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Safety First

Scotty Stoddart’s legacy proves a boon for United customers

Author Peter Rapalus

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For Scotty Stoddart, aircraft safety is a family affair, and one to which the Los Angeles–based lead aircraft maintenance technician (AMT) has committed himself for the long haul.

His nearly 30 years as an AMT or lead AMT follow his father’s 40-year career as a United mechanic at Los Angeles International Airport. And Stoddart plans to clock in for another 20 years, troubleshooting and repairing planes and mentoring younger mechanics.

“It’s really very simple,” he says. “I love my job.”

Stoddart’s career path was never really in question.

“From when I was very young, I knew I was always going to be a United mechanic. Not just any mechanic—a United Airlines mechanic,” he recalls. “I was thrilled to get the job at United in 1985. It was my dream, and I thought of it as the only place I’d want to work. I’ve felt proud to do this work, keeping our customers safe, ever since.”

While he has been based in Los Angeles his entire career, the airline often calls on Stoddart to service United charter flights or to shuttle off to remote locales to provide maintenance services when other carriers need help.

“Between those trips, all the training I’ve done and being a line mechanic, I’ve had a rich career with a lot of opportunities,” he says. Reaching his goal of serving 20 more years may create another opportunity, as it will qualify him for the FAA’s Charles Taylor
Master Mechanic Award.

Los Angeles Aircraft Maintenance Managing Director Fabio Maietta says Stoddart epitomizes the best qualities of an airline mechanic: safety first, with no exceptions; a positive spirit toward fellow employees; and a focus on providing customer satisfaction, even though he rarely encounters those customers.

“We’re mostly working on the planes out of sight, in the middle of the night,” Maietta notes. “I really count on peer leaders like Scotty to keep everyone focused on getting the job done right the first time, so our customers travel safely, comfortably and on time.”
Stoddart’s co-workers know him as a warm, funny and fun-loving man who is still serious about safety and standards.

“All our customers should understand that, at United, aircraft maintenance is the first link in the chain of safety,” he says. “There is nothing a United mechanic won’t do for our customers—nothing at all.”

Stoddart acknowledges, begrudgingly, that at times some items not critical to aircraft safety—like a malfunctioning audio jack—don’t get fixed if customers don’t report them or if the fix would cause a long delay and inconvenience a plane-full of customers. “I feel bad about that broken audio jack and what it means to a customer in that seat,” he says. “But the way we think is, safety is number one; there is no number two. I urge passengers to report things that are not working right to the inflight crew so they can do a write-up, and we can do a repair.”

Stoddart’s younger sister, Shari Ikeda, a flight attendant, is also a United “lifer.” While he has three children, ages 27, 19 and 14, so far none has expressed an interest in becoming a third-generation United mechanic. He has seen a lot of changes in his time, from servicing airplanes that were state-of-the-art decades ago to working on next-generation aircraft, such as the Boeing 787. Stoddart looks forward to seeing the newest 787, the long-range 787-9, when United launches nonstop service with the aircraft from Los Angeles to Melbourne, Australia. More change? Bring it on, Stoddart says.

“As much as the job has changed over the years, as much as the airline industry and United have changed, I’ve always loved it, and it just gets better all the time,” he says. “United has done right by my family and by me, and I want to do right by United and our customers. These last 30 years have just gone by in a flash!”

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