Cool present

This is such a cool and unusual story, I’m not sure where to begin.

Azriel (Al) Blackman, also known as “Blackie”, is the same age as my father-in-law. My father-in-law retired 25 years ago, and he didn’t have a physically demanding job like aviation mechanic. I’ve known a few people at NASA who worked for 50 years, one for 53. Al Blackman has been working for American Airlines for seventy years.

Blackman started in 1942 just before his 17th birthday, working on Sikorsky VS-44 flying boats for American Export, which was later bought by American Airlines. He’s still working full-time as an aircraft maintenance crew chief at JFK. American celebrated his 70 years with the company by giving him a ride in the oldest flying DC-3, the “Flagship Detroit”, built in 1937.

Blackman’s long career was only interrupted by the Korean War, where he also served as an aircraft mechanic. He spends his spare time restoring historical aircraft at Floyd Bennett Field. He said he’d worked on 50 different aircraft types, including the DC-3 but probably not the Flagship Detroit.

The Flagship Detroit was a passenger plane for a while and ended up as a crop-sprayer in Virginia before restoration to near-original condition. The cabin has modern flame-retardant materials. Hat racks instead of overhead bins. Blackman rode in the jumpseat for a nice (if un-air-conditioned) tour of New York City.

He said he has no plans to retire. Amazing.

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