The Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award: An Example of Positive Reinforcement
by Bill Johnson, Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor for Human Factors in Aircraft Maintenance Systems, FAA
It is a pleasure and an honor to be singled out to receive positive feedback. Such feedback can come in all forms and works for all ages. It can range from a polite complement from a customer, a positive nod from a work colleague, or a round of applause after delivering a speech or teaching in a class. The proverbial “gold watch” (not usually a gold watch) present at a retirement party is a classic example 0f thankful positive feedback. It is rewarding not only to receive but also to deliver positive feedback. I recently received significant positive reinforcement in the form of the FAA Charles E. Taylor Master Mechanic Citation. That experience motivated this article. The take-away intent is more about positive feedback than about an award for Dr. Bill Johnson.
FAA Taylor Award
The FAA Charles Taylor “Master Mechanic” Award is given to selected certified FAA Airframe and Powerplant mechanics who have held their certificate for 50+ years. Recipients are selected based on their contribution to aviation maintenance/engineering not merely on their five decades of having the certificate. The nomination is generated by industry peers in cooperation with the FAA Flight Standards Service. I have been in a lot of industry events where I saw the award delivered to highly-experienced honorable mechanics. Of course, I and most other mechanics/engineers, subconsciously, always envied the recipients. I am delighted to be added to the distinguished list of FAA master Mechanics during 2020.
A related award, familiar to members and readers of International Federation of Airworthiness news, is the Sir Francis Whittle Safety Award. Based on IFA member nominations the Whittle Award “can be awarded for a single outstanding contribution or achievement, a major technical innovation, long and valued service, or for work that will further Advance the safety of aircraft.” I was honored, by IFA, with the Whittle Safety Award, in 2011. Thus my discussion of positive feedback certainly applies to that event. Thank you, again, IFA.
Since I have always been more interested in powerplants than airframes I am appreciative and proud to have these reminders of my two powerplant heroes. Charles Taylor helped the Wright brothers to fly the first aircraft with power. Sir Francis Whittle, with the first jet engine, helped make the aircraft fly faster, higher, farther, and more reliably. Both accomplishments impacted the world, forever.
About Achievement Awards and other Forms of Positive Reinforcement
Accolades like the FAA Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award or the IFA Sir Francis Whittle are excellent examples of significant positive reinforcement for aviation mechanics/engineers. Awards like these help aviation mechanics appreciate their roots, their technical heritage, and the importance of their dutiful, safety-minded work. No one works in aviation maintenance to seek accolades or awards. They do it because they like the work and find personal and professional satisfaction in the critical responsibly of being part of aviation safety. Self-satisfaction and pride in work is important. However, external positive acknowledgement of good, conscientious work goes a long way in boosting morale and maintaining focus.
Performance/achievement awards are good for everyone involved. When you nominate or support the awardee it reminds you of the positive work and personal attributes that you appreciate and respect. If you have the privilege to present the award in really elicits pleasure and respect to describe the award and to call the name of the honoree. You see the delight of the award recipient and hear the respectful audience applause. When you are in the audience you may share the pride of the recipient. The award may help you assess your own professional performance asking if you aspire to such an award. As the awardee you are not only proud, but you are also humbled that your professional colleagues have singled you out for special recognition. Such recognition reminds one that she/he is fortunate to have been surrounded by competent colleagues who helped them perform in a manner worthy of the award.
Recognition is important to all ranks of the organization. Senior personnel, like Bill Johnson, appreciate the feedback. But it is especially import for younger personnel. New mechanics that complete an EASA apprenticeship program, pass the FAA practical exam, or sign their first logbook entry, also appreciate recognition and celebration. Our industry, a bit like the military, should celebrate and recognize achievement. Everyone benefits.
Our self-quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted conversation about taking advantage of opportunities to say heartfelt words to family, friends, and colleagues. Don’t wait for gigantic events to celebrate and extend positive feedback. Don’t wait for a maintenance team to change an engine in record time before commending great, conscientious, safety-minded work. Don’t wait for a 50-year anniversary to extend praise. Our work is full of daily, safety-critical activities that surely benefit from an occasional “job well done,” so take a moment to give positive reinforcement to a dutiful colleague doing excellent work to promote aviation safety. Congratulations to you, when you do that!