Ever wonder about the guys in aviation who are the counterparts of auto technicians? I interviewed one, and his text speaks for itself. The following is what Chris Cunningham, in his forties, of Colonial Aviation at New Bedford, Mass. Airport told about what he does. “I started in aviation at 15 working in the family business as a line boy (refueler). I worked as a mechanics helper off and on.
In 1991 the FAA gave me an experience waiver allowing me to take the three written tests (airframe, power plant, and general). I also took an oral test and a practical test to get my A & P. About three years later I took another test to get my IA (inspection authorization).”
What aircraft has he serviced? Many!
• “Pipers: J-3; PA-12; PA-18; PA-20/22; PA28-140, 150, 151,160, 161,180,181,235, 236; PA-28R-180,200,&201; PA-32-260,300,&301; PA-32R-300; PA-32RT-300; PA-34-200,200T,&220T; PA-31-310,325,&350; PA38-112; PA-44; PA-24-250,&260; PA-23-250; PA-30; PA-46-310, & 350; PA-60.
“Also known as Cub, Super, Cub, Pacer, Super Cruiser, Cherokee, Warrior, Archer, Arrow, Comanche, Navajo, Chieftan, Aztec, Malibu, Mirage, Aerostar, Saratoga, Lance, Dakota, Tomahawk, Seminole.
• “Cessnas: 150, 152, 172, 172RG, 175, 177, 180, 182, 182RG, 185, 195, 205, 206, 207, 208, 210, 303, 310, 337, 340, 402, 404, 414, & 421.
• “Beechcraft: 23, 24R, 33, 35, 55, 58, 60, 90, 200, 300, 1900D & 400. • “AKA Musketeer, Sundowner, Sierra, Debonaire, Bonanza, Baron, Duke, King Air, Super King Air, & Beechjet.
• “Canadair Challenger, Gulfstream G-111, & G-100, Hawker HS125-800, & Learjets.
• “Others include: Aeronca Champ & Chief, American Champion Citabria, Luscombe, & Wilga,
• “Antique biplanes: Stearman, Waco, & Fleet. • “Helicopters: Schweitzer, Hughes, Enstrom, Rotorway.”
Asked which one was most difficult to work on, Cunningham replied: “Probably the 1929 Fleet Model 2. There are so few of them there is very little support available as far as parts or technical help. It was also the rarest. “All my work as a licensed A&P has been at or through Colonial. Even before that as a young kid I worked on engines and heavy equipment, so the engine part was easy to learn. Sometime in the late 80’s, long before I got my A&P license, a good friend of mine bought a project that needed some major sheet metal repairs.
I had an idea how to do sheet metal work from watching as an apprentice, so we did the repair ourselves and had a licensed mechanic check the work periodically as we went. That project turned out great. “Years later after I had my A&P I picked up a 1939 Waco UPF-7 project which was probably the largest project I have done (about 3,500 man hours). It was almost destroyed in an accident and needed a new empennage so I got blueprints from the Smithsonian and fabricated a new aft fuselage section. I didn’t have any fabric experience at that time, so when it came time to cover the airframe I got some advice from a mechanic who is a fabric expert and learned how to do fabric.”
An interesting career!