FRCSW’s Keith Finch is pictured with his father Bill aboard the USS Midway Museum in January 2017. The Finch's have a combined service on Naval Air Station North Island totaling more than 70 years. Bill Finch retired as a planner and estimator (P&E) in 1987, and Keith will retire July 1, 2022, while assigned to F-18 and EA-18G fuel cell materials engineering support. (Courtesy photo)

Finch Family Supports FRCSW, Navy

In 1979, musician Hank Williams Jr. wrote a song entitled “Family Tradition” which offered listeners his perspective of life in the music world, and how, like his famous father, he fits in.

Keith Finch also has a “Family Tradition.” But it’s not musical. 

The Finch’s tradition is one of service. Service to the nation, to the Navy and Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW). Service that totals 70 years to date and counting.

“My father Bill started at Naval Air Station (NAS) North Island in 1952 as an apprentice mechanic,” said Finch, who is a materials engineering technician. “He retired in 1987 as a Planner and Estimator (P&E) in customer service with 33 years -- two years enlisted with the Army and 31 years at NAS North Island.”

As a mechanic, Bill Finch worked on two single-propeller aircraft: the torpedo bomber TBM Avenger that debuted at the Battle of Midway, and the Corsair F-4U fighter used during World War II and the Korean War. He also worked on the twin-propeller S-2F anti-submarine warfare aircraft. 

“My father encouraged me to seek a career in government service and is my inspiration. He was good at his work as a P&E, and I was fortunate to see him work,” Finch said.

The actions of his father had a lasting effect on Keith, introducing him to the notions of teamwork and dedication. 

“He did whatever was asked of him. At his career end, for example, the command had an aircraft mechanic shortage and sent a request for anyone with experience to help for a short period. Even though he had not been an aircraft mechanic in 25 years, he volunteered working the F-4 Phantom. Little things like this had a big influence on me.”

A native San Diegan, Keith Finch began his federal career at North Island in 1978 as a temporary sheet metal helper after graduating high school.

He turned the opportunity into a career, advancing to sheet metal mechanic at the then-Naval Air Rework Facility (NARF) where he worked on F-4 aircraft. 

Four years later, Finch changed jobs to a sheet metal loftsman toolmaker, designing and manufacturing tooling fixtures from blueprints in Building 472.

His skill in design would later transfer when he transitioned in 1990 to a materials engineering technician in aircraft tires. 

During the next 32 years, while NARF had undergone name changes to Naval Aviation Depot (NADEP) North Island, and ultimately FRCSW in 2006, Finch had earned the position as the Materials Engineering Technician, Aircraft Tire Fleet Support Team (FST) and Program Manager. 

“The Aircraft Tire FST is unique as it is not affiliated with any aircraft-specific FST. I am responsible for the world-wide in-service engineering support for 53 different tires on 31 Navy and Marine Corps aircraft,” he said.

Finch said that working to minimize aircraft tire failures was perhaps his greatest contribution to the Navy during his career. Tire failures may lead to landing gear, engine and airframe damage, and cause extended downtime for an aircraft. 

“For the first seven years in the tire program we averaged 35 aircraft tire Engineering Investigations (EIs) per year. By systematically evaluating the failure modes, I worked with the tire manufacturers on new design/materials and re-qualifications. For the last 20 years, we have averaged four EIs per year and two per year the last seven years. This has direct impact on Warfighter readiness and cost savings,” he said.

Finch is also the technical authority for three NAVAIR General Series aircraft tire, tube and wheel manuals. 

But his expertise extends beyond the Navy to commercial concerns and safety. Since 2007 he has represented the Navy at the Society of Aerospace Engineers conference as Chairperson of the A-5C “In-Service Aircraft Tire Issues” panel, which addresses both world-wide commercial and military tire-related issues and improvements.

In 2013 Finch’s role in materials engineering expanded to FA-18 and EA-18G fuel cells support. 

“This includes the evaluation and investigation of fuel cell discrepancies, and providing technical responses to squadrons, PMA-265, the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA), fuel cell manufacturers and FRCSW artisans,” he said.

On July 1, the 62-year-old Finch will retire after more than 44 years of service to the command.  

Of the changes to occur during his career, he said that gains in equality and respect for teammates are the most positive, and that “…our diversified workforce has made FRCSW stronger.”

In the meantime, his sons Daniel and Zachary are well into their federal careers.

Since 2012, Zachary, 35, has worked as a federal meteorologist in Salt Lake City.

Daniel, 33, holds a degree in environmental studies from U.C. Santa Barbara and worked for the FRCSW Environmental Support Office (AESO) for two years as a federal contractor.

He is currently an environmental consultant in air quality compliance, and works with Naval Base Coronado’s Environmental Department conducting monthly audits of North Island squadrons. 

He has conducted similar audits onboard ships at NAS North Island, Naval Base San Diego and Naval Base Point Loma.

“Since 1952 the Finch’s have provided U.S. Navy support at FRCSW North Island,” Finch said. “Our family is very proud of our FRCSW careers and what we have been able to accomplish for the Navy. My son Daniel carries on this support.”

And a family tradition continues.

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