Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Bird’s-eye View, on Point

Jacob Glasson and Mike Linhart at Above All Aviation
Rally Wrapup - PDF
Greetings, Montecito and Santa Barbara car communities! It’s been a few months since you’ve heard from me, and I feel like you’re owed an explanation. Well, here it is: in late June, I moved from Santa Barbara to Irvine to take a job with Kelley Blue Book. 

Unfortunately, once my former employer left town, there weren’t many auto industry jobs to be had here outside of the retail and service sectors.

Now that I’m settled in my new home, I’ve resumed working with the written word, and I hope to appear in these pages regularly once again. While I don’t anticipate resuming the weekly schedule that I maintained previously, I’ll try to stay in front of you, dear readers, at least once a month. And I’ll try to get back into town whenever possible.

Without further ado, I want to talk about a great organization I discovered while still in Santa Barbara. It’s called A Different Point of View (ADPOV), and its focus is not actually cars, but rather airplanes.

The idea behind ADPOV, and its Aviation Career Program, is to expose students to the world of aviation at the perfect age – roughly 14 to 19 – when they’re old enough to work on engines and mechanical systems, but still fresh enough to be open to influence when it comes to a career path. The program targets at-risk youth, or those who have limited exposure to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs, showing them a whole world of opportunity that they might have otherwise ignored.

I got a chance to visit Mike Linhart and Jacob Glasson at Linhart’s facility, Above All Aviation, 1523 Cook Place, to find out more about the program. Linhart is an FAA-certified airframe and power-plant mechanic, and Glasson is a student who has been working with him since the end of last year.  

They gave some insight into ADPOV’s origins, which was birthed in 2012, with Linhart as one of the founding board members. The brain- child of Lynn Houston, an airline pilot, flight instructor, and marketing coordinator for the Santa Barbara air- port, ADPOV got off the ground after Houston watched Linhart explain the systems on a plane to a student who’d just finished his first flying lesson. She could tell his enthusiasm was contagious and knew he was the man to help her realize her vision.

Since the program kicked off, roughly 300 students have been involved, and Linhart generally has two students under his wing at a time, the low number dictated by the deep involvement he has with each student’s work.

“I double-check every nut and bolt that [Glasson] tightens,” he says. “I’m signing off his work, so I have to make sure that everything is up to speed.”

Glasson is working toward his airframe and power-plant (A&P) license, which will take him at least 16 months of sustained work at the hangar. In fact, since graduating high school, he has increasingly focused on this career path, with the ADPOV program essentially being his full-time vocation.

“My goal is to get him his A&P license,” says Linhart, “because after that, he can go anywhere in the world and have a job.”

This sentiment reflects the increasing reality that specialization in engineering and mechanics is becoming more valuable in the global economy. While many manufacturing jobs are being shipped overseas to low-cost countries, the occupations that maintain our increasingly technical infrastructure cannot be off-shored.

And Glasson is gaining experience that can not only help him in aviation but also translate to careers in many fields. In fact, much of what he learns in the hangar is applicable in the garage.

“It’s been amazing,” says Glasson, “because since I’ve started here, I’ve learned how to change starters, and just a couple of months ago I actually changed the starter in my own car.”

Upon my arrival at the hangar, I was struck by the similarities between the engine in one of the prop planes
they were working on and the VW air-cooled flat-four that powers my Speedster. The big difference is that for most prop aircraft there’s no transmission, the propeller being driven directly from the engine’s crankshaft.

Linhart gave me a bit of education about the state of technology with these machines, and the overriding theme is “Keep it simple.” For this reason, the air cooling, as well as carburetion, endure for most of these types of aircraft, though in recent years the Rotax brand has introduced liquid cooling for cylinder heads and fuel injection. This Rotax 912 engine also has a transfer case to reduce its RPM from a quite high (for an airplane motor) 5,800 to a typical prop speed (roughly 2,400 RPM).

But Glasson is not learning just how to work on a flying machine or its ilk. Part of what makes the ADPOV programs so special stems from the nature of the work of an aircraft mechanic, and of flight itself. At 10,000 feet up, failure is not an option. Car engineers and mechanics can reduce the failure rate to a reasonable level, and for the most part it will help ensure that few people are stranded on the side of the road. But if something goes wrong with an airplane, it tends to end badly.

My former roommates are engineers at Green Hills Software, which makes embedded software for avionics systems, and their explanation for what they do revolves around the necessity for 100-percent reliability. If you need to reboot, you fall out of the sky.

Becoming an airplane mechanic teaches the sort of attention to detail and mindfulness that can apply to so many other aspects of life. Glasson was even able to provide an example from his experience mentoring kids at Santa Barbara’s local skateboard park; he’s now skateboard director at the parks department.

“It goes down to safety for them,” he says. “I make sure the pads are tight, everything’s in shape, there’s no big cracks in the skate park, and everything’s all swept up. Little details like that can really save a kid.”

For more information about A Different Point of View and how you can support its mission, visit

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