Master Mechanic Ted Snyder reflects on decades of aviation technology

Richard “Vinny” Caputo, President of Aerospace & Defense Services (left) Presents Ted Snyder, Master Mechanic (right) with The Vertex Company achievement award.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently awarded the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award to Ted Snyder. This lifetime achievement award marks 50 years of Snyder holding an FAA mechanic certification. Working most of that time with The Vertex Company, Snyder has mastered his craft. He currently works on U.S. Military C-12 Huron airplanes out of company’s hangar in San Angelo, Texas.

His recent award is named in honor of Charles Taylor, close partner of the Wright Brothers and history’s first aviation mechanic.

“Charles Taylor was still alive when I was born so you could say we crossed paths,” said Snyder. “I grew up in the propeller era and moved into the jet era. Moving from propellers to jets was a change. Eventually of course, we were blasting rockets off to the Moon.

Although he’s been an FAA-certified mechanic for 50 years, Snyder started as a pilot in the early 1970s. “I learned to fly in a Cessna 150 where I grew up in the Panama Canal Zone,” he said. “I flew out of a grass strip in the jungle with water on one end, powerlines on the other and tall grass on either wingtip.”

Snyder says his experience flying gave him perspective that helps maintain airplanes too. He knows how to talk with pilots to get to the bottom of a problem. And today when he rigs the engines on an airplane he takes great pains to make sure the different propeller controls, fuel levers or the throttles are side-by-side so the two engines can be controlled simultaneously. Pilots are happy to not have to make a lot of different movements while heading down a runway on takeoff.

After flying in Panama, Snyder went to school to become an aviation mechanic. He was taught on a Luscombe, a wood and metal airplane with cloth-covered wings.

Snyder with one of the first planes he piloted in the early 1970s.

“I learned to sew fabric to ribs and spars and then tighten it to make a good skin for the aircraft,” said Snyder. “I also got to taxi a DC-7, a four-engine airliner.”

His first mechanic job was with Rio Airways, a regional airline that was based in Killeen, Texas. The airline flew Beechcraft 99 airplanes with turboprop engines – a jet engine that turns a propeller. This type of engine has been Snyder’s specialty ever since. The planes at Rio flew passengers for 10 hours a day, making them return to the hangar quickly for maintenance.

“I got lots of experience with the airplanes being used that much,” said Snyder. “The airplane I work on is my airplane. I tell myself I’m going to fix it and I’m going to make it right. I want that airplane to come back home so I can fix it again.”

In these early days at the airline Snyder had a nightmare about what happens when an airplane has a mechanical failure. Although it wasn’t a real event, the imagery stuck with Snyder and motivates him to this day.

“I work on airplanes because I want to make people safe,” he said. “There has to be passion in what you do and why you are doing it because people are depending on your ability to make the airplane safe.”

Snyder has instilled a safety-minded motivation into the next generation of mechanics.

Snyder early in his career.

The team in San Angelo,which celebrated its 100th C-12 aircraft condition inspection, recently added a mechanic who just got his license, which is the career point Snyder was at 50 years ago. He finds it fun to teach people what he knows and says the mechanics starting their careers are eager to learn.

When asked about what the future holds for the next generation, Snyder said the future is hard to predict but that “50 years from now there will be new technologies, new engines and new fuel. Jump in the mix and learn what you can.”

Congratulations Ted Snyder on the FAA Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award and 50 years of excellence.

About The Vertex Company

The Vertex Company provides vertically integrated turnkey lifecycle support from concept definition, to engineering and manufacturing, through end-of-life support of complex systems. Our offerings include all levels of aviation maintenance, worldwide contractor logistics support, systems engineering and integration, specialized onsite mission execution, high consequence training programs, and integrated supply-chain solutions. With over 200 locations worldwide, the Mississippi-based company offers integrated solutions for defense and commercial customers. Over our 50-year history, we have perfected the balance of cost, schedule, and performance to offer high-quality solutions that consistently exceed customer requirements. Information about The Vertex Company can be found at vtxco.com.