HOW DID YOU GET INTO THIS CRAFT?
I had been working for a custom van company for
more than 10 years. A friend who retired from Cessna
encouraged me to apply. Outfitting interiors is a
specialised skill and there isn’t a lot of turnover, so it
took several months before I received a phone call.
I began working in the cabin completion centre in
1991. I really liked working on my own and decided to
move to cockpits; I built all Citation cockpits for the next
eight to nine years. In my spare time, I make guitars and
mandolins, and build cars. I once brought in some of my
mandolins, and the styling centre supervisor saw them,
which led to a new opportunity. The styling centre builds
mock-ups and other development articles and he asked
if I would help out with some of their cockpits. I started
helping out when needed and eventually moved to
building mock-ups and prototypes full time. I have been
doing this for 19 years.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT IT?
I work on different projects every day and use different
skills like welding steel and aluminium, riveting, working
with composites and wood, and building tooling for
vacuum-form machines. By far the best part of this
career is the variety. I also like working with my hands
and creating things from nothing.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?
Completing projects in a timely fashion can be
challenging, but it’s rewarding to know I’m involved in
providing the solution. The pace requires creativity – you
need to figure out how to construct what is needed.
Every day presents a different problem to be solved,
which results in a different solution. I am surrounded
by talented and motivated people – designers, engineers
and craftspeople – and we turn new ideas
or technologies into reality every day.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
I like a challenge and it is very gratifying when I am
asked to build something others cannot. Also, I worked
Mock-up builder specialist,
on an idea that has been submitted for a patent. On
another project, I worked on a new method of cockpit
trim installation that allowed us to hide the screws.
I am also very proud of the Pro Street Datsun 280Z I
built from the ground up. It has won a variety of awards,
including one presented by Kevin Kaiser, a well-known
car enthusiast who I have looked up to for a long time.
I have built 34 mandolins and 14 guitars over the last 30
years. Byron Berline – one of the best fiddle players in
bluegrass – even bought a few of my instruments.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR
PEOPLE STARTING IN THIS CAREER?
You have to stay healthy and light on your feet, and
you should always work hard. It’s all related. The more
guitars I build, the better I get at building cockpits or
interior parts. Craftsmanship covers a wide range of
disciplines and they all benefit from staying motivated
and working hard. My grandfather taught me that
working hard was the right thing to do, and that working
with your hands is an honourable profession. My father
taught me to be patient. You must know when to be
politically correct, when to be creative and when to apply
your experience. Finally, don’t take your work home with
you because you need to recharge your batteries.
WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU, AND
WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?
When I started, close to 30 years ago, cabins felt more
like buses. Today, our interiors are the highest quality
and the customer is the driving force. I would like to see
more frequent upgrades, but that’s not always practical.
I also want to see a panoramic window before I retire.