Airplanes and Engineering – What’s Not to Like About That?

A message from Pennoni’s Vice President, E. Michael McCarthy

I have always loved airplanes. It all began when I took my first commercial flight with my parents from Syracuse, NY to Philadelphia, PA in 1965. Dad worked for GE at the time and was being transferred to King of Prussia, PA. After that, I built plastic models of every plane I could find and even had one of those gas-powered planes that you could fly around in a circle until you got too dizzy. After graduating from Penn State, I got married and moved to Columbus, OH to work for an engineering firm downtown. I was thrilled to find out that our neighbor was a district manager for Cessna and had access to a brand new C172 demo plane. [Editor’s Note: The Cessna 172 Skyhawk is an American four-seat, single-engine, high wing, fixed-wing aircraft made by the Cessna Aircraft Company.] I flew with Scott every chance I could get. Before long, it occurred to me that an airplane like that could be utilized by an engineering firm to expand its market and serve new clients.

It wasn’t until I moved to Clearwater, FL and started my own consulting firm that I could finally act on that idea. I was at a construction meeting one day in 1990 and the contractor told me he had just started flying lessons. I called his instructor that same day and started training in a C172. I passed the private pilot check ride in 1991 and got my instrument rating soon after. I’ve owned several aircraft over the years and currently fly a turbocharged Cirrus SR22. [Editor’s Note: The Cirrus SR22 is a single-engine four- or five-seat composite aircraft made by Cirrus Aircraft. See photo on the left.] Cirrus is a very advanced airplane with a ballistic parachute system that lowers the entire plane down to the ground in the event of a catastrophic emergency [Editor’s Note: see photo below right]. My wife likes that.

The benefits of flying are much more than I ever imagined:

  1. I can fly to our Delray Beach office or our Tallahassee office from Clearwater and back the same day, often with Florida’s RVP, Nelson Shaffer acting as co-pilot.
  2. I can meet with our clients from Key West to Georgia on a moment’s notice.
  3. I can fly into small airports close to the destination and they often bring the rental car right out to the plane after landing.
  4. I travel on my own schedule.
  5. No long lines at TSA!
  6. It is a great way to differentiate ourselves from the competition.

People often ask if I’ve ever had any scary moments after flying almost 30 years. The simple answer is “no”. I maintain the airplane meticulously, have a healthy respect for weather, and am never afraid to cancel a flight when things just don’t seem right.

Well okay, there was that one time when I borrowed a doctor friend’s Piper Saratoga [Editor’s Note: The Piper Saratoga is a six-seat, high-performance, single engine, all-metal fixed-wing aircraft produced by Piper Aircraft] for a trip to Fort Myers. Flying back that night, I lowered the landing gear on final approach back at my home airport and only got 2 green lights (hint: there should be 3). The gear over-ride procedure was unsuccessful, so I declared an emergency and made an uneventful landing with fire trucks lining the runway. It turns out the landing gear hydraulic pump had failed.

I am so fortunate to be able to fly and every time I climb into the cockpit, I feel that same excitement I had as a kid.


E. Michael McCarthy, PE

Mike McCarthy serves as Vice President and is responsible for the continued growth and success of the Clearwater, Delray Beach, and Tallahassee offices through the management of client relationships and business development efforts. His engineering expertise includes more than 40 years of structural analysis, design and construction of both new and renovation projects throughout the country and internationally. Mike is a recognized expert in the design of buildings located in high wind hurricane zones and flood hazard areas.

For more information, contact Mike McCarthy at


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