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Kern Award Winner Gullingsrud: Maintenance Offers a Lifetime of Learning

“I’m sneaking up on a half century of doing this kind of work,” said Bruce Gullingsrud, the 27-year director of maintenance for Mente LLC, and one of nine recipients of NBAA‘s 2023 Dr. Tony Kern Professionalism in Aviation Award.

Gullingsrud straightforwardly professes his “love of all things mechanical and the environment where – 50 years later – you’re still learning something every day. I’ve always looked forward to what’s next.”

Leading a team of eight technicians who are responsible for two Gulfstreams, two turbine helicopters and two turboprop singles on amphibious floats, Gullingsrud is writing the final chapter of his career, and he is conveying all that he’s learned to those who will follow him,

The most important thing he’s learned over the years is, “be the first to raise your hand when you make a mistake,” he said. “If you damage the aircraft while troubleshooting a problem, raise your hand and tell us about it immediately so the entire team can learn from – and not repeat it.”

Responsibility and the authority to make decisions are essential elements for increasing knowledge. “Good or bad, let members of the team make decisions so they can learn from them,” Gullingsrud said. “But understand: no decision should ever involve cutting corners, especially when maintaining an aircraft. Maintenance’s responsibility is so great that we’ll ground the aircraft, not cut corners.”

This mantra has guided his career since he earned his airframe and powerplant certificate at South Seattle Community College in 1977.

He started “with small [general aviation], and I worked on most of them,” Gullingsrud said of opening his own shop. “Then I wanted to work on bigger aircraft that burned jet fuel. After working through most of the turboprops on the market, I then went for jets.”

When the Seattle Jet Center took responsibility for a Falcon 50, the facility sent him to school to learn more about it.

“The Falcon operator noticed me taking an extra interest in the aircraft (and the Falcon 900 that replaced it) and offered me the director of maintenance position,” Gullingsrud said. But flight departments come and go, and Falcon liked his idea of becoming its Seattle tech representative. Working with the Falcon sales team eventually led him to Mente LLC.

“I started at Mente as a one-man show,” he said, and the maintenance team grew as the company added aircraft to its fleet. “If you have mechanical ability and desires, it is a fun career and there’s all the work you want. You get to travel, and there is always something new to learn.”

Dr. Tony Kern Professionalism in Aviation Award

Nine individuals were selected to receive the NBAA Tony Kern Professionalism in Aviation Award in 2023. Established in 2015 to honor its namesake, the peer-nominated award recognizes individual pilots, maintenance technicians, flight attendants, dispatchers and other aviation professionals who excel in leadership in the areas of professional ethics, vocational excellence, continuous improvement, professional engagement, professional image and selflessness.

Learn more about the NBAA Tony Kern Professionalism in Aviation Award.

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