USAF ROTORHEAD Members
Mike Van Der Maelen
When I first joined the Air Force in 1973 I had no idea I was going to work on helicopters, I had visions of working on B-52’s. When I first received the notification at Lackland that I was to go to Sheppard AFB and become a helicopter mechanic my visions of repairing SAC bombers came to a crashing halt. I mean the Air Force wouldn’t dare fly helicopters……would they?
I started my career at Patrick AFB in Florida after 43150C helicopter school in April of 1974. That was a dream location and a great place to be in the spring of 1974. I was very fortunate as most of my classmates were going to Hill AFB in Utah. I was attached to Det. 15 39th ARRS. We supported all the launches at Cape Kennedy and Canaveral as well as radar site support for the radar sites in the Bahamas, very cool assignment.
After 2 1/2 years my time to rotate came up so off to Sheppard to HH-53 school then off Kadena AB in Okinawa for eighteen months working on Super Jolly’s in the 33rd ARRS which was a combat rescue unit. I was fortunate enough to see a lot of the Pacific rim.
After that then off to Davis Monthan AFB in Arizona to work on CH-3’s for drone recovery work for the 432nd AGS. Then after 4 years 10 months and 1 day I got out and went to aircraft mechanic school for 2 years.
My first “real job” after A&P school was working at a helicopter component overhaul facility where I overhauled transmissions, rotor heads and hydraulic components. Then I got a phone call to work as an inspector for Sikorsky aircraft in the transmission, rotor head and precision assembly department. After a few years there I then transferred to the Test Engineering group and worked as a mechanical engineering technician for 15 years.
I was laid off and worked on UH-60’s for a number of years as a civilian contractor for the National Guard. I was rehired back at Sikorsky and presently I am a senior instructor/curriculum developer and travel to teach Sikorsky helicopter hydraulics, flight control systems, power train systems, pretty much everything mechanical to foreign and domestic customers.