MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
up in Asheville, N.C., George Russell was no stranger to the military or the
aircraft he heard flying overhead.
time Russell was a child, he was fascinated by the world of aviation, knowing
from before he can remember that he wanted to be a part of it in some way.
in his modest home just outside the front gate of Marine Corps Air Station
Cherry Point, N.C., only weeks after retiring with 30 years of loyal and
dedicated work as an airframes engineer and engine program specialist, Russell
recalled his early days in the field of aviation.
always enjoyed airplanes and flying,” said Russell. “I got my private pilot
license in high school and I thoroughly loved everything about the flying
business. It was just an interesting and fun subject area to learn more about.”
graduation from North Carolina State University, with a degree in Aerospace
Engineering, Russell began his journey into his future aviation career. After
feeling discouraged by the lack of job opportunities, Russell stumbled upon a
listing for a job at Cherry Point working as an engineer. Russell took the job.
Little did he know, that sunny summer day in 1982, the first day he stepped
foot onto the flight line of Cherry Point, would change his life.
start of what would one day become his legacy, Russell worked as a production
support engineer on the Harrier Program with Fleet Readiness Center East.
he worked alongside Sailors, Marines and civilian Department of Defense
personnel, his primary mission was to provide support. His duties included ensuring
the efficiency of his engineering skills to maintain the safety of the service
members inside the aircraft.
to Russell, throughout his long and often daunting career, he was honored time
and again as he participated in several projects that directly led to
advancements and improvements to what is now the Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier.
initially worked on the airframes of the earlier Harrier which he describes as
the original “bare-bones model.”
the middle of the 1980s, the Marine Corps advanced on to the AV-8B Harrier,”
said Russell. “It had great improvements such as expanded mission capabilities,
higher efficiency, weapons system complexity and it was a viable, useful
aircraft for the Marine Corps.”
unique nature of the Corps’ mission sets an “any climb any place” mentality
making the AV-8B so well-suited for the Marines. Its vertical takeoff and
landing ability means a short strip of dirt road or a landing helicopter dock
are both suitable locations for the aircraft to takeoff or land.
expertise grew, co-workers came to him with questions and to learn some of his
skills. He began leading his peers and paving the way for engineers that would
come after him.
moved along in my career, I began writing maintenance plans in great detail,”
said Russell. “Reliability Centered Maintenance, or RCM as we called it, was a
way for us to ensure that all maintenance done on the aircraft was technically
justified and was being done in the best possible fashion for the benefit of
the Marine Corps.”
job transformed from an airframes engineer to an engine program specialist, his
contributions to the Harrier program multiplied.
was mainly reviewing and writing maintenance plans,” said Russell. “As a part
of RCM, we introduced something new called the age exploration program.”
became co-author of the first Navy handbook on age exploration, which discussed
what it was and how the engineers collected data to make informed decisions on
scheduled maintenance programs.
also involved with the first deployment of Harriers. He learned the aircraft
inside and out. His vast knowledge of the aircraft and his interaction with the
Marines who operated it enabled him to know what they needed and when they
needs and challenges that the Marines faced rolled over into our business,”
said Russell. “We had to find ways to support them so they could do what they
had to do, and our goal at all times was to keep them safe.”
to Russell, whether the Marines were deployed or training stateside, his team
of engineers were always in communication and ready to assist with any issues
that came up, regardless of the time or place.
technology continued to advance, Russell’s team continued to make leaps and
bounds to keep up with the growing demand to keep the Harrier fleet on the
most rewarding part of my career has been seeing the Marines successfully doing
their job because of the time I put in to do my job right,” said Russell. “As I
led teams and began focusing on special projects, I had a hand in building the
AV-8B Harrier remanufacture program.”
budget shortfalls during previous years, new aircraft were not being
manufactured and distributed to the armed services, explained Russell. That is
where the idea for the remanufacture program came in. It was designed as a way
to take serviceable components from used aircraft and rework them into a better
design for a new airplane for the Marine Corps.
program was a success and ended up saving more than a third of the original
cost to build radar-equipped Harriers.
to successes was not always an easy one for Russell. Perseverance was the thing
that has gotten him through his hardest days, he said.
years ago, on Oct. 9, 2012, I can remember I was in the hospital receiving chemotherapy
for a rare form of lymphoma,” said Russell. “It is because of the team of
support I had behind me that I healed from my cancer. I used the perseverance
that a life of engineering has taught me. Now, my focus is on taking care of my
family and friends because no one has a career like this by themselves.
Everyone around me has been my support structure and perseverance and mission
completion isn’t accomplished alone.”