Leo Weston embodied what JFK was seeking

Leo at NASM Udvar Hazy
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Leading FAA maintenance expert passes

Leo Weston brought considerable real world experience to his MX work

Kennedy sought this sort of dedicated individual to PUBLIC SERVICE

Since President Kennedy’s quote in his 1961 inaugural speech, civil service has not had the same panache. Those attracted to do the government’s work are most likely drawn by professionals with strong internal commitment. Leo Weston emblemizes the Kennedy spirit.

1961 JFK inaugural speech

Leo came to the FAA with extensive practical experience—military, Part 147 training, a first rate Part 145 organization and a global air carrier.  That meant when he was called on to rewrite a regulation or to give an interpretation of how the FARs (14 CFR Parts 65, 145 and 121 plus ADs and ACs), HE HAD DONE IT more than once. Practical knowledge and wise judgment resulted in great regulatory guidance.

Reading Leo’s obituary reinforced how anonymous our FAA staff is. None of his work history was visible to the public, for privacy reasons. Sharing his and other government safety professionals’ resume would add credibility to their opinions, actions and words. The lack of such context diminishes their stature. Fortunately, ARSA knew about Leo’s background and shared it with others. Who knows what other subject matter experts work labor without the enhancement that their resumes would add?

FAA HDQ


LEO J. WESTON

leo and wife

 

On Nov. 28, Leo Weston, whose passion for aviation began in high school, spanned the world and lasted until his final days, passed away at home in the presence of his wife, Bernadette.

Philly North Catholic HS

 

 

Immediately after graduating from Philadelphia’s North Catholic High School[1], where he learned basic aviation and engineering working on the school’s “fleet” of Piper J-3 Cubs, Weston enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He was a mechanic and crew chief through an initial four-year enlistment as well as a recall tour in Korea.

Leo's early career

After discharging from active duty in 1952, Weston attended Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, Oklahoma earning his Mechanic’s certificate with airframe and powerplant ratings. His civil aviation career began with Atlantic Aviation in Philadelphia before becoming a flight engineer for Pan American.

After enduring multiple furloughs, Weston began his federal civilian service with the FAA in 1964. He served in several training and management roles ( Oklahoma City, Cleveland, Detroit, and NYC) before transferring to the agency’s Headquarters in Washington, D.C. in 1974. His work in the Aircraft Maintenance Division is still a legend. He tirelessly promoted  the repair station community across four decades concluded with yeoman’s efforts on international harmonization before his retirement in the early 2000s.

LEO's AMT pamphlets

“His dedication was matched with exceptional insight,” ARSA Executive Director Sarah MacLeod pronounced, remembering the incentive he provided in the formation of the association. “Not only did he set the foundation for the eventual international recognition of repair stations by spawning the ‘joint airworthiness regulations,’ but he also actively encouraged ARSA to become the repository of knowledge on the history, intent and plain language of aviation safety requirements.

While Leo always had an opinion, it never outweighed an applicant, certificate holder, or female lawyer’s approach to showing compliance. He was as willing to learn as he was to educate; he embodied the ‘critical thinking’ sought, but so rarely found in government or industry.”

To honor Weston’s central role in the association’s formation and to recognize dedication to the public served by the international aviation maintenance community and national aviation authorities, in 2005 ARSA established the “Leo Weston Award for Excellence in Service to Aviation Safety.” The award commends individuals who embody his commitment to the industry and good government.

Leo at Udvar-Hazy

After his retirement Weston became a volunteer docent at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Giving countless tours to visitors, student groups and fellow aviation enthusiasts, ensures Weston’s impact will continue well beyond any recognition bestowed publicly.

“[Leo] was the actual ‘Leo Weston Award’ for the docents at the Udvar-Hazy Center,” said fellow volunteer Joe Thomas. “When he was 90, he was giving tours to ten-year olds…[who] will have the memory of that tour for possibly 80 more years. Between Leo’s life and the students’ lives we have a period of maybe 180 years, bringing life to the phrase ‘I touch the future: I teach’. We continue to be inspired by him.”

He met and married his first wife, Helen McLaughlin in Philadelphia in 1964. After suffering a stroke, she was placed in a nursing home where she later died in 1999. While there, Leo began running Bingo for the residents every Saturday and continued until the 2020 Pandemic. He also was a volunteer at his local Parish Church and the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C. He was a very active member of the Knights of Columbus, Council 4522 (4th Degree) for over 30 years.


 

The Leo Weston Award for Excellence in Service to Aviation Safety

ARSA logo

First bestowed in 2005 on Leo Weston, an influential figure in ARSA’s birth, the Weston award honors individuals who embody his commitment to the industry.

As an FAA official, Weston advocated for the creation of an organization to represent the interests of maintenance providers. Since then – across a long career of professional and personal dedication to public good – he has been a great inspiration for the association and its members. In his honor, ARSA regularly recognizes individuals who have made a lasting impact in furthering the principles of good government.

Past Recipients

Calvin Scovel, III (2020)

Howard Whyte & Werner Luehmann (2019)

Jennifer Weinbrecht (2018)

Peggy Gilligan (2017)

Crystal Maguire (2016)

Neil Eisner (2014)

Ron Utecht (2013)

Carol Giles (2012)

Tony Janco (2011)

Julian Hall (2010)

David Cann (2008)

Al Micheals (2006)

Leo Weston (2005)

 [1] It is a closed high school, Northeast Catholic High School for Boys (1925-2010). Its Northeast Catholic High School Alumni Association, through its FALCONWAY Program is currently allocating $500,000 or tuition assistance for scholarships to specified Catholic colleges, high schools and elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Diocese of Trenton, also including St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales.

FAA P145



 

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2 Comments on "Leo Weston embodied what JFK was seeking"

  1. Apt introduction, Sandy. Leo was one of the truly good guys. Always accessible, ready and willing to offer an assessment of a novel regulatory issue, a great translator of technical information to the language of those of us who were not mechanics. And trustworthy — If Leo said something was so, it was, and one could run with it. A gift to all of us who had the pleasure of working with him. It’s been too many years, but he stands out in my memory as one of the quiet stars of the FAA.

  2. I am saddened by Mr. Weston’s passing. He was a considerable help to me in the early 1980s when I developed a course inspired by Archie Trammell of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. I worked for the Foundation’s Flight and Technology Laboratory. This was the time of a significant change to 14 CFR Part 43, Appendix A (c) Preventive maintenance. Mr. Weston helped me with the FAA’s interpretation and application of Part 43 and Part 23 as it applied to the program I was working on. His insight and influence was appreciated. He was a true gentleman. I have a great deal of respect for his legacy.

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