Southwest Airlines - Team Herb Soars to Victory at The Competition

Southwest Airlines – Team Herb Soars to Victory at The Competition

After the biggest turnout yet with 90 teams taking on 27 events, Southwest Airlines – Team Herb, topped them all to capture the William F. “Bill” O’Brien Award for Excellence in Aircraft Maintenance at The Competition Presented by Snap-on in Chicago in April.

“When Ken (MacTiernan) called our team, all the hard work, blood, sweat, and sacrifices we put into this effort really paid off,” said Chad Rhyne, coach of Southwest Airlines – Team Herb. “I want to thank Southwest’s upper management team, which is so supportive and willing to stand behind us all the way. I also want to thank our fellow competitors who continue pushing us to be better. It’s competitive, but everyone is here to support each other. I got as many high-fives from other teams as I did from my own.”

The crowning of Southwest Airlines – Team Herb, named after its founder Herb Kelleher, and one of two teams from Southwest in the field, capped off two days of excitement at The Competition, an aviation maintenance skills competition held at the MRO Americas convention last week in Chicago. As winners of the O’Brien Award, Rhyne and his team including David Swisher, Matt Lehner, Chase Lehner, Kevin Shaw, Chris Grover, and alternate Roy Luna, have the honor of taking the five-foot tall traveling trophy with them back to their headquarters at Love Field in Dallas for the year. The trophy features a bust of Charles E. Taylor, an aviation pioneer who built and maintained the first aircraft engine used by the Wright Brothers. Sponsorship of the Award is part of Snap-on’s continued commitment to The Competition and aviation maintenance technicians around the world.

“We were thrilled to see such a great turnout and incredible demonstration of skills,” said Bill Willetts, vice president of Snap-on Industrial and Aerospace Maintenance Council board member. “Every year, myself and the thousands of Snap-on team members worldwide are impressed with how these technicians continue to raise the bar. Congratulations to Southwest Airlines – Team Herb on your hard-fought victory and to the 89 other teams who came out to Chicago. The aviation industry is in great hands.”

Another historic moment at this year’s competition was the first all-female team announced as a finalist for the O’Brien Award. United Airlines Team Chix Fix originally formed in 2018 and has been a mainstay at The Competition ever since. However, it was revealed shortly before the convention that this would be the last year for the Chix.

Team Herb

“We came here to prove that women had a place in the aviation industry,” said Katrina Oyer of Team Chix Fix. “When we started there were only one or two other female teams, and now there are nearly 10 in this year’s field, including the first all-female military team. Our mission has been accomplished and it’s time to move on.”

The Competition Presented by Snap-on and hosted by the Aerospace Maintenance Council gives teams of licensed AMTs, AMEs, international military personnel, and qualified aviation maintenance students the chance to test their aviation maintenance skills against those of their peers. The competition included 27 challenges in areas such as avionics; safety wiring; fiber optics/flight control rigging; hydraulics; jet engine troubleshooting; workplace safety SMS; and other tasks. Teams had 15 minutes to accurately complete each task; teams that finished their tasks up to safety standards in less than the allotted time received higher scores with points deducted for any errors.

“There has been a lot of attention on aircraft maintenance lately,” said Ken MacTiernan, chairman of The Competition. “This year more than ever, our hope was to shine a light on the professionalism of the people in this field. Don’t let the fast pace of the timed events fool you. Precision is the name of the game, both at the event and in the field, and perfection is the minimum standard.”

Major Category Winners

William O’Brien Award

• 1st place: Southwest Airlines – Team Herb

• 2nd place: American Airlines – Team Tulsa

• 3rd place: United Airlines – Chix Fix

MRO/OEM Category

• 1st place: American Airlines – Team Tulsa

• 2nd place: FedEx Express

• 3rd place: United Airlines – Base

School Category

• 1st place: Tarrant County College

• 2nd place: George T. Baker Aviation Technical College

• 3rd place: Liberty University

Military Category

• 1st place: United States Army – 128th Aviation Brigade – Team Blackhawk

• 2nd place: United States Army – 128th Aviation Brigade – Team Chinook

• 3rd place: United States Air Force – 86th MXG, Ramstein ABGermany – Team 2

Commercial Category

• 1st place: Southwest Airlines – Team Herb

• 2nd place: United Airlines – Chix Fix

• 3rd place: United Airlines – Line

General Aviation Category

• 1st place: Victory Lane Aviation

• 2nd place: Aircraft Engineers International

• 3rd place: Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association

Peer Team Award

  • Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association

Dream Team Award

• Embry-Riddle University

Professionalism Award

• Heather Behrent – United Airlines – Chix Fix

Professionalism Award (student)

• Mason Migliaro – Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics –
Myrtle Beach

United’s John Goglia Competing with Professionalism Awards

• Liberty University

• Tulsa Tech – Aerospace Academy

In addition to the William F. “Bill” O’Brien Award for Excellence in Aircraft Maintenance, Snap-on provided all the tools and equipment used by the participants during The Competition and donated more than $140,000 in tools and equipment prizes to top finishers. More than 50 other companies, educational institutions, community organizers, and countless individual volunteers contributed time, resources, prizes, product, and airline miles to make The Competition a success. Other top sponsors include American Airlines and Pratt & Whitney (Platinum); United Airlines, Teamsters and PPG (Gold).