Eric Petersen | Aircraft and Powerplant Graduate

I have so much to say, but where do I begin? My career since graduating from Spartan in June of 1980 has been awesome! I am a graduate of the Aircraft and Powerplant course and have been working actively in the aviation industry since graduation.
Upon entering Spartan, I was befriended by a student Rod Goering (where are you now Rod. . .?) who was a few classes ahead of me. He was the president of CASS Christian Aviation Students of Spartan. This group of students was especially important to me . . . Rod eventually became a good friend and when I married in August 1980 in Tulsa, he was kind enough to read scripture for us during the ceremony.
My first job out of Spartan was in Tomball, Texas, working for a small flight school which was found with the help of Spartan’s job listing program. I worked there for approximately two and a half months. I am very appreciative of the class at Spartan on Federal Aviation Regulations, as I was given a starter to install one day. I knew starters from auto parts stores were not approved for installation on aircraft, and told the flight school owner what he could do with it and moved on. Apparently, this was a common practice for this particular operation.
Fortunately, there was a general aviation maintenance shop on the field where I worked for the next four years. Again, the basics came into play over and over again, in troubleshooting electrical system. I’m glad I paid attention in that class! When the instructor tells you, ‘you’ll want to remember this,’ believe him! During the four years at this shop, I took advantage of all training I could attend. I also made myself available for all jobs.
One afternoon, the boss called me and asked if I would come out and assist on an inspection on a Commander 690 used for freight hauling. The shop didn’t have any customers at that time that were turbo prop, so I immediately went out and helped. Come to find out, there were actually two 690’s and we were going to get one every other day for maintenance and inspections. After working on these for about two years, I was yearning to work on the bigger ‘iron’.
An employment ad I answered read as follows (I still have it), ‘Wanted A & P mechanic for corporate flight department. Phone number, xxx-xxxx. “Well” I thought, “if that was all they could afford for an ad, why would I want to answer it, let alone work for them?” let me tell you, it was the best ad I could have answered. I spent 12 years with this Fortune 500 Company. I was trained to work on and maintain various model Learjets, Bell helicopters and large twin-engine aircraft. Thousands of dollars was spent on my training for aircraft maintenance and management over the years. Never turn down training; you will always take it with you.
Through diligence and patience, I was promoted to Chief Mechanics position at the age of 28 and was responsible for my own maintenance base, four years after starting with this company. After 12 years with this company, and building a self-supporting maintenance facility, I chose to move on, wanting the challenge of building a maintenance department again. Currently, I am a Director of Maintenance for a private wood products company in northern Idaho.
My training at Spartan has followed my career. I am often asked where I received my training, and I find out quite regularly that those I talk to in our field are also Spartan graduates, or know of someone who is. Always there are positive comments about the quality of training and instructors, and great reminiscing. I compare my education at Spartan to an Ivy League college education and have heard similar comparisons over the years from alumni and other individuals in the aviation industry.
For those coming into the field and for those already in the field of aviation, remember why we are here; to be professionals in our actions and decisions. Never compromise your character or the trust that is placed in us by our customers and employers. There are a few things in this life you are in control of, and your reputation is one of them. Guard it like a precious gift.
There has been quite a lot of discussion of what to call us to make ourselves sound more professional. ‘Mechanics’, ‘Aviation Technicians’, ‘Aviation Maintenance Technicians’? It is my personal belief that professionalism begins from within. We know we are professionals; it is the rest of society that is uneducated about our abilities. We deal daily with precision, engineering, tolerances, customer relations and budgets and aircraft that are worth up to multi-millions of dollars. Continue to be proud of who and what you are, regardless of what they label us. I remember a similar speech given by the maintenance director of Spartan during my graduation. I think it was at the point that I became very proud of who I was in my chosen field.
May each and every one of you find happiness in our aviation family. Welcome aboard!