On June 30 Kerry Leifeld held the distinction of being the most senior technician in the worldwide factory authorized Twin Commander service center network. That is a remarkable achievement considering that Twin Commander technicians are known for their love of and loyalty to the brand and its long history. Leifeld has been wrenching on Twin Commanders for 42 years, every one of which was spent at Byerly Aviation in Peoria, Illinois. June 30 was a special day for Leifeld, however; it would be his last day on the job before retiring.
A native Nebraskan, Leifeld joined Byerly in 1974 after graduating from the Spartan School of Aeronautics. The first Commander he worked on was a Model 560. Since then he has maintained just about every Commander model ever produced including the 500/A/B/S, 680/T/V/W, the 685 and 700, the 690/A/B and every JetProp model.
Over the years he has seen and been involved in all of the ground-breaking upgrades to Commanders that have kept them at the sharp end of the twin-turboprop market. He has overseen many Dash 10T engine conversions as well as seven Grand Renaissance projects, one of which was the centerpiece of the Twin Commander Aircraft display at the 1998 NBAA Convention.
Leifeld was named Byerly’s Service Manager in 1980, and since 1983 he has overseen maintenance of a 500S and a 690C, each owned by the same person over those 33 years. In 1995 the FAA’s Springfield FSDO named him Mechanic of the Year, and he retired this year as the big dog in Byerly’s shop—Director of Maintenance. Ryan Grenhoff, an experienced Byerly technician and FAA Inspector, took over from Leifeld as Director of Maintenance.
Leifeld earned his Private pilot certificate while at Byerly, and has flown in the Goodyear Blimp, a Ford Tri-motor, a Boeing B17 and North American AT6.
One of the things of which Leifeld is proudest is his involvement with Bob Hoover, the legendary Air Force, North American factory, and airshow pilot widely regarded as one of the best pilots ever. He provided Hoover with a temporary replacement 500S for an airshow when Hoover’s Commander had a mechanical issue. In 2003 Leifeld signed off the special flight permit that cleared the way for Hoover to ferry his 500 from Lakeland, Florida, to Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., where it was put on permanent display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.
Leifeld has been to the museum. “It was great to see Byerly Aviation’s name on the side of the Shrike that is displayed for all the world to see for many years to come,” he commented. “It gave me a wonderful sense of accomplishment.”
Leifeld is rightfully proud of his career choice, and his loyalty to Byerly Aviation. “I am very proud to not only call myself an aircraft mechanic, but also a Commander mechanic,” he says. “Thank you to Byerly Aviation and Twin Commander Aircraft for the adventure of a lifetime, to serve in my chosen profession.”
Ever the dedicated service manager, Leifeld recognized his colleagues for their good service. “I would like to thank Byerly’s current mechanics and past mechanics for all the maintenance they performed to deliver our customers’ aircraft in a timely manner while I was service manager,” he said.
And, the good husband and father as well: “Also, I would like to thank my wife Linda and my three sons, Shane, Trevor, and Jared, for all their support over all those years.”
Leifeld retires a happy, satisfied man. “I am taking time to reflect on the past 42 years in aviation and traveling with my wife,” he noted. “Most of all I am looking forward to new adventures.”