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Preface Events Investigation Conclusion

168 Days: Before BPU: A Little History

By Ken Snyder

To understand how I got to where I was (hiring on at BPU) let me give you a little background information:

Starting in 2008 I knew my future in the commercial aircraft business was not looking real good -- American Airlines bought what was left of Trans World Airlines in 2001 and slowly began chipping away at anything they didn't want. First, the aircraft that didn't fit into their plans, then the flight hub in St. Louis, then the engine overhaul facility in Kansas City, followed not long after by the component overhaul shops. It went back and forth for some time, culminating with the closure of much of the hangar bays at the facility I had called "home" since 1986. There was the possibility of continuing with American, but I would have to either move to Dallas or commute every time I wanted to come home. So the search began for a new occupation, one I could move into that could be somewhat related to what I had done since being introduced into electricity and electronics fresh out of high school and Marine Corps Basic Training.

But I didn't want to leave aircraft completely behind -- since getting to "lay hands" on a Douglas A-4 Skyhawk (in 1981) repairing aircraft had been my "bread and butter" and although the times had slowly gone downhill it had allowed me to raise a son and live a pretty good life. I sometimes spend weekends as a road course safety worker at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kansas -- which is just south of Forbes Field, where the 190th Air Refueling Wing is located. For a few years I watched the souped-up Boeing 707's (KC-135's) take off and land as I worked at Heartland Park, and in 2002 I talked to a recruiter with the Kansas Air National Guard. It took nearly a year to get the paperwork approved, and in 2003 I rejoined the military after a 16-year hiatus. They welcomed me back into the military with open arms, even after being out of the service for as long as I had been. Since I had a connection to aircraft secured, it was time to look for new full-time employment.

I also had a second job -- I worked as a Stadium Manager for Wyandotte High School, the school I graduated from in 1980. Thanks to the fact that I worked night shift at American my days and afternoons were open, and I was more than happy to help out. There were many times this was not for pay, I did a lot of work simply because I wanted to give the current students more than the school district could (or would) give them. While the pay was okay a lot of it was spent back into the stadium on projects I took on as I could. More than a few vacation days from American were spent working at Wyandotte.

Someone I had met in a hardware store mentioned to me a position with the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities being available soon. Something to do with traffic signals. "OK" I said to myself, "let's keep this in mind and see if I can learn more about it." Time passed by, and one day I checked the BPU website: sure enough, there was an opening for a Traffic Signal Technician position. The opening got my attention, and I decided to apply -- why not, I had a job for now, and the worst that could happen is they'd say "no."

I had almost forgot about applying for the job until one day I got a call asking if I could come out for an interview. Wow! The voice on the other end of the phone sounded genuine enough; friendly, and truly interested in talking to me. So at 9 AM on 21 October 2009 my journey down this primrose path began with an interview with DeGraeve and Walters. Needless to say I was nervous as could be -- this was a serious step in breaking away from the commercial aircraft business and I had not done a job interview with this much importance since applying to TWA back in late 1985. They appeared to be interested in me, even if I had not done a perfect job in the evaluations they put me through. Later, DeGraeve said one thing he liked in the interview was my interest in attention to detail -- something the Marine Corps and Air National Guard has made sure we do when it comes to their aircraft.

In early November I got a call from DeLeon, informing me that I was successful in the interview, and they wanted to hire me. By this time I had orders to active duty for Operation Enduring Freedom/Iraqi Freedom beginning in a matter of weeks. When I mentioned this to DeLeon, it didn't seem to faze him -- just let him know when I got back, and we'd take it from there. Great! These people really want me as a part of their staff! Only later would I 1) know that once they had selected me as their prospective employee that Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act (USERRA) rights kick in, regardless of service status, and 2) their commitment to me would not be very long: 168 days, to be exact.

Next:Happy To Be Here
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