Meet Max Burnette: 2014 National Aviation Maintenance Technician of the Year
As the aviation world converges on Osh Kosh, Wisconsin for EAA Airventure, ARSA takes a moment to celebrate Max Lloyd Burnette. The General Aviation Awards Program has named Burnette the 2014 National Aviation Maintenance Technician of the Year.
Mr. Burnette joined the aviation world in 1954 at the age of 17 when he joined the North Carolina Air National Guard. He volunteered to attend Air Force mechanic’s training and completed the 15-week program in 1956, becoming a full-time maintenance technician. Between 1956 and 1992, the year he retired from the military, Mr. Burnette worked on a wide variety of aircraft, including F-86 Sabre jets, F-104s, F-102s, T-33s, U-3As, KC-97s and KC-135s at Air Guard units in Charlotte, N.C., Knoxville, Tenn., and Nashville, Tenn. Most notably, Mr. Burnett logged 4,000 hours as a KC-97 Flight Engineer while assigned to the Knoxville unit, and he served as a crew chief and flight line supervisor for a section of C-130 aircraft with the Nashville unit.
In 1986, Mr. Burnette made his professional debut in the civil aviation industry after obtaining his civilian A&P certificate. He and his wife, Jean, started their own repair and inspection service, M&J Aero. The business focused on taildragger restorations, repairs and inspections. Although M&J Aero is officially closed, Max and Jean occasionally perform inspections for friends and customers.
Mr. Burnette’s interest in aviation did not remain limited to maintenance. He began flying as a hobby in 1956 and continues to fly to this day. Currently the owner of a PA-22 Tri-Pacer, which he completely rebuilt and converted to taildragger configuration, Mr. Burnette previously owned a Cessna 170, a Piper PA-18 Super Cub, and a Taylorcraft BC-12D. When he is not volunteering at maintenance clinics and with the Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles program, you can find Mr. Burnette with his wife, restoring a 1941 Piper J-5 Cub Cruiser.
We recently caught up with Mr. Burnette to congratulate him on this tremendous honor. He graciously agreed to provide some insight into his long and remarkable career, one fueled by an obvious passion for flight and a tireless commitment to keeping the skies safe.
Q&A with Max Burnette
ARSA: What is your favorite aircraft to work on?
MLB:My favorite aircraft to work on are the tube and fabric taildraggers.
ARSA: What is your most memorable project?
MLB:I suppose my most memorable aircraft project was in 1982. I completely rebuilt a 1941 Piper J-5 for a friend. My wife and I are in the process of doing a second restoration on the same plane.
ARSA:What is the most rewarding thing about the work you do?
MLB:The most rewarding thing about my work is being able to see some of the great aircraft that helped build our aviation industry being kept in compliance with today’s standards and to be enjoyed by many young folks who otherwise couldn’t afford to purchase or maintain new aircraft. I most like being an aviation mechanic to promote good maintenance and safety practices among those of us who have limited resources to use in our sport.
ARSA:During the course of your career, have there been any advancements or events that had a particular impact on the aviation maintenance industry?
MLB:I can’t really say that any advancement or event in my career has had much of an impact on aviation [maintenance]. The first 25 years or so of my career was military aircraft maintenance, where I learned the discipline of always having the correct technical data before beginning a task, and double checking any safety items before releasing a plane back into service. I began working on civil aircraft while I was still in the military. I always try to treat each task as if my life depends on it because someone’s does.
ARSA:After 59 years as an aviation maintenance technician, do you have any words of wisdom for others in the field?
MLB: After all these years, I suppose my advice would be to always treat your customers with the respect that you would want: Don’t be just a parts changer; thoroughly explain to your customers why you must take the time and effort to research the problems that a possible misinterpretation of some pertinent airworthiness directive has caused. Try to be honest and fair with what they have entrusted to your care.
ARSA congratulates Max on his great work and for serving as an example of the aviation maintenance industry at its best. ARSA is a proud supporter of the General Aviation Awards, to learn more visit: http://www.generalaviationawards.com/.