About Ernest Smith and Smith Aeronautical
As an expert in the field of Aircraft Maintenance, I owe it all to a college-level career assessment test. The results of that test indicated my personality and talent base were suitable for a career as an Aircraft Maintenance Technician; thankfully I pursued that career path, found that I had a real passion for it, and haven’t looked back since. Now, after more than 35 years in the industry, I am focused on sharing the knowledge I’ve acquired with others by offering my services as a consultant and expert witness in matters related to aviation maintenance, aircraft damage assessment, alternate structural repair options, and aircraft repair quotes.
After that auspicious career assessment, I studied and graduated from Colorado Aero Tech, took the battery of both written and oral FAA tests, and earned the privilege of working on aircraft. I began as an aircraft refuel tech, which allowed me to learn about the connectivity between businesses within the airport community before moving into an aircraft mechanic role with Stanley Aviation. I put my fresh FAA Airframe & Powerplant license (A&P) to use as a structures technician, building engine pylon structure for a new engine retrofit of the popular McDonnel Douglas DC-8 air freighter. By the end of the program, my innate skill in aviation parts fabrication was recognized and I was selected as part of the 10% of employees to be retained as full-time technicians. Continuing in the aviation parts fabrication world, I manufactured custom aluminum fluid lines on a computerized tube bender and assembled Gamah couplings used on fuel lines. This job function afforded a new learning about material controls and fabrication techniques that are still applicable today.
In the mid-1980s I landed a job working for Branson Aircraft that started to really hone my structural abilities as an A&P Sheet Metal Specialist. Working in the small corporate jet industry, we modified both new and old aircraft with extended range fuel systems and other structural modifications. A couple aircraft we worked on were the Mitsubishi Diamond 1 and Diamond 1A: aircraft known today as the Beechjet B400 and the Cessna Citation 500 series jets. The experience afforded through installing cargo doors on the Citation 550 / 560 and the Fairchild F27 aircraft – where we hand fabricated large parts into 8 foot square cargo door assemblies that were then installed in the pressurized aircraft – is still applicable to work being accomplished today on aircraft production lines with both fabrication and custom tooling techniques.
A few years later, I started working for Frank Lorenzo at Continental Airlines. This was an amazing job and opportunity for a young A&P Technician where the Denver-based depot maintenance operations were just starting up a new work force. Within 4 years there were over 700 folks working in the Continental Airlines Depot at Stapleton Airport, which afforded me both advancement opportunities and management duties. Starting as a Sheet Metal Tech A&P, I then moved into a Lead Tech role running a crew of 12, later transitioning into a Production Planner running heavy checks on 737 and MD80s and finally a Line Check Manager. This growth opportunity afforded at Continental Airlines – going from a Structures Tech to running a team of over 100 people as a Line Manager – not only exposed me to managing people, but the many aspects of running an Airline maintenance department. When Continental Airlines decided to close its Denver base in 1994, I was offered a job in Houston but I respectfully declined since during this time I had started my own business – Straight Flight – and it had grown into a full-time effort.
It was back during my time at Branson Aircraft, during a lunch break with co-workers, that we hatched the idea of starting our own business, Straight Flight, which is still operating strong at Centennial Airport 34 years later. As one of the original founders in 1986, the business was initially started to make some extra money during nights and weekends when not employed at our day jobs. Slowly we grew the business until we had to add full time employees in 1990, which has grown today to employ more than 45 people. In 1994 I made the transition from working at the airlines to working for myself fulltime; the decision to invest into my own business both emotionally and professionally has paid off with both the experiences it has afforded me and the knowledge I have gained.
In 2007 the business was sold to a new party, affording Straight Flight to become a member of another fast-growing, successful business and allowing expansion into many new markets. The variety of aircraft we have repaired and modified while at Straight Flight for over 34 years has given me a unique perspective on both aircraft repair and aircraft maintenance that most technicians would never see. Having traveled to the jungles of Medellin, Columbia to recover a Beechcraft King Air by helicopter, to installing a $1M camera system in a Cessna 206 in Tokyo, Japan for the Japanese government has expanded my knowledge, allowing me to serve as an expert in aviation maintenance. The development of unique modifications – like the motion picture camera gimbal system installed in 2018 on the Phenom 300 that just recently filmed Top Gun II, or the ground penetration radar system installed on a Jetstream J31 in 1996 for finding unexploded ordinance at old military aerial bombing ranges – has exposed me to the processes and required engineering teams used by the FAA for custom alterations on aircraft, thus furthering my knowledge base as an expert in aircraft modifications.
In 2009, I began Smith Aeronautical as the next phase in my aviation career to educate and share the intimate details of aviation maintenance. Having worked on thousands of aircraft for well over 35 years and travelling the world to both inspect and repair aircraft in foreign lands, my expertise in aircraft maintenance and repair is based on real-world experiences from working in both the general aviation arena and the airline industry. I now share my unique knowledge by offering my services as an expert in the aviation maintenance field that encompasses both routine and non-routine maintenance actions, including major structural repairs.