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A Day In the Life of One Drone Pilot and Jobsite Superintendent

May 23, 2022

Jan Ahner doesn’t leave for work without a 24oz cup of coffee for the 5:50 am departure to drive to the jobsite. His busy day kicks into high gear as soon as he arrives on site so that extra boost of caffeine is necessary! Once the morning routine of getting the field office open, checking email for project updates from the night before, touching base with subcontractors and identifying any construction issues or safety concerns that need to be addressed, it is time to move into the rest of the day.

Jan’s day-to-day to-do list is driven by questions in need of answering by the design team, and issues with dimensions, logistics or schedule constraints. And that’s all before lunchtime.

Working in a fast pace, changing environment is something that Jan is accustomed to. He joined the United States Air Force (USAF) after high school and trained to be an Aircraft Armament Systems Technician. In that role he was part of a Load Crew that loaded bombs, missiles, guns, and Chaff and Flare countermeasures on multiple jets. 

Today in his role as a Commercial Construction Jobsite Superintendent for Alvin H. Butz, Jan has been a Superintendent on some iconic projects including the PP&L Arena.

“I was in charge of the 2-floor fit-out of the Gym and rehabilitation center for Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN). It posed a lot of challenges with the design and the time frame allotted.” 

He also enjoyed completing the newly renovated Children’s Hospital at LVHN on Cedar Crest Blvd, which posed several types of challenges and attention to detail because “you are working in an active hospital around the staff and some critically ill patients.” 

What does Jan find most challenging about his work? Keeping up up with the ever changing of technology and construction materials. “There is so much high tech involved with today’s construction – 3-D scanning buildings, prefab walls, and sub-assemblies. There is also a constant change of electronic programs and apps that help us track manpower, materials, scheduling and finances as well. You must be able to change with the times and stay on the cutting edge to stay competitive.”  

Lucky for Jan, he always enjoyed working with raw materials. Before joining the USAF, he studied Machine Technology in high school and when he separated from active duty in 1999, he joined Laborers Union 1174 and started working for Alvin H. Butz on the concrete crew. He worked his way up through the company, asking for more responsibilities and learning the various aspects of construction as he went. He became a Superintendent in 2012. “I have a total of 23 years with Butz, and I don’t plan to work for anyone else up to my retirement. They are a great company to work for!” 

Jan’s workday usually finishes the same way it begins, checking and responding to emails and then closing the job site before heading home. Off the clock, when he isn’t spending time outdoors with his family, he is honing his skills as a Drone Pilot. 

“I’ve had a fascination with flying planes since junior high school and became a Remote Control (RC) pilot back when I was 15 years old, building balsa wood gliders and flying them in farmers’ fields for a long time.” 

He started flying RC Helicopters in 2012 for the challenge because they were (and still are) the most difficult to fly. When drones came on the scene Jan was ready to try the new technology.  

“The Butz company offered to pay Drone Pilots to get certified through the FAA so we could fly them for the company legally to take pictures and videos of jobsites. I have been flying drones for them since. It’s a great tool in the construction industry, the different uses are endless! Even as a hobbyist they are great fun to fly and catch images and videos that many never get to see in person.”  

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