Friday, September 28, 2012

Bloomington, Illinois - Image Air service manager retires after more than 40 years

Image Air service manager Pat Beaty works on an annual inspection of a 1982 Piper Saratoga, on his last day on the job Friday, Sept. 28, 2012. Beaty, of LeRoy, is retiring after working in the industry for 41 years. (The Pantagraph/STEVE SMEDLEY)

 BLOOMINGTON — Behind thousands of successful private aircraft landings near and far has been one man at Bloomington’s Image Air.

Pat Beaty, service manager for the fixed-base operator located at Central Illinois Regional Airport, oversees nearly a dozen aircraft inspectors who make sure single-engine planes and jets are in perfect condition for departure.

But his last flights were Friday. After more than 40 years at the Bloomington hangar, Beaty is retiring. 

Customers routinely fly into Bloomington for maintenance work from every state in the nation and from abroad.

“I have one customer who flies in from England,” Beaty said Friday, taking a break from checking the engine of a 1982 Piper Saratoga.

During his tenure, Beaty has serviced planes for musician Jimmy Buffett and the late actor Patrick Swayze, said Ken Rittenhouse, owner of Image Air.

“All of my customers have been memorable,” said Beaty, whose career in aircraft maintenance began in 1963 while he was serving in the United State Air Force. Among the first planes he worked on was the C-124, a cargo plane developed during World War II and nicknamed “Old Shaky” for the roaring sound and shaky ride it delivered.  

Around the hangar, Beaty has been both a mentor and a leader, helping younger mechanics learn the trade that continually changes due to government regulations regarding inspections of privately-owned aircraft and shifting manufacturer recommendations. 

“He really does know a lot,” said Doug Mays, an aircraft supervisor who has worked with Beaty since the late 1990s. “I’m going to have to struggle to get along without his knowledge.”

Beaty said he plans to spend more time with his seven grandchildren and, yes, travel with his wife, Helen. The couple will make their way to Galena this fall then head abroad to Ireland, Scotland,  Wales and London in the spring. 

Dan Feeney, an aircraft inspector who has worked at Image Air since the late 1990s, will take over as service manager at Image Air.

“Pat has showed me a lot. I’ve stepped in his shoes when he goes on vacation,” said Feeney. “The last few weeks, he’s been downloading a lot of information for me. I’m as ready as I can be.”

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