Since the days of World War II, Azreil “Al” Blackman has shown up to work on American Airlines planes.
On Tuesday, the 91-year-old crew chief at New York’s JFK Airport celebrated 75 years of service with the Fort Worth-based carrier. The airline surprised him by putting his name on a Boeing 777.
“I’m proud to be a mechanic. I’m proud to be part of the American Airlines team,” Blackman said at the ceremony held at American’s maintenance hangar at JFK.
Blackman was 16 when he joined American as an apprentice in the sheet metal shop for 50 cents an hour. Nowadays, Blackman starts his shift at 5 a.m. Each day, he drives himself to work and spends his day reviewing maintenance paperwork and walking the hangar to check on planes being worked on, according to a story about him in The New York Times.
“Every day the job is different,” Blackman told The Times. “You’re not doing the same thing repetitively, and that’s good. If in my journey around the hangar I see something I can help on, I do that.”
American’s current CEO Doug Parker and Robert Crandall, who ran the airline for 18 years, attended Tuesday’s ceremony.
“Al has worked on nearly every aircraft American has flown since the flying boats of the 1940s to the Boeing 777s of today,” Parker said in a statement. “His hard work and dedication to train and mentor others and safely maintain our aircraft has made us a better airline.”
The company also awarded Blackman a 75-year employee pin — the first one ever at American.
Guinness World Records also recognized Blackman on Tuesday as the longest career as an airline mechanic. Twenty-five years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration honored him with the Charles E. Taylor Master Mechanic Award, which is given to aviation maintenance technicians with more than 50 years of experience.
“When you like what you do, it’s not work,” Blackman said.