Neil McCombie (Pup) started his four-year Marshall apprenticeship in 1983, he is now a Senior Airframe/Engine Technician for the C-130J Centre Wing Replacement. He said that the training he received during his apprenticeship was excellent and helped prepare him for a long and varied career in aircraft maintenance and repair, which has taken him all over the world. Keirron Mascall and Robin Lipscombe were responsible for training Neil and his cohort. Neil referred to them as angels and said that he was amazed at how patient they were in dealing with the apprentices’ antics. It is because of our incredible instructors that Marshall Centre are celebrating 100 years of apprenticeships and why we have produced some of the best talent in the aerospace industry.
Neil is better known by his nickname Pup. He recieved the nickname because his mentor at the time didn't think it was right to call them apprentices, he preferred “pups”. The nickname stuck because his mentor instructed Neil following him everywhere he went to ensure that he was constantly learning. Pup was honoured to receive the Sir Arthur Marshall Cup in his final year; an award given to an apprentice for outstanding achievement, which is something that he is very proud of.
After his apprenticeship, Pup went on to do some amazing things in his career. In 1990, Operation Desert Storm started and they had to paint all the planes pink to provide greater camouflage for desert missions, which was an interesting project to work on. In 1993 he trained to join the Marshall flight test crew as a load master and progressed onto to a career as a flight engineer. During his time as a flight engineer, he flew with special forces crews carrying low level assessments of an infrared turret that allows Hercules to see in the dark, through the Welsh valleys. He recalled the surreal sight of looking up through the window of the aircraft at people walking their dogs on the hills above him. He also had the opportunity to work as the flight engineer for the RAF flying testbed on the A400M, which he describes as a Hercules on steroids. Pup explained that you cannot test a new aircraft with new engines as there is too much risk that the engines might fail. His job was to test the new engines in flight, which involved fitting one of the new engines to an existing aircraft with reliable engines in case the new engine failed, so they could still make it home safely. This was an exciting project for Pup to be involved in. He still flies with the Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group (MADG) flight test crew where they carry out post maintenance flight testing before they deliver the aircraft back to the RAF.
The repurposed XV208 “snoopy” weather ship used to test the A400M engine with the yellow propellers.
Pup currently works in one of the hangars at Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group and is the team leader on centre wing. He is proud that they have just completed the first ever C130J centre wing replacement outside of the USA, which is a massive achievement. Pup has enjoyed a varied, interesting and long career at MADG and it all started with the superb training he received as a Marshall Apprentice.
Pup with a few members of his team. He was load master that day, delivering the first C-130J centre wing replacement outside of the USA back to the RAF.
Pup receiving a long service award for 30 years from our late President Sir Michael Marshall.