From the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA in the fall of 1966 to today in my office in Upstate New York, my forty-plus years of involvement with gas turbines has made for a terrific career.  Who could have known that General Electric field engineering work would take me to work in over twenty foreign countries?  In Venezuela, I began as a field engineer and was later promoted to Area Engineer.  I have thirty-one entry stamps for that country on my five cancelled passports. I served as acting Regional Manager for Venezuela, Colombia and the Caribbean on two different occasions.  Since leaving GE, my returns to some of these same countries for my current company, PAL Turbine Services, LLC, have been a pleasure.

It took a dramatic event to “spark” GE’s gas turbine business: the Northeast Blackout of November 1965.  The next major event, a downturn for sure for the gas turbine industry, was the OPEC Oil Embargo of 1973-74.  However, bracketed by these two events nearly a decade apart, there came significant advances in turbine technology with new products.  The most significant was the advent of the MS7001 (also known as the Frame 7) and an electronic control system known as Speedtronic™.  The Eighties brought co-generation and combined-cycle applications for the MS6001 gas turbine (a..k.a. Frame 6), along with digital control and protection systems pioneered with the GE’s fourth generation of Speedtronic™ called Mark IV.

The 1990s brought a beloved new design, the MS7001EA (Frame  7EA) with Mark V controls, a venture into computer-based technology with a human machine interfaces (HMI).  As the century turned, GE introduced the MS7001FA and Mark VI controls, as environmental and exhaust emission concerns forged front and center.  So, five decades later, the gas turbine power plant remains a major player in the game and an integral part of the world power generation mix.

 Summary

I worked for GE for nearly 20 years.  I’ve been “without the General” for over another two decades or so.  One might say, it was a career in near perfect balance!

As I look back to GE, after just one year working field jobs in 1968, GE trained me to be a gas turbine start-up engineer beginning in the summer of 1969.  They applied for a military deferment since I was so “valuable” to them (their words).  Even though I was in my late twenties, my draft number was a lowly 15 (for a birth date of April 11).  As if by some degree of justice however, in January 1971, the company paid me back by sending me to Vietnam into the war zone to install two MS5001LA turbines.  The site was about 10 miles north of Saigon on Highway One, going toward Tonsonut Air Force Base.  The job in Vietnam lasted about five months.  I had a crew of twelve women and four men.  My crane operator was a woman.  My welder was a woman.  Even with some disadvantages (like an ongoing war), the plants were generating power in four months and the job was completed in May 1971.

We certainly faced challenges in Vietnam.  Here’s one of my favorite stories:  the mechanical TA on the job was named Willie Brandt.  Willie was born a German, but lived in France from his early youth.  He had served in the French Foreign Legion in Indochina in the late 1950s.  Our chief mechanic on the job was a Chinese man named Lieu, who spoke both French and Vietnamese.  So here is a typical string conversation on the job:  As lead technical director, I spoke English to the German engineer.  The German spoke French to the Chinese foreman.  The foreman spoke Vietnamese to the workers.  The United Nations would be proud of us.

E-1

Fig. E-1- Standing on the walkway in front of control cab (circa 1971 in Vietnam)

In 1983, I was fortunate enough to be selected as the Service Manager for the largest GE installation of gas turbines in the world.  We installed fourteen GE STAG 109E power plants.  The rating for the entire plant was over 2,000 megawatts.  I was on the job for the first two years of a 5-year installation cycle.  That was my last assignment with GE, as I left the company upon my return to the USA in 1985.

After searching for “the meaning of life” for about a year, I started a company known as I&SE Associates of Schenectady, Inc.  The name was a play on the familiar old GE service group: Installation and Service Engineering, just using the letters I&SE, for short.  This often brought smiles to the faces of those who knew the GE service group in the “old days.”  I&SE existed for about 12 years, where I specialized in training and troubleshooting services for clients who owned GE gas turbines installed in the 1960s a and 1970s era.  My specialty was fuel regulator and early Speedtronic™ Mark I & II control protection systems.

After a brief stint with another service company in the mid-1990s (no doubt one of my biggest mistakes), I started the current company in 1999 with Charlie Pond.  The original name was Pond and Lucier, LLC, but in January 2009, I bought out Charlie and became the sole owner/operator of PAL Turbine Services, LLC.  Charlie has remained working for PAL for as a senior consulting engineer.

I am still enjoying the career of field engineering after over four decades.  Here I am below in Fig. E-2 checking out a Mark IV panel at PGE in Pittsfield, MA in 2001. Troubleshooting, training and consulting has kept me active in the career of field engineering.  We field engineers are known as Turbine Cowboys in the industry.

Fig. E-2 Checking out a Mark IV Panel (circa 2001)

Fig. E-2 Checking out a Mark IV Panel (circa 2001)

I am pleased to say that a college degree from Umass-Amherst got me the job at General Electric.  The twenty years that followed included FEP training, field assignments on gas turbines, factory test on steam turbines and teaching at GE’s training center.  The two companies I started kept me active in the power industry.

Finally, as I am inclined to say: Knowledge + Experience = SAVVY.

This was the magic formula for a successful career in gas turbine field engineering services.  For all this and more, I am very grateful to General Electric for hiring me and later allowing me to transfer from the Technical Marketing Program to Field Engineering Services.  Later in my career, I am thankful for an assignment in factory test in steam turbines and being hired to be an instructor at the FEDC.  The latter job lead to promotion to the job of manager of the Field Engineering Program.  My return to the field as manager of the TEPCO project in Japan for a couple of years was a great assignment.  Finally, I have to thank GE for giving me the gumption to go out and start my own companies.

I have often thought of the poem by Robert Frost that addresses how forks in the road are sometimes present with a choice about taking one path or the other along the trail of life.  He talks about taking the one I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”  It certainly did for me.  I find it fitting to end this Epilogue with Frost’s entire poem. 

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost