Three Commemorative Air Force Dixie Wing aviation mechanics have been honored by the Federal Aviation Administration, each for having worked in aviation maintenance for more than 50 years.
FAA FASTeam Manager Mike Mullaney and Atlanta FAA FSDO Manager Bob Gonzalez attended the Dixie Wing meeting to honor Cols. Willy Dickerson of Sharpsburg, John Flynn of Peachtree City and Charles Kennedy of Fayetteville with the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award.
The award is named in honor of Charles Taylor (1868-1956), the first true aviation mechanic, working with the Wright brothers on their first successful powered flight. The award recognizes individuals who have exhibited professionalism, skill, and aviation expertise for at least 50 years in the aircraft maintenance profession, as “master mechanics.”
This is a relatively rare lifetime achievement award, widely recognized as the most prestigious honor the FAA issues to Aviation Maintenance Technicians. All three names will be placed on the Aviation Safety “Roll of Honor” at FAA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
They are the 42nd, 43rd and 44th aviation technicians to be so recognized in Georgia. Only five such presentations have now been made at the Dixie Wing, with the previous two being only the 14th and 15th recipients from Georgia – Col. Elmer Koldoff and Col. Dave Becker.
Col. William (Willy) Dickerson, Jr., with 57 years of experience, is a native of Hillsborough, N.C. He completed basic training at the Naval Air Technical Training Center in Norman, Okla., and graduated from the aviation technical curriculum A school in Millington, Tenn. He performed inspection, repair, maintenance and overhaul on several Navy aircraft before concluding his enlistment in 1957.
He became a mechanic for Flight Enterprises, a U.S. Air Force contract overhaul facility specializing in the C-121 and EC-121 Super Constellation aircraft. He went on to work at Capitol Airways, Airlift International and Shamrock Airlines, followed by Southern Airways, which merged with Republic Airlines and later with Northwest Airlines. He performed extensive maintenance duties until his retirement from Northwest in 1998. Within a year he began to contribute his mechanical expertise at the Dixie Wing.
Col. John Flynn, born in England, began his aviation career with Pan American World Airways at John F. Kennedy International Airport in 1960. Serving as a heavy modification crew member, John attended evening classes at the Aviation High School for his Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic certificates. He was assigned as foreman in PanAm’s machine shop, servicing the extensive fleet, which included DC-6, DC-7, DC-8, Boeing 707 and Boeing 747 aircraft.
After a five-year stint with Sir Freddie Laker’s long-haul charter and cargo operation out of London Gatwick, John returned to the United States and began a nine-year stint with Western Airlines, which operated Boeing 737s, 727s, and DC-10s. The merger with Delta Air Lines in 1986 brought John and his family to Atlanta, where he served as lead mechanic and technical analyst at Delta’s global Maintenance Control Center until his retirement in 1999.
John affiliated with the Dixie Wing in 2001, and remained active with his work on the P-51 Mustang, P-63 King Cobra, T-6 Texan and Aeronca L-16. He now serves as crew chief for the Fairchild PT-19. He has 55 years of distinguished service and a commitment to promoting aviation safety.
Col. Charles Kennedy, born in Webster Groves, Mo., began his aviation career with the U.S. Air Force at age 19. He completed basic training in aviation engine maintenance at Amarillo AFB in Texas, and was assigned to the 40th Bomb Wing at Forbes AFB, Topeka, Kan. Over four years he worked as an aircraft mechanic on the six-engine Boeing B-47 Stratojet, a cornerstone of the Strategic Air Command. He was honorable discharged in 1964.
Charles enrolled in Airframe and Powerplant classes at Parks Aeronautical College in Cahokia, Ill., the first federally approved school of aeronautics, with Air Agency Certificate number 1. He was hired by Eastern Airlines and stationed in Miami, Fla., working on their fleet of turboprop and “Whisperjet” aircraft. After 21 years at Eastern, Charles moved to Northwest Airlines in Atlanta, where he worked another 14 years until his retirement in 2003. He joined the Dixie Wing and has served in many ways, including crew chief of the Douglas Dauntless SBD-5, and he has been heavily involved in the restoration of the P-63 King Cobra. With 55 years in aviation maintenance, Charles also holds a private pilot’s certificate, which he received in 1967.
The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to flying and restoring World War II aircraft. Based in Dallas, Texas, the organization has more than 12,500 members and operates a fleet of more than 160 World War II aircraft. The CAF was founded to acquire, restore and preserve in flying condition a complete collection of combat aircraft that were flown by all military services of the United States, and selected aircraft of other nations, for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations of Americans. More than just a collection of airworthy warplanes from the past, the CAF’s fleet of historic aircraft, known as the CAF Ghost Squadron, recreates, reminds and reinforces the lessons learned from the defining moments in American military aviation history.
The Dixie Wing, based in Peachtree City, Ga., was approved as the 83rd CAF unit on Feb.28, 1987, and has since displayed its collection of vintage World War II aircraft in numerous air shows throughout the United States. The wing is a non-profit, tax-exempt “flying museum” that relies on contributions of time and funds to carry out its mission.