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MilitaryIamA Female Aircraft Mechanic to F-16s (Crew Chief) AMA!

Aug 25th 2016 by ThisSucksLogs • 19 Questions • 762 Points

Floyd Norman is an animator, storyman, and troublemaker. But more importantly he is an official Disney Legend, honored by the company in 2007 with this title. Norman is the first Black artist at Disney, and has had a storied career working on Disney classics, as well as famed Saturday-morning cartoons, Pixar feature films, and more. At 81 years old, Norman is the focus of a new feature documentary out in theaters starting this Friday August 26th. "Floyd Norman: An Animated Life", reveals how Norman continues to impact animation and stir up "trouble" after the company forced him to retire at age 65. It's a tale of perseverance, and a love letter to the history of animation, as seen through the life of a one-of-a-kind man. Check out the trailer at www.FloydNormanMovie.com, and connect with us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FloydNormanDocumentary.

Filmmaker Michael Fiore owns and operates Michael Fiore Films; a boutique production company that develops, finances, and creates high-concept filmed content for the best-of-the-best in the Film, TV, and Ad worlds. Fiore has worked as a writer/director and producer/editor for industry notables like Joel Silver (Prod. "The Matrix"), Jonathan Liebesman (Dir. "TNMT"), and Tom DiCillo (Dir. "Living in Oblivion") among others. Fiore has another movie coming out later this year, in December, titled "Keep Watching" from Sony Screen Gems. That film stars Bella Thorne and "Walking Dead" star Chandler Riggs.

Filmmaker Erik Sharkey is no stranger to the world of documentary. Sharkey's last feature documentary "Drew: The Man Behind the Poster" follows the creative endeavors of the legendary movie poster artist Drew Struzan. Prior to that documentary, Sharkey had directed a fun comedy titled "Sexina" starring the original Batman, Adam West. Sharkey is a born-and-bred New Yorker, with the accent to prove it!

https://www.facebook.com/FloydNormanDocumentary/photos/a.508279402712027.1073741828.508254702714497/580983308774969/?type=3&theater

Q:

Hey ! Thanks for your time. Have you ever said 'Welp, that'll have to do !' on a repair you did ? Are repairs always top notch on those million dollars machines ?

A:

When did you become the first African-American to work there and how many are there now? Was it due to biases in the industry at the time or a result of a lack of animation interest in that community?


Q:

I just said that last week. We say that pretty often because our excuse is always "Oh, it'll go down to Phase anyway" which is pretty bad but some of those things are not gonna kill a jet. And when I'm in Phase, the repairs are top notch.

A:

I was the first black artist to work at Disney simply because I applied for the job and was able to qualify. Nobody was being kept out. If you were talented and ready to work, that was what mattered. Not the color of your skin. Keep in mind, Walt Disney Productions had minorities working at the studio as far back as the thirties. I know. I met a number of those artists during my career.


Q:

Wow thank you for explaining in such detail.

A:

What kind of storytelling advice did you learn from Walt Disney when you worked for him? I always got the impression that when it came to gags, Walt always stressed motivation and context--is that true?


Q:

I don't know how else to explain it but.. Vehicle inspector equivalent. Haha

A:

Walt Disney was a great gag man. He loved gags. His daughter, Diane Disney Miller told me that. To the best of my knowledge, Walt never analyzed gags. Not in front of me anyway. He knew I was a gagster. He knew I did funny stuff. I never analyze why stuff is funny...it just is. Sure, I guess motivation and context are important. I'm sure it plays a part in the way I craft a gag.


Q:

How do you feel about the different PT standards for males and females? Do you feel like this actually encourages equality in the military?

A:

What is the best story you have about your job ?


Q:

Fuck I hate this. I am not a good runner at all but damn I still pass to male standards and is ridiculous for anyone to be running a 16 min mile and a half. Same treatment please

A:

For me, the best thing about doing story is... it never gets old. Every new assignment is a challenge.


Q:

Do you fix all F-16s or do you have certain pilots you help out?

Also what is your favorite pizza?

A:

What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring Disney animator or artist?


Q:

Not all, usually the flight line will send you off to a specific jet you help out with for your shift. From my experience, a pilot has never helped. I just launch them out. I would have to say my favorite pizza is a a cheese pizza because I'm boring. (But them breadsticks..)

A:

Go to school if you can. It can be expensive these days. However, you can educate yourself. There's a good deal of information available these days. When I was young it was difficult to get information about the animation business. Today, with the Internet it's a lot easier.


Q:

I'm sure you have immense knowledge of the F-16 and all that's required to maintain it. But how difficult would it be for you to work on a different aircraft, like an F/A-18, or F-14, or even the various different SKUs of F-16 (YF-16, F-16C, F-16CJ, etc...)?

A:

What is the biggest hurdle you had to overcome in the workplace and how did you find the courage to tackle it?


Q:

My knowledge of an F-16 is honestly pretty limited. My favorite plane of all time is an F-18 but I'd venture to say I would have difficulty switching from one plane to another. Most of my coworkers come from F-15s and F-22s. They say 15s are similar and 22s are awful to work on. I hear the 16 is more electrical. A-10s would be awesome because they're more mechanical. I have worked on Cs during tech school but the base I'm at has CJs are they're quite different than old school C.

A:

Because animation takes so many people to create an animated film, one can get "lost in the crowd." It's difficult to stand out when there are so many great artists around you. You have to continually find ways to distinguish yourself from everyone else. What is it that is unique about you? What are your special skills or talents?


Q:

How do you have this position without knowing much about an f-16? Not being an ass I'm genuinely curious.

A:

What is your favourite thing you have animated or created in your lifetime?


Q:

I just say shit like that so I don't seem conceited like my coworkers haha

A:

My greatest challenge was working on "The Jungle Book" because I was actually working with Walt Disney. That's a pretty daunting task. My other favorite project was, "Toy Story2." I think that's because we crafted a marvelous story. The film could have been a lackluster sequel. Instead, Pixar made a masterpiece.


Q:

F-15 avionics guy here. I can speak for at least avionics in saying we learn the fundamentals of troubleshooting the integrated systems and basics of a couple (F-15A-E, F-16, A-10, and U-2) different aircraft; then at our duty station get more experience with the assigned aircraft. I'd imagine it would be the same for other specialists. I'm not 100% sure what an apg or back shop tech school entails but I believe they learn a specific aircraft.

A:

They hire amazing story people like Floyd Norman! He helped put together the story for the original Jungle Book! The story department is key to Disney films, but Floyd can explain that process better than I can!


Q:

Our tech school split Fighters and Heavies and then 4ish months with our specific aircraft. We can go train on an A-10 our F-15 and go work on them but that's pretty rare nowadays. My best friend is avionics on a B-1. Just thought I'd mention :)

A:

Well, there's a wealth of stories out there. existing material and room for new ideas. Looking for stories is fairly easy. There's just so much stuff out there.


Q:

Nice, that's roughly what we had as well. Electronic principles at Keesler for all avionics then Shepherd we split up for heavies and fighters. Had a couple friends from Keesler end up working on B1 and C-130 avionics.

A:

I know Walt was a lot less 'hands on' during your time with the company, but do you have any good stories about him?


Q:

How was Kessler?

A:

That's not exactly correct. Walt Disney was very much hands on during my ten years with the Old Maestro. He was everywhere and he was doing everything. For me, my best memories of him is being a great teacher. I learned so much about storytelling from Walt.


Q:

Keesler was actually really fun. Sucked not having a vehicle but the base was nice and the people were nice. Shepherd was the awful place

A:

I've always said, the most important thing is to make people feel comfortable. There's no real mystery to making movies. Be communicative. Be real. Be accessible. To both your crew and your actors.


Q:

Sheppard sucked but I got to a have a vehicle. Could y'all not or was it more of you didn't want to get your car driven down for a few months?

A:

Do you mean, how does one become a director? First of all, become a good storyteller. Learn how to communicate. Learn how to write. Of course, you must know how to tell a compelling story and that's not easy. In my experience, some people simply have the gift of storytelling while others struggle with it. That's just the way it is, I guess.


Q:

12 years on the F-16 blocks 30 and 40 myself. Pilots in my unit were required to help de-panel their jet if they over-g. Watching an Lt turn a speed handle is hilarious!!!

A:

Hi Mr. Floyd, what is the best thing a director can do for you?

:~)


Q:

What?! Amazing.

A:

A good director must have a point of view. I hate working for directors who can't tell me what they want. If they don't know the story they're telling... how the heck can I know? I can't read their mind. A good director must have a vision and the skills to articulate that vision.


Q:

Have you ever got into trouble for doing something you should not have done?

A:

What are you opinions on industry progression? Computer based animation?


Q:

Haha, multiple times. But it is mostly just small time things, messing around. I'd say the majority of the times I got in trouble was more for how I was rather than my job, if that makes sense.

A:

The industry will continue to evolve. It always has... and probably always will. The art will improve and the technology will continue to improve. The the past few years we've made impressive strides in technology. A bit too much, in my opinion. I'd like more of a focus on art and hand drawn animation. I'm afraid we've become a little to focused on technology today. I love technology, but it's not an end all be all. I'd like to see animated films created. Today, too many animated films are manufactured.


Q:

If the boss said "Hey, ThisSucksLogs, here are the keys, take her up for a spin.'' Would you be able to start the engines, taxi, take off and land? At what point do you think you would need to eject if things get hairy?

A:

In another reply in the thread, Erik mentioned that you helped put the story together for the original Jungle Book. How often did you have a hand in the story as well as the animation?

Michael, are you the guy in the reverse cotton candy eating gif?

Really looking forward to the film guys!


Q:

I can run the JFS but that is it lol, I am not trying to waste millions. Lol. Edit cause hit submit too early

A:

I was lucky to have been a part of the story team on The Jungle Book. Oddly enough it was a job I didn't want. I wanted to be an animator. However, once I got a taste of story I never wanted to give it up. Making an animated film is a team effort. I was lucky to have been part of Walt's guys. I don't regard my contribution as anything more special than the rest of our team.


Q:

Have you ever caught something critical at the very last minute just before a plane was heading to the runway for takeoff?

A:

What is your favourite part of The Jungle Book?


Q:

"Did I fucking take that pin out?"

A:

Probably the stuff with Mowgli and Kaa. I guess because Vance Gerry and I came up with all the funny business. I also liked the scenes we did with Kaa and Sher Kahn. Really cool stuff.


Q:

Thanks for doing this AMA!

Say my friend is an AF pilot. How can they make your life easier on the flight line/what can they do to make sure you don't have to do excessive work? Obviously wouldn't want to over stress the aircraft.

Again, just asking...for a friend.

A:

Hey Floyd thanks for making the time to do this AMA!

Ill be honest with you I had not heard of you prior to this and after a quick google I've found you have a hand in a lot of my favorite Disney films. My question is do you think Artists such as yourself get enough credit for what you do?


Q:

Hello not officer friend. It would be cool if your friend did not leave stuff behind in the cockpit and write it up. With respect, I love a pilot who is super cool about everything because i always go above and beyond to help out anything they need. Sir/maam

A:

Thanks a lot. I've enjoyed doing this work throughout my career. Honestly, I don't think guys like me come into this business to gain credit or fame. You do this job because we love it. I hear this from all the men and women I've worked with over the years. Doing a great job is our compensation. Sure, we've gotta earn a living and for the most part we're paid well. However, it's never been about the fame or the money. We simply love this line of work.


Q:

We've had a lot of issues here in Australian with sexism and sexual assault/harassment in our armed forces. The real scale of it emerged relatively recently and they're trying to make things better now.

Have you faced anything like that, or heard of it?

Also, would you rather fight one hundred duck-sized F-16s, or one F-16 sized duck?

A:

How was Walt Disney's management style? Was he a "boss" or a leader?

Was he approachable to even the lower level employees?


Q:

That is the exact situation with us. Word for word. I think the only remotely sexual thing I experienced was only slight sexism. I don't get offended with those things either, some are true. I've heard it happening pretty often, unfortunately. Our monthly "Don't rape people" commander's calls have become a joke. And thank you for asking one of my favorite questions.. But I have one for you. Do these duck sized 16s have intakes?

A:

I would say, think of Walt Disney in much you'd think of Steve Jobs at Apple. Steve was the face of Apple. He was the visionary, the boss and the leader. Walt Disney was much the same. I would also add that unlike many bosses today, Walt was always approachable. And, I mean to anyone. It didn't matter how "high" or "low" you were. Disney treated everyone with respect. I think that's why the man was so admired by those who knew him. It would appear Walt Disney's toughest critics happen to be those who never even met him.


Q:

The duck sized 16's have intakes but are immune to the dangers of fod

A:

Growing up, did you always want to be an artist/animator or did you have other aspirations?


Q:

Could they still mangle my foot if kicked?

A:

Yeah, I guess it's kinda crazy but I've always wanted to be an artist. I knew this even when I was a little kid. I wanted to be a musician but I knew I wasn't good enough. Anyway, I had other aspirations, but I settled on art. Not a bad choice.


Q:

They hurt as bad as a model plane, so quite a bit but not bone mangeling. however, theyd also probably smash into the ground also after that kind of wing strike

A:

Hello Floyd, you worked for two global pioneers: Walt Disney and Steve Jobs. In what ways were they alike and in what ways were they different?


Q:

I will have to go with duck sized if they suck and shred my foot to pieces.

A:

Well, they were two men from different generations so they were different in that way. However, they were the same in many other aspects. Both were highly confident and both knew exactly what they wanted. They were often called difficult but that's because they demanded perfection. In my book, there's nothing wrong with that.


Q:

Yup! There needs to be cool air flowing through a radiator like "precooler" to cool the air from the APU, more than likely if you need cool air its going to be hot outside, and in which case that air then wont cool down the air from the APU. Haha i wish we had air conditioning on the ground though!

A:

Who is your favorite character you've animated?


Q:

I have never messed with the AC systems, I want to say that's an E&E situation but I could be super wrong.

A:

The only Disney character I've ever officially animated was, Robin Hood. I've spent most of my time as a story artist and a writer. I still love animation, however.


Q:

Do you ever get to take a ride in a dual seat variant?

A:

Hey Mr. Norman. What are your thoughts regarding Disney for waiting so many years to finally decided to give their audiences an African American female cartoon character: Tiana?


Q:

No :( I've never gotten an incentive flight

A:

Well, there's been much talk about this subject. I'm just glad that Disney finally got around to having a black princess. It's much the way we felt about a Chinese Princess when I was working on the film, "Mulan." Yes, sometimes it takes a while before Hollywood catches up with the rest of society. The good news is, it eventually happens. I'm delighted that Disney decided to give us, Tiana. I'm just sorry it took so long to become a reality.


Q:

Do you like movies about gladiators?

Have you ever signed off a red X that you really didn't look at the work being done? (Not sure if you're red X qualified only having 3 years of service though)

A:

I am not red x qualified haha, and I do like movies about them!


Q:

Outstanding! How does it feel to be a bad ass? Seriously, thank you for your service.

A:

Woah I just fix planes haha


Q:

Why airplanes? Why the AF? Do you get hit on a lot by the pilots?

A:

I've loved jets since I was a kid, I grew up where the Blue Angels performed often. I was too scared of water to join the Navy lol. And no because fraternization/sexual harassment is taken especially serious in the air force. No on wants to risk it. Edit because I hit submit on accident in the middle.


Q:

That's exactly what the Navy is. Sexual harassment slideshows.

A:

I bet :( every branch is like that now


Q:

What's your career path? Can you move onto design after a while?

A:

The most I think would be getting A&P license after I get out and work for Lockheed


Q:

Blackhawk Crew Chief, here. Army side though, what would you say is your overall favorite part of being a maintainer?

A:

Yooo launching a jet will always be cool to me


Q:

What are some design weaknesses of the F-16 that can be exploited against it? You can tell me, i'm from a friendly nation...

A:

._.


Q:

Do you work exclusively on the F-16, or other aircraft?

A:

Exclusively on the F-16! :)


Q:

What made to select this field?

A:

I've wanted to be a jet machanic since childhood after watching the Blue Angels


Q:

Can you talk about the pin you have to put in when the F-16 engine is ready to be shut down after a flight or engine test?

A:

Do you mean for EPU or..?


Q:

What duties do you have as crew chief, and how did you go about obtaining that position?

A:

Without getting too technical, we do on the line maintenance of the jet and get it ready and safe for the pilot to fly. For phase like I do now it's major repairs and inspections.


Q:

Did you go up for staff this year?

A:

Man why you gotta bring that up :'(


Q:

Sorry :( I know results are the first thing on every body's mind right now (including mine lol)

A:

Haha I didn't make it. They told two of my coworkers :(


Q:

My GF and I plan on joining the Air Force, both probably as a pilot since we have a flight background. I have some experience in an Air Force Auxiliary group for around 5 or 6 years, but she has no military/Air Force experience of any sort.

What are some important things we should know before going into the Air Force?

And thanks for coming on to do an AMA!

A:

To be a pilot you have to have a bachelor's degree! This may sound dumb but run. Run a lot. A lot of the girls and guys were awful at PT and eventually got them kicked out. Feel free to ask me anything!


Q:

Have you ever had to go over someone's head to get an unsafe aircraft grounded?

A:

fuel was spraying out of a tank and supervisor did nothing, had to call a super


Q:

Looks like Thunderbirds in the back.

A:

That was at tech school Because I dont have any recent pictures.


Q:

With only 3 years in the MX world, how's your morale holding up? I've met some pretty salty ex-maintainers who couldn't wait to cross train and even current maintainers just counting down the days until terminal leave.

A:

It's okay. Not high.. Not salty. Yet


Q:

Just curious, what do you specialise in? I imagine 3 years isn't enough to learn everything about the F16. Also, how does your system of airworthiness signatures work? In my organization we have a guy who does the work, called a POM (performance of maintenance), a guy who checks the work and ensures it is airworthy (level A) and a guy who ensures that the whole weapons system is mission ready and safe to fly, who then releases ownership to the pilots (level C). Generally it is a 5 year process to get lvl A, and 8-10 years to get lvl C.

A:

Is the buddy in the air force? I know the navy works completely different with their jobs. Our job is just jack of all trades, if you will. General maintenance.


Q:

Do pilots ever leave candy wrappers in the cockpit? What's the most complicated repair you faced and how did you overcome it?

A:

YES. And pencils. nothing is super complicated just time consuming. Changing the gear sucks.


Q:

You got hired on a thunderbird gig? Or just have a picture near them? And are you a spec or you actually launch 16's?

A:

No, it was from tech school. We worked on them. I launch


Q:

Based on the T-Birds pic, your out at Nellis? Avionics here. Worked both Tomahawk and Viper, now at Falcon as a Contractor. Just saying Hi and good luck with your career.

A:

That was a while ago at tech school . I'm in Europe.thank you so much, you too!