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Ex-police officer's new career: Make skies safer

It's never too late in life to make a career change.

Bob Crosby, 47, recently retired from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. He took an early retirement package after 20 years of service to pursue a new career. Crosby is studying to be an airplane mechanic.

With dedication and commitment, he makes daily treks each week from his home in Stallings to Greensboro, studying at Guilford Tech's aviation campus at the Greensboro airport. It is the closest Federal Aviation Administration-approved school in the area, he says.

In two years, he will graduate with an associate's degree in Aviation Maintenance Technology. He already has a bachelor's degree that he received in 1986. Worried how he would do on his first math test after so many years of not having to study, he was relieved to learn that he racked up a 97. Now, he moves forward in the curriculum, awaiting physics and aerodynamics.

Crosby spoke about the decision to retire from the police department to embark on a new education and career. He said, “I'm proud of my service, but it's time to move on. I knew the passion wasn't there anymore. I didn't want to be in a job that I don't feel passionate about.”

Already a pilot, Crosby followed a family tradition. His father was a pilot. Crosby and his wife, Cathy, own a single-engine Piper. When their plane gets annual inspections, Crosby lends a hand.

“He lets me help him turn some wrenches. It's given me experience,” Crosby said.

That experience, along with Crosby's enjoyment of working with his hands, led him to pursue a career as an airplane mechanic.

Very detail oriented, he said he is “at peace working with his hands” and was always “tinkering with his motorcycle.” He said his wife has been supportive of his career change: “I couldn't have done it without her.”

Upon graduation, he must pass the FAA exam, then would be licensed to work on anything from business jets to airliners. He said airplane mechanics can specialize, much as a doctor specializes in a particular field of medicine.

“The sky's the limit. Pardon the pun,” he said.

Laurie Smith, one of our readers, had contacted me about Crosby. Her e-mail described him as “someone who keeps citizens safe first on the ground, and now when we are in the air!”