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Deichmann gets Sikorsky send-off

Features Editor

Dec. 8, 1999 10 PM

Not many people get to retire from a 40-year dream career and still be on cloud nine but Dick Deichmann is one of the few.

Deichmann got "banged out" of Sikorsky last week after working his whole life at his "hobby" and he wouldn’t trade his career for anything.

Perhaps Deichmann wasn’t born with the love of flying but, for sure, it affected him when he was six months old as he sat on his mother’s and rode high above the clouds in a Waco biplane.

That was his mother’s first plane ride and his first plane ride and Deichmann has never come down from the clouds.

He’s not sure whether it was the sound of the aircraft or the exhilaration of the altitude that permeated his being – "maybe it was both" – but, from that moment on, flying was his love and the sky his second home.

"I don’t remember that first flight but it is a part of me," Deichmann said. "I do remember my second flight. I was three years old and my I took a paid flight over Bridgeport, Connecticut with my grandmother. I’ll never forget it. I can still see the instrument panel just as it was that day. I was hooked."

As a young boy, Deichmann watched the helicopters from the nearby Sikorsky plant in Bridgeport "beat around" in the sky.

"I was intrigued that something that ungangly could fly," he said, laughing. "It was a novelty to see them in the sky. I was fascinated by helicopters and I knew I wanted to fly one."

Deichmann graduated from the University of Bridgeport on a Friday and started to work for Sikorsky on Monday. He has never had any regrets and never wanted to do anything else. After all, he was part of dynamic industry for his whole career and in daily contact with people with great ideas. Who could ask for better than that?

Deichmann started with Sikorsky as a mechanical engineer and ended his career as one of the most respected and admired authorities in crash damage engineering.

Deichmann worked as a preliminary and production design engineer and in all phases of helicopter development – prototype and experimental. He also worked as an overhaul and repair engineer but it was his knowledge and expertise as a crash damage engineer that took him all over the world.

"Sikorsky doesn’t build a disposable helicopter," Deichmann said, with a proud smile. "We can put them back together and get them back in the air. We pride ourselves in that."

Deichmann has supervised crash damage teams all over the world but what he does, whenever possible, is bring the damaged helicopter back to Sikorsky Support Services in Troy to make the necessary repairs. And, it was through Deichmann’s foresight and the backing of former Congressman Bill Dickinson that the Sikorsky plant was located in Troy, according to Tony Scott, Sikorsky facility manager.

Once Deichmann settled in Pike County, he became "part of the scenery" and fell in love with the area.

"I’m one of those damn Yankees who didn’t want to go home," he said, laughing.

At SSI, Deichmann quickly became a popular figure and his retirement was both a happy and sad occasion for his coworkers – happy because Deichmann was going to have time to spend on his "hobby," car restoration, and sad it would bring to an end their daily association with "the man."

Looking back on his career, Deichmann said he would be hard pressed to think of a bad day. However, there are more highpoints than time to ponder them all but the restoration of a VS-44 has to be near the top of Deichmann’s list.

The plane belonged to actress Maureen O’Hara and was the last of the original flying boats that land and took off on water.

The flying boats were the epitome of travel in the late 1930s and early ’40s and the VS-44 was an elegant aircraft with a wingspan of 120 feet and four engines.

"When we got through with the restoration, it was awesome," Deichmann said, "and a fine addition to the Bradley Air Museum (Hartford, Conn.). I was as proud of that restoration project as any that I’ve been involved with over the years."

Deichmann could have talked about the turbine train project and a hundred crash damage restorations or he could have talked about his world travels but on his last day, he chose to talk about the Sikorsky family and how his association with the company and the people has kept his feet off the ground for 40 of the most wonderful years he could imagine.

Now, he plans to spend his time doing what he has always done – working joyfully at putting things back together at his Love Street Garage. And when he’s not hobbying around, he can be found relaxing at home in Goshen with his wife Pat in their own little piece of Alabama heaven.