Aviation in Miami: The First 100 Years

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  SAFETY — Aircraft Maintenance and Mechanics in Miami

Embry-Riddle. Click to enlargeStudents working on aircraft at Embry-Riddle School of Aviation. Circa 1943.
Miami News Collection, HistoryMiami. 1989-011-5377.

Until the 1930s, there was almost no difference between pilot and mechanic training. In fact, a student pilot’s first task was usually to assemble the plane he or she was going to fly. But even before aircraft maintenance developed into a specialized field, Miami had become a recognized site for these operations. The presence of early airlines such as Pan American World Airways and military aviation programs such as the Naval Reserve Air Base provided employment opportunities for aircraft mechanics from around the world, which in turn provided instruction to the area’s student pilots and mechanics. Amelia Earhart began her around-the-world flight from Miami so that Pan Am’s mechanics – considered to be the best – could spend a week looking over and insuring the safety of her airplane.

Pan Am terminal shop stockroom was located in a low-ceilinged lean-to hangar, making it easy to access by mechanics. Circa 1935. HistoryMiami. X-491-117.

In the mid 1930s, Embry-Riddle began a training program in all aspects of aviation-related skills. During World War II, classes – many taught by female instructors – ran around the clock to meet the demand for trained aviation personnel. After the war, veterans taking advantage of G.I. education benefits flooded Embry-Riddle’s classrooms and emerged with the skills to take the many job openings available in a booming post-war aviation industry. The resulting pool of trained mechanics and technicians made Miami an early hub for aircraft maintenance.

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