"Never missed a day working on an airplane"

  • Published
  • By Candy Knight
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
When Al Cox began his career as an Air Force aircraft mechanic in 1965, it wasn't exactly the way he pictured it.

"I guess you could say I had to pay my dues first because I began my career washing airplanes and sweeping out hangars," laughed the T-38 crew chief. "Every week we would rotate to different aircraft maintenance shops so we could gain insight into what aircraft maintenance was really all about."

Cox's insight served him well, and after 47 years of service, including 22 years as an active duty Air Force Airman, he retired Aug. 1.

"It's been an amazing career," Cox said. "I've never missed a day working on an airplane, and I've really and truly enjoyed it."

Cox's career took him to many destinations including Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, England, Texas, Alabama and Oklahoma. Still, he says Whiteman has been one of his favorite stops.

"I've been here since 1993 working on the B-2 Spirit and the T-38 Talon aircraft, and I've worked with all the commanders in that time," he said. "I've seen commanders come and go, and come back again."

"It is nice and really fun to work with young lieutenants and captains, and then to see them return years later as lieutenant colonels or colonels, and they still remember you," Cox added.

While he has had many unforgettable experiences, one of Cox's most memorable was when he was hand-picked to open and run the second Accelerated Copilot Enrichment program in the Air Training Command, now known as the Air Education and Training Command.

"Wow! Now that I think about it that was kind of neat" he said. "There I was, a technical sergeant, responsible for this new program, in-charge of six aircraft and nine people."

Cox stated the one thing he wanted to do before he retired was to fly in the T-38, one of the aircraft he has worked on for the past 19 years.

On July 30, Team Whiteman honored that request when Cox received an incentive flight in a T-38 Talon, piloted by Col. Edward Martignetti, 509th Operations Group commander.

"I guess [the flight] was supposed to be a surprise, but someone let it slip," Cox said. "But that doesn't take away what an honor and privilege it was for them to do this for me. It means a lot to me."

"It has been an honor and a privilege to serve with Al over my many years at Whiteman AFB," said Col. Robert Spalding III, 509th Bomb Wing vice commander. "Not only has he provided outstanding support to the mission, he has also been a friend to all of us who fly the T-38."

Although he retired, Cox said he will always keep in touch with members of Team Whiteman.

"I've learned that once they know you, they never forget. So I won't forget about you guys either," he said. "Please keep doing what you're doing and maintain that professionalism the 509th and Whiteman are known for."

So, what is the former aircraft mechanic going to do now that he is retired?

"Fish! After that I'm going to build a rat-rod," he said.