Each year, the National Business Aviation Association presents awards to maintenance and avionics technicians with excellent safety records. The awards are offered to technicians who have been employed at least three years and have caused no aircraft accidents during their tenure. AIN interviewed Donald Hunt, who recently retired with an exemplary record from the flight department for restaurant operator Bloomin’ Brands.
Bloomin’ Brands, Tampa, Fla.; Donald Hunt, Maintenance Manager
Donald Hunt recently retired after 19 years in his most recent position as maintenance manager for Bloomin’ Brands, which owns the Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s, Bonefish Grill, Roy’s and Flemings Steakhouse restaurants. Based in Tampa, Fla., the company operates two Dassault Falcon 50s.
Hunt told AIN that of all the different corporate aircraft he has worked on over his career the Falcon jet is his favorite. “They manufacture a great aircraft with the best support system in the business,” he said.
Hunt started as a jet mechanic in the U.S. Navy in the early 1960s, working on F-4s, F-111As and F-9Js. He continued his career in aviation after the service, first with Page Airways in Rochester, N.Y., then he joined the Xerox flight department in 1971 in White Plains, N.Y. He said his safety record is due to the fact that he has been fortunate to have worked for companies that want to take care of their aircraft and people and do so by paying attention to safety, details, training and quality.
“My biggest break in my career,” he said, “was when I went to work for Xerox, whose flight department was managed by Dick Van Gemert, one of the icons in the aviation industry. He had high standards and the department was run very professionally. My standards were set there.” After leaving Xerox, Hunt set up and ran the maintenance department for Manufacturers Hanover (a New York bank) for 12 years until the aviation department closed down. He then joined British Aerospace as a tech rep on the Hawker 125 series jets. This was followed by a job establishing and running the maintenance department for Mills Pride and, finally, Bloomin’ Brands.
As he looks back, Hunt feels that he has been blessed as business aviation has been a great career and good to him and his family, plus he had the opportunity to work for great companies and talented professionals. Making strong friendships and helping people over the years grow into their careers as flight and maintenance department managers was also extremely rewarding.
In December 2012, Hunt was honored with the prestigious Charles Taylor Master Mechanic award from the FAA. He has served on NBAA Technical Committee and several years on the board of Westchester Aircraft Maintenance Association.