Quality craftsmanship — that’s what motivates Mike Smith. As the lead machinist and welder at Kenmore Air, doing things the right way every time is essential.
“I like having to do stuff right. I like that part of my job,” said Mike. In his role at Kenmore Air Mike specializes in creating prototypes, fabricating custom parts, making tools, and producing small production runs of parts.
Mike supports the aircraft maintenance operation at Kenmore Air as well as the parts department and EDO floats. Fabricating parts from scratch wasn’t Mike’s first career. He started working as a car mechanic when he was 20. In the 10 years following, he grew tired of repairing things he knew he could improve upon. “So I decided if I wanted stuff to work properly, I’d have to make it myself,” said Mike.
This is how, in his early 30s, Mike found himself making a career shift into metal fabrication. Originally, he went to work for a metal shop in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. “The shop made architectural metalwork and art. There were a lot of wild projects,” Mike recounted. The fabrication skills he learned there combined with his automotive experience, made it possible to pursue a dream of working as a race car mechanic. He found a job in a race car restoration shop specializing in vintage racing while also working at the track as a mechanic. It was a career shift that highlighted his love of the technical side of projects. “I’m more technical than artistic,” he explained.
Kenmore Air, as a next career step, was a natural evolution, as it offered a regular work schedule while still providing the demand for high-level craftsmanship. It was a welcome change from the grueling hours of the race track and shop. “Race cars need to be reliable and work perfectly. And airplanes do too. So they’re very similar industries. It’s just that here, I get to go home for dinner every night instead of working 12-14 hour days,” said Mike. “Plus, I’m really proud of Kenmore’s safety record. We have a reputation for high-level workmanship and reliability. That’s really important to me.”
One of the programs Mike supports is Kenmore’s aircraft restoration. The de Havilland Beavers the company flies haven’t been manufactured since 1967. To keep these aircraft in top shape, they are completely restored to better than OEM condition.
For example, Mike fabricates the Beaver fuselage struts that hold the engine mount to the rest of the airplane. “To say those are critical to the aircraft is an understatement. We manufacture them from scratch, building an improved version of the original. I like doing those because they are a critical element of the aircraft. I like that part of my job. I like being responsible for such a vital element of the plane’s safety,” Mike said.
It is work like Mike’s and the other highly-skilled technicians at Kenmore that have earned the program a reputation for restoring aircraft to a better-than-new condition. In fact, Beavers that Kenmore restores are fondly known as ‘Kenmore Beavers.’
Outside of the shop, Mike enjoys spending time with his wife Rachel, his daughter Emersen, and his two pointers, Angus and Zeke. He enjoys fly fishing and horseback field trials.
Quick Facts About Mike
- Occupation: Metal Fabricator
- Age: 61
- Birthplace: Columbus, Idaho
- Residence: Phinney Ridge, Seattle
- Years with Kenmore: 19
- Years in the Industry: 30
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