Homeless Aircraft Mechanic
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Show 1624: Homeless Aircraft Mechanic
Air Date: June 12, 2016
Rob McClendon: To say that Porsha Lippincott had a bit of a rough take-off early on in life is an understatement. Homeless at 17 and literally living in a refrigerator box, she was desperate for a new direction. And with some help from others and a lot of initiative of her own, Porsha’s life and career is now flying high at 50,000 feet.
Rob McClendon: Teaching night students at Metro Tech’s Aviation Campus.
Porsha Lippincott: And make sure you guys are careful with those heating elements.
Rob: It’s easy to see instructor Porsha Lippincott knows her way around a jet engine.
Lippincott: Are you guys labeling each part that you take out?
Rob: But it’s not always been that way. Homeless at 17, Porsha was living out of a refrigerator box.
Lippincott: I had just recently got a job at Sonic, so every day I would sleep in the box and go to Sonic, come home, sleep in the box, and I did it for three months. So one day, at Sonic, in the morning, I get a phone call. It’s a lady from Norman North, and she’s a counselor, and I kind of just broke down and told her everything that was going on. Well, she told me to stand by, and she would call me right back. About five minutes later I got her and Bridges, which is an independent homeless shelter for kids, who called saying that they wanted to meet me that day. They showed me this cute little apartment in this house that was all to myself and they told me, “This is where we want you to live, go back to school, you could work, we’ll help you get a car or whatever you need to do to go to school.” And that day, I moved in.
Rob: And Porsha’s life began to turn around – a roof over her head and even saving some money.
Lippincott: I found this ’93 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It had like seven different colors going on, but I was OK with it. I paid a $1,000 for it. It ran. There were some kind of sketchy things about it, like the gas – I never knew when the gas was gonna run out because the meter was going [back and forth motion]. But as time went on my car started to act a lot different, and then it started to break down. And then one day, it just didn’t start at all. It was $1,907 to repair this oil pan gasket. At that time I had no idea what any of that meant. I went on YouTube and I looked up what an oil pan gasket was, and it was on a ’93 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and they were showing how you took off all these bolts – 27 of them, took down the oil pan, took off the gasket, put a new one on, put the oil pan back up, bolted it down, put some oil in and you were good to go. And I was like, that is, that’s the most ridiculous thing ever, I could do this. Seven hours later -- which nowadays it wouldn’t take me seven hours, but it did -- seven hours later I had my car running, and it actually ran better than it did before.
Rob: Turning a crisis into an opportunity.
Lippincott: So I graduated high school and got my high school diploma. When I got done, they had already filled out paperwork for me to go to Moore Norman Technology Center to go and be a mechanic over there, and I did. When I got done, I got my ASEs, so that was, that was my whole getting out of being homeless and onto my own feet, with a cool certification.
Rob: And while Porsha enjoyed working on cars and trucks, life was still often a struggle.
Lippincott: At the time, I was actually working three jobs. Four hours of sleep was OK for me, but when it became me being pregnant, I couldn’t do four hours of sleep anymore. At that time I was put on some government assisted programs, and they had referred me to come out to Metro Tech Aviation because I already had automotive. When I enrolled, they told me about Metro Tech’s foundations. They had told me about welfare, some of the welfare foundations, and I was able to get on almost every single one of them. So when I got out here, my tools, my books, my certifications, my class – everything was paid for. All I had to do was come to school and learn and then go home and be happy.
Rob: And while school was paid for, it still takes money to live.
Lippincott: I mean, I still had bills that I had to pay, and I didn’t have a nighttime job because I really couldn’t do that with my son. While I was struggling, one of my teachers, Mr. Hensley, told me that Metro Tech Foundation still had other benefits that I could benefit from. He told me that they could help me pay for gas and rent. So I called and told them the stuff that I was going through. I proved to them that I was having a hard time, and they helped me pay for rent, and they actually paid for my gas for a while. So I was able to go through school. I didn’t have to get a second job. When I got done here, I had applied to Tinker eight months before I got, I graduated here, and right when I graduated they sent me a letter saying, “We’d like you to come work for us. Your start date is Oct. 6.” And so Oct. 6, I started at Tinker.
Rob: And Porsha’s career took off.
Lippincott: Other than the awesome amount of money you could make -- which is awesome -- you have people that are grateful. You have pilots that will come shake your hand. You have military people that respect you because you are willing to put forth that effort to help make sure that these airplanes fly and that they can support our war fighters. And I think that’s the best feeling ever. If you put a lot of effort into this, you’re going to go far because people are going to appreciate you. You may not think so when you first get out there, but they’re going to appreciate you for what you’ve done.
Rob: In fact, thanks to Porsha’s suggestions, mechanics at Tinker now use a different approach when repairing these simple electrical wires.
Lippincott: Well, these wires, individually, there is three on the inlets, and they cost roughly around, with the connectors, $3,000 a piece. So, and we were doing 12 to 20 inlets a month, and we were cutting out every single one of them. What I had thought about was, why don’t we just a piece of fiberglass tape on it, and then wrap it with safety wire in a way that couldn’t come apart, and what it came out to it was $2.5 million dollars that I had saved, and that’s annually. And the fiberglass and the safety wire doesn’t cost anything, so, and now it’s actually in the books as a repair. You know, thank you for helping me, now I’m helping you back to all those people that have helped fund me in the long run. I know I can’t just write them a big fat check saying, oh, here’s for all the years you’ve helped me. But hopefully, you know, if I can continue to keep saving money at Tinker, it’s just going to go right back in their pockets, and they’re going to be like, wow, I’ve made so much money this year. I’ll just donate some more.