Al Blackman Celebrates 70 Years As An Aircraft Mechanic- And Still Going Strong

By | July 27, 2012

American Airlines DC-3

In July 1942, Hitler continued to gain ground against the Soviet Union. The United States was only seven months into its participation in World War II. The Manhattan Project had not yet even begun. And a 16 year old New Yorker named Azriel “Al” Blackman took a job as a mechanic for American Export Airlines. Seventy years later, Blackman is still working the same job for its successor, American Airlines.

Though Blackman has enjoyed his job and plans to continue, he doesn’t recommend it to others:


“Today it’s all money, banking, CPAs, computers,” he said. “But I’ve yet to see a computer go out and fix anything that we broke.”

He shook his head when asked what advice he’d give to someone starting out in his line of work now.

“Most of the big carriers have folded because they couldn’t compete,” Blackman said. “And those that are still in business outsource a good part of their work. It’s tough to make a living in the business today.”

To celebrate this impressive milestone, American Airlines flew Blackman around Manhattan in a refurbished vintage DC-3:

The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline invited Blackman to ride on a vintage DC-3 to mark his anniversary with the company.

The aircraft, the Flagship Detroit, is owned by a nonprofit foundation that has restored it to a historically accurate approximation of what it looked like when it was in passenger service for American from 1937 to 1947.

Its 21 seats are smaller than 21st-century airline seats, and there are no overhead bins.

Blackman sat in the cockpit as the plane swung around to lower Manhattan, up the Hudson River to the George Washington Bridge and back.

We’re wishing Mr. Blackman many more years doing what he loves. As he said:

“I don’t consider it work, really,” Blackman said Wednesday. “If you like what you do, it’s not work.”