Mike Pitt, retiring Dec. 31 after nearly 50 years at Pax River, stands outside Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division headquarters. (Courtesy photo)
NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – At the end of November, I had the opportunity to chat with Mike Pitt about his upcoming retirement on Dec. 31. Mike has been part of the Aircraft Instrumentation Division (AID) for a long time, but I was blown away to hear he has been at NAS Patuxent River a total of 47 years, 3 months.
Mike joined the U.S. Navy in 1974 and completed boot camp at Naval Training Center, Great Lakes. After recruit training, he went to accession training, better known as “A School,” in Millington, Tennessee, which at that time was home to Naval Air Technical Training Center Memphis. After graduation, he started working at NAS Patuxent River with Patrol Squadron VP-68 on P-3 aircraft, when he was only 18 years old—achieving the rank of Aviation Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class (AE2).
Following active duty, he remained at Pax River and raised a family in St. Mary’s County. He held various positions over the years—from a contractor working at the United States Naval Test Pilot School to Instrumentation Lead for the VH-71 Presidential Helicopter Program. In 2014, Mike took the position he still holds today: AID Branch Head for the Instrumentation Support Group.
He noted that some of his proudest moments include witnessing his work in-flight and the fact that he got to see “his data” delivered to test teams from aircraft he instrumented. The H-60 “Seahawk” test helicopter on display at the base of the Parade Field flagpole on Cedar Point Road—outfitted with orange instrumentation gear—was one of his most memorable projects and included the first digital cockpit. He worked on that aircraft for 15 years and jokingly commented that “he knows it is time to go because aircraft he worked on are now featured in museums.”
Mike also said that being a supervisor had its challenges, especially the past couple years dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. To be successful as a supervisor, he feels you need to understand that people have personal lives, and that the work/home life balance is key. People aren’t machines and should be given the opportunity to learn without feeling pressured; it’s important to know when to leave people alone to do their work. He felt that fellow co-workers and employees respected him because he respected them.
“Retiring and leaving is bittersweet. It’s difficult to find the words, but I have developed many life-long friendships over the years, ones I hope to keep,” he said. “Friends and co-workers have been incredibly supportive, especially during personal times of crisis, and that kindness can never be repaid.”
As far as retirement, he says he has no immediate plans except to golf and fish. After he has three to four months to decompress, he may think of other options for “what’s next.” He did have excellent advice for planning retirement, though.
“Plan for the future and set long-term goals early in life. Once you get a job, take 10 percent off the top and put it in the bank, and live off the rest of your income. Put more money away over time as you can,” he said.
Excellent advice from an excellent individual. We wish you much happiness, Mike, and thank you for your many contributions—39 years, 11 months of federal service, plus additional years as a contractor serving the Navy and NAWCAD are an inspiration to us all.
By Shelly Stuller Gray Graphics and Communications Specialist Prototyping, Instrumentation & Experimentation (PIE) Department