Tell us about your work.
I am the chief mechanic of the Heritage Flight Museum—a flying warbird collection in Burlington, Washington. I maintain a fleet of 18 various warbirds from WW1 era to the Korea/ Vietnam era. I perform scheduled and unscheduled maintenance and travel with the aircraft to the airshows.
What was your training path?
I completed a two-year technical training school while working as an apprentice for a local flight school and received my Airframe and Powerplant license. A few years down the road, I tested for the next level of my license called an Inspection Authorization. With these two licenses combined, I can do full yearly inspections, major repairs, and alterations to aircraft.
Which came first: a love of flying or fixing things?
Fixing things. My uncle was a huge inspiration. I grew up around classic custom hot rods. My uncle had a ‘72 Camaro that he built from the ground up. He eventually moved the engine over to a S10 SS and that thing will scare your pants off, it’s so fast. When I was real little the Camaro would scare me it was so loud. But eventually, I came to see how neat it was and he is a great teacher. The man can troubleshoot and fix anything.
You work at quite a special place…tell us more.
Heritage Flight Museum was founded by Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders and his wife, Valerie Anders. They began with the P-51 Mustang Val-Halla. The museum has grown over the years and now two of their sons are the main caretakers.
In normal, i.e. pre Covid-19 days, we do fly days every third Saturday of the month. Fly days are when we open our doors to the public to do flight demos, bring in guest speakers, and invite guest pilots.
We try to educate the public on the amazing history of these aircraft and those who flew them. We are a regular museum as well, but the fly days are our over and above days.
Do you fly planes as well as fix them?
I have done quite a bit of flying and I have my own pilot’s logbook, but I have yet to get my pilot’s license. It’s something I’d like to do in the future, but maintenance keeps me very busy. Honestly, I love the maintenance side of things far more than the flying.
Can you trace your “flight” path back to a moment—or mentor—from your youth?
Aviation and I became acquainted in high school. I didn’t like school, didn’t fit in. I was invited to a fly-in just before I finished high school (large gathering of airplanes that meet for either a social gathering/party/ lunch/ event etc.—a car meet is a pretty close correlation).
This was the start, the bug in my ear, the moment everything changed. At the fly-in I was introduced to Alan Williams and Dan Riley, instructors of Alabama Aviation Community College, and with some coaxing and stories of what general aviation could do to my life, I came to the conclusion that tech school for two years sounded doable.
I was unsure if being an aircraft mechanic was something I could actually do. But if you don’t try you don’t know, amirite?
Cassidy strikes a pose in the Freshley overall between repairs
Introduce us to your favorite warbird. Who is she? (And are planes “she”—like ships?)
That’s a dangerous question about favorites. If I answer too loud, my girls may get jealous. Airplanes are absolutely referred to as ladies. Airplanes have sleek curves and serious attitudes 😊.
My favorite airplane is the Chance Vought Corsair. It was love at first sight and not the cheesy romantic kind but more of a serious respect. The museum doesn’t own one of those so it’s a long-distance love affair. The Corsair is one of the most iconic fighters of WW2 next to the Mustang. I have never gotten the chance to work on one and that would be a dream come true.
In the Skyraider
If I had to choose a favorite out of my collection it would be the Skyraider. She is greasy, loud, and massive. She may not look like much to some, but she is sure a head turner when she fires up.
What’s the best part of your job?
That moment when I’m doing an oil change on the Mustang, inspecting the AT-11, or doing engine runs in the Skyraider and I realize that I, a 28-year-old woman, am running a maintenance shop for warbirds! This is an old man’s industry, let’s be honest. Having that opportunity to help carry on these aircrafts’ legacy is a huge honor. I just so happen to do it with a hot pink toolbox full of hot pink tools. What can I say? Women rock!
For more on the warbirds, check out Heritage Flight Museum.