Maintenance manager Rudy Capistrano is also known for his artistic pursuits
Author Pete Rapalus
Rudy Capistrano is a man who understands order. As our aircraft maintenance manager in Guam, he oversees an operation with 69 technicians, 18 maintenance supervisors and 15 or more departures a day. In this standards-driven industry, it’s essential that he go by the book and inspire his co-workers to understand and insist upon conformity and compliance.
However, Capistrano is also a man who understands chaos. As a musician and a photographer, he has learned that once he has mastered the rules, all bets are off; those rules can be bent, even broken, in the pursuit of art.
“Aircraft maintenance is all about absolute values,” Capistrano says. “With music, there are rules, especially in the beginning, but when you know the rules, then you can go out and break them and be creative.”
Guam is a small community, and Capistrano is well known here as the lead guitarist for the popular bar and party band Passenger 3. (The other two members are not airline people; the name was chosen essentially at random.) Passenger 3 is the weekly house band at one of Guam’s top nightclubs, and they play numerous other gigs—usually rock and pop standards but occasionally jazz and other genres. Capistrano has been studying guitar since long before he became a mechanic, and he cites Stevie Ray Vaughn and Waltham, Massachusetts, jazz guitarist and teacher Gerry Beaudoin as major influences.
“Everybody has heard of Stevie Ray,” Capistrano says. “I think they should seek out more information about Gerry. He was my teacher, and I was young. I just wanted to play rock ’n’ roll guitar. I don’t think I really appreciated his music then, but now, when I listen to the recordings, I am amazed at what a master I had for a teacher.”
Capistrano was born in the Philippines and later moved to Massachusetts, and as an adult he decided to move back to Manila and take up contract aircraft maintenance. He ended up with a firm that serviced Continental Air Micronesia cargo planes, and that led to a job offer from CMI in 1997. He moved to Guam and has worked for us there ever since, rising through the ranks to become manager and quickly falling in love with the island and its people.
“To me, Guam is a kind of a hybrid of Asian and Western cultures, and I was welcomed by the people here in a way that never really happened in the U.S. or when I went back to Manila,” says Capistrano, who also works as a freelance photographer for the Pacific Daily News and other clients. “The truth is, I never felt 100 percent accepted on the mainland, and I was worried at first when I moved here that I would be another ‘outsider.’ But they welcomed me—what a world of difference in warmth and hospitality from anywhere else I’ve lived.”
And the United work, while bound by rules and regulations, is far from mundane or boring, he says. In addition to a steady stream of flights to and from Asian cities and Hawaii, there are frequent charters, medical evacuation flights and the unique “Island Hopper” that connects Guam with Honolulu via four or five (depending on the day of the week) small islands and atolls in the Marshall Islands and Micronesia.
“He makes his job look so easy,” says Guam Airport Operations General Manager Meg Parangalan. “He takes the time to explain the work being done in very simple, easy-to-comprehend ways. We all feel like Rudy is the brother you can call anytime if you need your airplane fixed—just like if you’re broken down in the middle of the road and you need someone to come help fix your car.”
Capistrano also was able to take part in the 2013 and 2015 charters that took Iwo Jima veterans and their travel companions to that historic island for anniversary “Reunion of Honor” ceremonies on the single day each year the Japanese allow such visits.
“So many people gave their lives for that island,” Capistrano says. “Just being around these veterans and talking to them, you realize what they went through trying to survive on that island, and I realize all my problems are quite small compared to what they were going through when they were on this same island 70 years ago.”