440th Airlift Wing, Pope Army Airfield, N.C.
United States Air Force Reserve
Senior Technician - Falcon Jet Crew
StandardAero in Augusta, Ga.
Some in the business aviation industry leave behind their family and job to serve in active war zones. In the continuing AIN series intended to recognize those in our community who defend the way of life we enjoy back home, contributing editor David A. Lombardo spoke to StandardAero senior technician Rick Palocsik about his work in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. This is Palocsik’s story. If you or someone you know in business aviation is in harm’s way on our behalf, we’d like to hear from you.
“I chose to join the Air Force because I was young with no real trade. A neighbor had been a pilot in the Air Force and told me about the benefits it had to offer; I figured the military would be a good place to start. I enlisted in 1979, and the military has been part of my life ever since,” Rick Palocsik told AIN.
Palocsik is a technical sergeant in the U. S. Air Force Reserve assigned to the 440th Airlift Wing, Pope Army Airfield, N.C. He is an aircraft structural maintenance specialist working on the C-130H Hercules.
“I inspect aircraft and components for structural integrity, assess damage to aircraft structures and components, and advise on structural repair, modification and corrosion protection treatment with respect to original strength, weight and contour. I also assemble and repair structures and components using special fasteners and adhesives, and check repairs for serviceability according to specifications and technical orders,” he said.
Maintaining aircraft far from battle may seem a bit dull to some, but not to Palocsik.
“It’s just what we do. It’s in our blood and sometimes circumstances put our blood into it. Other maintainers know exactly what I’m talking about. When you’re in the military you don’t think of yourself simply as an aircraft mechanic; it’s something that’s in you,” he said.
“Sure, we work long hours, put our bodies in places and positions that they were not meant to be in, but it’s what we do to fly, fight and win. From my perspective, in the civilian world it’s really the same way, just a lot slower and they’re not flying off to fight. But the principle is the same. The aircraft aren’t making any money sitting on the ground. It’s important to get them fixed right the first time so they can return to service where they belong,” he said.
Palocsik’s philosophy may be based in his own deployment. In September 1992 he was deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Southern Watch.
“I spent three months in Saudi Arabia as an F-15C crew chief with the 71st Tactical Fighter Squadron out of Langley Air Force Base, Va. While I was deployed, my father passed away. When something like that happens while you’re deployed it’s a lot more complicated. I missed my family the most but I also missed all the conveniences we take for granted here in the United States. I was allowed to return home for three weeks, after which I reported back to finish my tour,” he said.
As a civilian, Palocsik is a senior technician for the Falcon crew at StandardAero in Augusta, Ga.
“I work the second shift and prioritize work assignments to ensure on-time completion of scheduled inspections and repairs on Dassault Falcons. In that capacity I make sure resources are available and on-hand to complete assigned tasks. We troubleshoot and repair all aircraft systems, perform structural repairs and modifications and do operational and functional checks of aircraft systems. We also perform incoming and outgoing end-of-inspection aircraft engine runs and taxi checks as required for return to service. As the senior technician it’s also my job to communicate with customers to explain inspection findings and necessary repairs to ensure customer satisfaction,” he said.
Palocsik said StandardAero is supportive of his military career and holds his position open for him when he is away on military assignment.
“My fellow crewmembers will pull together and pick up the slack for me while I’m gone, just like we all do when someone’s on vacation,” he said.
Palocsik has been married to his wife, Betty, for 31 years and they have four adult children with families of their own. “We have four grandsons and another grandson on the way. My eldest son has been active duty Air Force for the last 16 years. They take my military duty in stride, including when I’m away from home. They all grew up in the military; it’s been that way their entire lives.
“When I’m away we keep in touch by telephone, email and letters, but most important we all look out for one another. When I deploy again, of course I will be concerned about my family, but I know they will handle things fine in my absence. They have done it before and they’ll do it again.”
Palocsik said his Air Force career has been a good life for him. “It was my first real job. I learned my trade and gained experience in the Air Force. As a result, when I left active duty and went into the reserves my civilian career was simply a given; it mirrors my military career. As a civilian, StandardAero has provided me with a great job and many opportunities for advancement. Without a doubt I have the best of both worlds: military and civilian.”