Made in Colorado 2016: Mike "Lefty" McGuckian
He's actually right-handed
Mike “Lefty” McGuckian
Trine Aerospace & Defense, Colorado Springs
McGuckian, 55, earned the nickname “Lefty” when he started working in the shop at a California aerospace museum with three other Mikes in 1982. Even though he’s right-handed, the name stuck.
After studying aerospace engineering and earning a pilot’s license, McGuckian restored vintage aircraft for museums and collectors for more than 30 years.
“I fell in love with working on old airplanes,” he says. His portfolio includes remade Spitfires, Corsairs, P-38s, and other World War II-era planes, often working from wrecks. “A lot of times, we were reverse engineering stuff.”
One cool example: A P-38 wing featured rivets in channels, requiring McGuckian and company to make an electromagnetic riveting gun that had been out of production for decades.
McGuckian relocated to Colorado in 2006 to run Westpac Restoration’s sheet-metal shop before joining Trine in 2013. “They wanted to bring manufacturing in-house,” he says of the move, and his background in machining and fabrication was a perfect fit for Trine’s focus on modified aircraft for military missions and other applications.
Prototypes are another company forte. “If you can make it by hand, it’s both more efficient and less expensive to do it that way,” McGuckian explains.
“I really like projects that are challenging,” he adds. “It’s never the same job over and over. You have to work through problems and figure out how to make the part.”
That means that McGuckian and his production crew have to be jacks-of-all-trades. “There’s a whole range of different disciplines,” he says. “I’ve been very fortunate at Trine to find some good people.”
The skill set spans handcrafting to programming. McGuckian’s advice to aspiring aerospace machinists? “Learn how to program CNC and you can make a pretty good living,” he advises. “There’s a big demand for CNC programmers and CNC machinists.”
At Trine, it’s all about coordination. “There are always crazy schedules to get stuff out the door,” McGuckian says. “We work hand-in-hand with engineering. Sometimes engineering comes up with a part you can’t even make. We try to design them for manufacturability.”