New York man (91) breaks airline mechanic record

American Airlines unveiled a Boeing 777 dedicated to Al Blackman that sports his name and signature on the fuselage behind the cockpit. Photo: Instagram / American Airlines

NEW YORK - He started out as a 16-year-old apprentice on 50 cents an hour.

Seventy-five years later Azriel (Al) Blackman holds the world record for having the longest airline mechanic career.

He may not be as hands-on as he once was, but the 91-year-old New Yorker defies his advancing years to work five days a week as aviation maintenance technician crew chief for American Airlines at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

His shift starts at 5am and last until 1pm, but so great is his enthusiasm that he arrives at the hangar more than two hours early each morning.

From the flying boats of the 1940s to the Boeing 777, he has worked on more than 50 types of aircraft during his three-quarter-of-a-century career.

Nor is he ready to hang up his boots just yet.

"Don't think for a second that this is a retirement letter," he wrote in a column for the company website to mark the 75-year milestone.

"It's never really felt like a job because it's a craft I love and take great pride in."

On Tuesday, the airline unveiled a Boeing 777 dedicated to Blackman that sports his name and signature on the fuselage behind the cockpit.

A representative from Guinness World Records also presented Blackman with the title of "longest career as an airline mechanic."

A spokeswoman dated the record at 74 years, 355 days on 7 July.

He first started working for the company in the sheet metal shop fresh out of Aviation High School in Manhattan.

But his days of heavy lifting are now over, and his primary role now is coordinating team members.

"You might find this hard to believe, but I still see every day as a new challenge," he said. Blackman turns 92 next month.


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