Delta retiree and veteran lacrosse ref gets top honor for mechanics

Luis Diaz, a veteran lacrosse official and a Delta Air Lines retiree who was featured in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Personal Journeys series in January, received a prestigious lifetime achievement award for mechanics from the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday.

Called the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award, the honor recognizes the accomplishments of senior mechanics. Taylor served as the Wright brothers’ mechanic and is credited with designing and building the engine for their first successful aircraft. Diaz’s former boss at Delta nominated him for the honor.

A Marietta resident, Diaz, 73, graduated from the Aviation Career and Technical Education High School in New York in 1961, served in the Marine Corps and then worked for Pan American World Airways before it shut down in 1991. At Delta, Diaz — who goes by "Louie" — worked as a lead technician and work center supervisor, retiring three years ago. He has officiated four sports — basketball, football, lacrosse and soccer — for more than four decades.

The Charles Taylor award was also presented to Joseph Lino of Fayetteville and Robert Parker of Sharpsburg Thursday during a ceremony at the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta.

“It specifically recognizes a relatively minute number of airmen who have contributed over 50 years in the aircraft maintenance profession,” Michael Mullaney of the FAA said at the ceremony. “Their dedicated service, technical expertise and enduring contribution in the field of aviation safety have been invaluable to furthering the mission and goals of the FAA.”

Diaz thanked his wife, Carmen, and his former Delta colleagues, who cheerfully recognized him by performing a wave in the audience and shouting “Louie!” before the start of the ceremony.

“I would like to thank Delta Air Lines for a great career,” Diaz said. “And most important, my crew. They are the ones who put me here and made my life beautiful. I really appreciate them being here. Thank you very much for all you have done for me.”