June 2019 Newsletter Steve Picatti

Steve Picatti


Nobody likes to talk about accidents, but they do happen. When they do, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is on the scene to investigate. Naturally, the NTSB does not have an expert on every aircraft type that the CJAA flies, and that is when they call pilot, mechanic, and CJAA member Steve Picatti.


Picatti, age 75 has worked around fighter jets most of his life. “For many years, I worked with Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC), a government contractor that operates former military aircraft in tactical flight training roles for U.S. Navy, Air Force and Air National Guard. ATAC bought, among other planes, older Hawker Hunters, which the Air Force used for a variety of missions. I was the director of maintenance for that company and I also flew the majority of the maintenance test flights. They have now exceeded 20 Hunters in their fleet and are working their way up to 30.” Why the Hawker Hunter, as opposed to a jet aircraft built in the United States? Picatti explains, “For starters, current regulations make it impossible for a civilian to buy a military jet directly from the United States. The Hawker Hunters were operated by air forces around the world, so airframes and parts are readily available. The Hunter is less complicated than an A-4, and also cheaper to operate. It’s also a relatively uncomplicated aircraft to register in the United States.”


Working on various maintenance activities, including upgrades and modifications, naturally involved working closely with his local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). In addition, Picatti was attending numerous conferences involving several federal agencies. Without really planning on it, Picatti had become recognized as a renowned expert on foreign jet warbirds, both by the FAA and also the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the body that investigates aircraft accidents. At one such conference a dozen or so years ago, he was approached by a representative of the NTSB. He recalls, “This representative from the NTSB came to me and explained that the NTSA really didn’t have experts on every aircraft type, including some of the more esoteric warbird types, and asked if I could help. I learned years ago that I didn’t need to have all the answers, as long as I knew who or where I could go to, to find the answers. I became the NTSB’s “go-to guy” when there was an accident involving a jet warbird.”


Picatti explains that working with the NTSB is more complicated than meets the eye. “When I look for an expert for a specific airplane type, I have to start by signing all sorts of non-disclosure agreements. Next, I have to pour over the logbooks to see who has worked on the plane. For obvious reasons, those people cannot be involved in an official accident investigation. With the relatively small universe of warbird mechanics, that’s not always easy. But somehow, we manage to find someone who is qualified to help investigate an accident, whose fingerprints are not all over the logbooks of that airframe.”


After he semi-retired from that position, he found a job maintaining two Hawkers for an individual whose goal it was to keep them flying. He did that until last year, when the owner passed away. The decision was made to sell the Hawkers, and Picatti found himself involved with other projects. Among other projects, Picatti is now working with Reno racer Joe Gano and his company Warbirds of Delaware. Gano is known for his Rolls-Royce Viper-powered L29s that exceeded 540mph…until the FAA came out with an AD that effectively grounded all Viper-powered aircraft. So now, Picatti is working with Gano to install a Pratt & Whitney J60 engine in an L29, a project he hopes to complete by July. It is but one of several projects that Picatti is involved with.


His association with Gano had also led Picatti in a direction he’d never anticipated. Gano is a championship power lifter, and this inspired Picatti, who always made fitness a priority, to get involved with power lifting. He has won State titles in his age division, and is now working toward National competition. At age 75, Steve Picatti shows no signs of slowing down and is, in fact, always on the lookout for new challenges.


Feel free to reach out to Steve Picatti at [email protected] .









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