you can read on flights this month.

I loved reading this story, it’s such a great human interest story for the blog amidst so much acrimony about flying and airlines these days (which I refuse to report on, with rare exception).  Al still reports to work early for his 5am shift and is very involved in aircraft maintenance operations, he’s not a figurehead by any means.

His late wife of 57 years, Dolores, would always tell him, “Go to work; go play with your friends.”  That’s the attitude that Al has brought with him every day for 75 years, and he’s certainly not letting up any time soon!

American provided a list of aircraft that Al has worked on over the years, and it’s about as comprehensive of a list as you could imagine:

  • Consolidated PBY
  • Sikorsky VS-44 Flying Board
  • Martin PBM-3
  • Consolidated PB4Y3R
  • Douglas C-54
  • Convair 240
  • Douglas DC-6
  • Douglas DC-7
  • Lockheed Electra
  • Convair 990
  • Boeing 707
  • Boeing 727
  • Boeing 737
  • Boeing 747
  • Boeing 757
  • Boeing 767
  • Boeing 777
  • McDonnell Douglas MD80
  • Airbus 300
  • Airbus 321
  • Douglas DC-10
  • Douglas MD11

And countless more aircraft, since Al restores vintage aircraft in his spare time.

So here’s a hearty ATB congratulations to Al “Blackie” Blackman, and may we all experience his joy of hard work and fellowship with colleagues!


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