Alexandria, Va. - Thomas J. Sullivan, 80, a popular and well-respected helicopter mechanic, inspector, and mentor, passed away August 22, 2012.
Tom was born in Philadelphia, Pa. to Edwin and Madeline Sullivan. Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1953, towards the end of the Korean War, Tom undertook fixed-wing maintenance training in San Marcos, Texas, followed by helicopter maintenance training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. He became especially proficient in the Bell 47 and the Piasecki H-25.
In 1955, Tom embarked on A&P certificate training at the Quaker City School of Aeronautics in Philadelphia, Pa. Upon graduating in 1957, he went to work for Capital Airlines in Washington, D.C., maintaining their fleet of Douglas DC-3, Lockheed L-049 and Vickers Viscounts. Tom next served as chief inspector and director of maintenance at Chesapeake and Potomac Airways, followed by a position with Asplundh Aviation, working on Bell 47s, 206s, and on the Hiller FH-1100.
After maintaining Bell OH-58 and UH-1 helicopters from 1970-79 as a civilian aircraft technician and inspector for the U.S. Army Reserve in Horsham, Pa., Tom assisted in the creation of Horsham Valley Airways, serving as director of maintenance and chief inspector until 1998. He then accepted a position with Sterling Helicopter of Philadelphia, Pa. where he continued to serve as an inspector and customer service rep. until his passing.
Tom’s expertise, knowledge, professionalism, dedication to customer service, and genuine interest in mentoring new A&P mechanics proved invaluable to Sterling’s operations. In recognition of his lifetime accomplishments in the field of helicopter mechanics, Tom was awarded the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award in 2009 by the FAA.
Stan Rose, HAI’s director of safety, knew Tom well. As Rose recalls, “Tom Sullivan was one of those people who worked relentlessly for the good of the helicopter industry. He was always looking for ways to help his customers and to make sure that the maintenance of the fleet was as good as it could be. On a personal level, you never had to wonder where you stood with Tom; he was ‘patting you on the back’ when you did things right, and ‘in your face’ when you did things wrong. He made everyone around him better at their jobs and he will be missed by many friends in the industry.”
Tom was the beloved husband of Anna Marie Farrell Sullivan for 56 years; devoted father of Patricia Sullivan and her husband, Steve Leist; Stephen Sullivan; and Robert Sullivan; and brother to Nancy Gaskill and Mary Obrick. He was the loving grandfather of Eric, Amy, and Julie Leist, and Jill Sullivan.