Duncan Aviation would like to wish Tom Burt, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) at the company’s full-service facility in Battle Creek, Michigan, congratulations as he plans to retire from day-to-day operations on March 8. After spending his 40-year career at the company, Burt welcomes the slower pace retirement promises, and he intends to remain active at Duncan Aviation, teaching leadership and business classes for the foreseeable future.
Andy Richards, a 22-year veteran with Duncan Aviation, will assume the role of Executive Vice President and COO as Burt steps down. The two have worked together for the past seven years and in recent months have worked through a transition plan.
Growing up in a small town in northern Iowa, Burt worked at a shop on the local airfield in exchange for flying lessons, earning his pilot’s license while he was in high school. He then worked as a flight instructor at LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas, while earning a degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology and his Airframe & Powerplant (A&P) certification. In 1979, newly married and considering job opportunities, Burt responded to an ad for an A&P mechanic at Duncan Aviation in Lincoln, Neb. Once hired, he began working on Learjets and turboprops on the shop floor.
“I was fortunate to start at the company while Donald Duncan was still active and his son Robert Duncan, now Chairman Emeritus, was President. Todd Duncan, Robert’s son and current Chairman, was in his early teens when we first met at a company party. The company was much smaller then, probably around 150 people,” says Burt. “A lot of things have changed since those days including the aircraft we work on, the services we offer, the many facilities we have added, and the amazing team we have developed. With the vision of the Duncan family coupled with the leadership of our President, Aaron Hilkemann, I have been priviledged to be part of a lot of growth and success.”
After those early years as a technician, Burt worked his way through various positions in Sales and Customer Service at the growing Duncan Aviation facility in Lincoln. In 1999, he joined the Senior Management Team and then transferred to the Battle Creek location in 2004.
Over the years, Burt has traveled a great deal for business, and he and his wife are now looking forward to moving back to Nebraska, staying put for a while, and spending as much time as possible with their children and grandchildren. Two of their three children and four of their seven grandchildren live in Omaha, and their middle daughter and her family live in Memphis, Tenn.
Although Burt can’t begin to name all of the people who have influenced him during his 40 years at Duncan Aviation, he’s grateful to everyone who helped along the way. The company provided the opportunities, and Burt was able, with the help of others, to work hard, grow and succeed in his long career.
“I firmly believe those opportunities are still here,” says Burt. “For team members who want to develop and grow, Duncan Aviation will always provide guidance, training, mentoring and many career opportunities. I intend to give back by continuing to teach in the company’s leadership development program as well as serve on the board of trustees at my alma mater, LeTourneau University. I intend to stay active in aviation.”