“I walk around our maintenance base at JFK and hear people holler, ‘Hey Mr. Schmahl!’ There’s no words to express that feeling of pride.”
Ralph Schmahl has spent the past six years at Endeavor as a JFK maintenance supervisor — and has dedicated over 25 years of his career teaching the next generation of aircraft maintenance technicians. More than 20 of Ralph’s former students utilize those skills they learned in the classroom, now working as Endeavor AMTs on Endeavor’s CRJ fleet.
“I started teaching just for a couple of extra dollars, and once I got my foot in the door, I thought, ‘This job is a lot of fun.’” Ralph said. “Then they offered me a full-time job that next school year, and I started officially teaching in 1995.”
Up until June 2021, you could find Ralph spending his early mornings in the classroom and staying late in the hangar with students at NYC’s Aviation High School. Ralph taught a variety of maintenance classes over the years, but his first mechanic course he taught was wood class.
In 2001, Ralph was moved from the classroom setting to a hangar. In the 10,000 square foot space, Ralph taught rigging, assembly and alignment. He finished up his teaching career with ground operations courses.
“We built wing bays and wing ribs and covered it with fabric. A couple of years later I taught sheet metal classes. In that class, we made bulk heads with repairs.”
“Teaching was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my entire life – next to getting married and having kids,” Ralph laughed.
Every Monday through Friday, Ralph would watch his students step foot into his classroom and see them transform from young, curious students into dedicated, professional technicians.
“I loved watching students come into school with no idea what we were going to do, and at the end, they grew and learned so much,” Ralph said. “These 16- and 17-year-old kids I guided are now grown adults who are making a living out of what they do best.”
Ralph guided thousands of students throughout his teaching career and made a lasting impact on each one. Once COVID-19 arose in 2020, there were many restrictions at the school, and classes did not look the same. Ralph decided it was a good time to retire.
“I wanted to end my teaching career on my own terms, and on a good note. COVID-19 made it difficult for us to continue that regular style of teaching and have that same energetic classroom atmosphere.”
“When I retired, I had kids fly in from across the country to see me before I left Aviation High School. I must’ve touched their lives in some way that they felt the need to come and see me,” Ralph said.
Despite his teaching career ending, Ralph still continues to fuel his love for aviation.
“Every aspect of my job is fun – and if it’s not fun, I make it fun,” Ralph said. “The work we put into these planes – whether it’s 30 hours or 3 days – it’s rewarding to watch something that we fixed take off and fly away.”