*** The GE Field Engineering Program is 50 Years Old!***
Once you become a Turbine Cowboy, click open FEP Member's List here to find your page or search for other FEP grads who have registered. You can correspond with them directly via their email addresses in the right-side column! Find a long lost buddy or someone who still owes you rent $$$ from your FEP days in Schenectady! :-) Use the SEARCH tool at the top right to find old friends mentioned herein. Also, we suggest you use the NORMAL or LARGE text option at the top right for better viewing.
Please click on your individual HOME PAGE and provide a BRIEF BIO including your FEP Class Year, district office, field career years, current job and company, family and other items of interest. To do this click on "my folder", select view, then select edit. Delete what is in the box and type in your own BIO.
NOTICE: Turbine Cowboy has ABSOLUTELY NO affiliation with General Electric Company! The Big Bulb's crack staff of "website watchdogs" have threatened us, making us disavow any association with The General. As if there could be any doubt, TC.com is solely the innovation of two fun-loving, FEP grads (Dave Lucier & Charlie Pond) who want to share field engineering experiences with other so-called M&N Flangeheads and E&E Spark Chasers. We know that the lives of field engineers are far TOO WEIRD to be taken seriously!
Why was the Turbine Cowboy website created?
Turbine Cowboy was created to salute FEP-trained field engineers and their field work. Think of it as the FEP Yearbook we never had! We invite graduates of both mechanical & electrical Field Engineering Programs to visit the site and contribute their stories and photos. As you have experienced, when you get a few field engineers together, tall tales begin to flow (embellished, for sure). Laughs soon follow. Other listeners (like wives, girlfriends or both, if you have both) can't relate to the sick humor of our career. It always generates some STRANGE looks from them too!
The unique careers of field engineers need to be recorded for antiquity (and perhaps the FBI). Please upload any true stories, FEP class photos and other candid pictures. The site is R-rated, of course. After all, we are field engineers! However, site administrators might have to reject some X-Rated photos and edit some of the greasier stories (for the field language, not for content).
Turbine Cowboy is the brainchild of Dave Lucier and Charlie Pond. Most of the FEP grads of the late 1970s and early 1980s will likely remember us. For those who don’t (or who have lost their memories), Dave started as a FEP grad (1968), instructor (1977-1980) and became the first FEP manager of the Mechanical Program (1980-1983). He managed entry-level steam & gas turbine training. Charlie was an FEP grad in (1978), who later became an instructor (1980-85). Both say that the most rewarding job they ever had was teaching at the FEDC.
This site is linked to the company we started: PAL Turbine Services, LLC. Please visit the PAL website: www.pondlucier.com and see what we've been up to since leaving The General. We currently have 15 FEP grads on the PAL staff and affiliates, with many other ex-GE guys and gals to provide services on GE turbines/generators. Three PAL staff engineers passed away recently: Raymond Duell, Robin Ashley and Charlie Pond.
Why the name Turbine Cowboy?
An FEP grad in the late-1970s named, Dennis Ledbetter, was also an accomplished country & western guitar player and singer. He wrote and recorded a C&W song in 1981 called "TURBINE COWBOY" It was a 45-rpm disc (remember those?). Listen to Turbine Cowboy by Dennis Ledbetter
TURBINE COWBOY obviously plays on the popular John Travolta movie of that era: Urban Cowboy. We field engineers often look upon our careers (the work and travel) as if we are COWBOYS, roaming the world to work on TURBINES and generators.
Send an email to Dennis at firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase an autographed copy of his new CD “IF YOU DRIVE ME TO DRINKIN' (I'll buy the gas).” The CD includes a new version of The Turbine Cowboy.
Origins of the GE Mechanical Field Engineering Program (FEP) by Dave Lucier
In 1966, the Installation & Service Engineering (I&SE) Division started the Field Engineering Program (FEP). There were actually two programs: Mechanical and Electrical. The goal was to train field engineers to work on the installation and maintenance of power generation and industrial products. These engineers would replace turbine erectors and generator specialists sent out from the factory to work on equipment.
The Mechanical-Nuclear FEP was first managed by Joe Markey, himself a former steam turbine erector. The training facility at the time (1966) was located in Building 28 on the 5th floor. This building was headquarters of the Switchboard Department and located near the railroad tracks on South Ave inside the Main Plant in Schenectady, NY. The program remained based there for about six years, until a new facility, called the Field Engineering Development Center (FEDC), was constructed in 1974 at 2690 Balltown Road, Niskayuna, NY. Markey remained the program manager when it moved to Niskayuna. The new faciltiy was tucked away back from Balltown Road and was also called Building 600.
In the mid-1970s, the FEP staff grew considerably under Markey. Dave Lucier, an instructor hired in 1977, was promoted to be the first FEP manager for the mechanical program in 1980, still under Markey. Dave's responsibilities included entry-level, field engineering training on both gas and steam turbines. NOTE: The Nuclear FEP was shifted to San Jose, CA a year before.
The Mechanical FEP program was expanded to 18 weeks including:
- 1 week Orientation
- 4 weeks Mechanical Principles
- 2 weeks Electrical Fundamentals
- 5 weeks Gas Turbine Technology
- 5 weeks Steam Turbine Technology
In 1979, the FEDC building was expanded, allowing the Electrical & Electrical FEP to move into the new wing. This also freed up the mechanical lab to allow more turbine hardware. There were several steam turbines in the lab already. A marine TG set came in 1980, and in 1984, the FEDC got its first gas turbine. It was a 1962-era MS5001D purchased (purchased for scrap) from Delmarva Power & Light in Dover, Delaware.
The mechanical lab area had several supervisors over the years. All were ex-GE field engineers including Andy Tomko, Don Simmons, Dave Couse & Dave Smith. The lab grew in activities and importance to the FEP. Many “hands on” work stations were developed to train the FEP members with real-world experiences. Peter Morley and Paul Matula were lab tecnicians during this era.
The Advanced Technical Training (ATT) programs were managed by Hal Parker, a former steam turbine start-up engineer. Often referred to as Level II training, field engineers were brought back to the FEDC for higher-level training, including such one-week schools as: steam and gas turbine maintenance and Speedtronic, MHC and EHC controls. Also, courses for the Gas and Steam Turbine Start-up Programs were taught at the FEDC.
Under Markey in the 1980s, the staff grew to 31 individuals, including 18 instructors, two managers, a lab supervisor, several lab assistants, and three secretaries. Ann Fossella was the FEP coordinator and the late Anne Nagy was the secretary (and second mother to many FEPs). This FEP team trained approximately 1000 FEP grads during a seven-year period from 1976 to 1983. To identify some of the instructors during the "FEP Hey Day," there were: Ralph McCreadie, Bob Morris and Walter Wintergerst. In mid-1970s, Doug Lemmo, Barry Knickerbocker, Hal Parker, Andy Tomko and Dave Lucier were hired. Around 1980, the staff grew significantly when Peter Runyon, Dave Smith, Dave Couse, Al Shuman, John Mitchell, Charlie Pond, Rick O'Reilly, Lee Wilkerson, Terry Hutson, Joe Armstrong and Chuck Henry joined the staff. In mid-1980s, people like Dean Slack, Denise Palumbo and Reiner Schumacher replaced some of the earlier staffers when they moved on to other jobs. (I'm sure I missed several names. Please forgive me.)
The Level II staff during the early 1980s was managed by Hal Parker and included: Marc Eggenberger, Dick Abel, Rick Reffitt, Dietmar Breitkreuz, Frank Scovello, Dave Nilsen & Louise Halle (O'Reilly). They also participated significantly in training FEP classes in support of entry-level staff. The mechanical lab, with old turbines in the high bay and the hydraulics lab, were a vital part of the "hands on" training of the FEP. The labs filled the void for most FEPs who were deficient in their "how to" knowledge. Andy Tomko often reminded the guys with the motto: "To measure is to know," quoting Lord Kelvin.
Markey retired in 1986. He was succeeded by Louise (Halle) O'Reilly. From 1990-94, the slot was filled by John Vanderhoef, himself a FEP grad. The likes of Pete Oehman, Hugh Miles & Matt Chamberlin continued the string into the turn of the century.
In 1982, the name of the building was changed to Training & Development Center. Much to the chagrin of FEP grads over the years, the words "Field Engineering" were noticeably dropped from the Center's name. This change was done because other training (human resources stuff) was now being done in the facility, and GE Management wanted a more inclusive name. The FEDC no longer existed. A sad day for field engineers.
Around the year 2000, the facility became known as the Power Systems University. To many, this seemed an absurd name change, since no accredited degrees were granted to graduates of any of the programs. In the late 1970s, however, the FEP applied for accreditation from NY State. The FEP was evaluated and 16 undergraduate college credits were allowed for some engineering-degree programs, primarily because of the mechanical and electrical lab sessions and the written testing that was done during the FEP. We recall, that Frank Scovello is the only FEP grad (former steam turbine instructor) who has ever applied for college credits.
If you drive by the FEDC today (hmmmm. FEDC? Habits are hard to break!), you'll only see a sign that reads: 2690 Balltown Road. There is no reference to training at all. I guess this is a consequence of the terror of 9/11 and the current security mentality. Got to keep those FEP members from danger. Of course, the job itself of working on turbines hasn't gotten any safer for GE field engineers, as we observe. We ask, "Anyone want to install a turbine in the Middle East these days?"
According to the late Denise Palumbo, the current name of the building is the Energy Learning Center. I guess every time GE changes its image, they have to change the name of its training center!
In closing, the Field Engineering Program (FEP) began in 1966 and has enjoyed a 50-year lifespan, so far. The FEDC name is no more. However, we want to honor the nearly five decades of the program coming up soon in the year 2016. Let’s hope the FEP survives many more years. In recent years, the facility on Balltown Road closed and the FEP moved its training center to Houston, Texas.
Enjoy the website www.turbinecowboy.com!
Later, please visit www.pondlucier.com
Last modified Friday, Feb-10-2017 04:04 PM