AG AVIATION: Caleb Merchant

Aurora Cooperative 3 years ago

Behind every great pilot is a great aircraft mechanic. With our elite aerial division comes 3 aircraft maintenance employees who spend their nights during the busy season traveling around to locations and doing any maintenance needed to keep our planes safe and in the best condition possible, as well as keep our pilots flying during the day.

Meet Caleb Merchant from Polk, NE!

How many years have you been doing aircraft maintenance?

15 years. I got my license in 2005.

What inspired you to go into aircraft maintenance?

I was originally going to fly because my grandpa was one of the first pilots in the area so aviation for me started with him. My brother was a pilot as well, and they owned an airplane together. My uncle is a pilot too, and he always told me a bunch of stories so aviation has always been a thing that I’ve grown up enjoying and being a part of. It didn’t pan out for me to fly so I just thought “Well if I can’t fly them, I’ll work on them.” So in 2003, I decided I’d be a mechanic instead of a pilot.

What does a normal day and night look like for you during the Corn Run?

We do almost everything in the evenings and nights to keep the pilots flying during the day. Usually by the time the pilots are done, my boss lets us know when and where to show up. There, we’ll go through the pilot’s list of what we need to look at, and we’ll address those issues, do our inspections and fix anything that needs to be fixed. We try our best to keep the planes in service during the day.

Do you find it challenging working long nights during the Corn Run? If so, why?

I mean it’s like anything else. It gets tiring but we don’t usually let that bother us too much because it needs to be done. The biggest challenge for me would be staying positive. We have a job to do, and we do it. When the pilots are thankful for what we do, to me it’s easy to stay positive about the nighttime hours. 

What do you love most about your job?

I think the camaraderie. I have a really great group of guys I work with on the aerial side of things. I love getting together with everybody.

Although it’s kind of a given, why do you believe aircraft maintenance is so important?

There’s a safety aspect for the pilots, and if we don’t keep the planes in good shape then they’re not flying. Aircraft maintenance is what keeps our pilots spraying acres to allow us at Aurora Cooperative to better serve our farmers during this time. I understand the importance of timely applications and aircraft maintenance plays into that. It keeps everybody happy.

What inspires you throughout your everyday work life?

I think there are a lot of factors that inspire me:

  • Working with a great group of people.
  • Turning out a good product and the challenges that can bring.
  • Knowing that when I leave a location, I can look back and see our teamwork and how we look out for one another.

I guess the inspiration is that I get to go to work, do what I love then get to come home and be with my wife and kids.

What do you find the most stressful or challenging about your job?

The most challenging part of my job is making sure that I am paying attention to all the details. As I said before, it can get mundane and tiring so the challenging part is to not let that play a part. I have to pay attention to the details every time to turn out a good product. 

If you could travel to any place in the world, where would you go?

I would probably go to Germany where my mother’s dad is from. They immigrated during World War 2, and I would love to go back to see where he grew up in Binswangen. I’d love to go through and see his roots and what it’s like. Another place is England because my grandma is from there. I’d just love to see where my family came from.

Best flavor of ice cream?

Plain ol’ vanilla homemade ice cream. Nothing beats that.