Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Veteran Tool Spot Light-Ford Wrench (by request)

The lowly Ford Wrench. What can I say? It's heavy, awkward, loud, and often rusty. It sits on the bottom of your Line Bag or Toolbox waiting for that one time that it is needed a year. It's not the sexiest looking tool around and won't win any beauty contests. But that one time, oh that one time, when nothing else will work that Ford Wrench will be your savior. Let's start with a little background.
The Ford Wrench as we know it was the original Monkey Wrench. Where the term Monkey Wrench came from I do not know but the wrench is a Ford Motor Company original. This wrench was supplied in the 1929(?) Ford Model A tool kit. Of course people soon figured out that it could be used for any number of jobs on the car or anywhere for that matter. Fast forward 80 years and the wrench we all know is still known as a Ford Wrench.
As far as Line Maintenance the Ford Wrench is a must have. I have seen them long, short, even tiny but they all had one thing in common: they are built to last. My Ford Wrench is a little shy of 10" long with a maximum jaw opening of 2 1/2". My wrench looks like its about 50 years old and I have no idea how old it is. I think I got it from a guy at Delta Airlines but I can't remember. My wrench has no company insignia on it, in fact it has no markings at all on it except a tiny M in a circle. I have no idea who makes it or where it came from. Here is what I do know:
My Ford Wrench has helped me out of quite a few tight spots. When you need a large wrench 1 plus inch, there are times when a typical open end wrench won't fit. The nut or more typically hydraulic, fuel, oil, pneumatic, fitting is in a spot that the open end or even angle wrench can not get a good bite on it. We out on the Line call this the "angle of the dangle". There are just some times when the angle of the dangle is such that the Ford Wrench seems to be the only tool that will work. The Ford Wrench has no fancy angles associated with it, 90 degrees and that's it.
When you first start out you may not have all the wrenches that you may need. Now a days who has the money to go out and buy every open end wrench and angle wrench and stubby wrench on the market. A Ford Wrench will work on everything from 0"-2 1/2" (in my case) and I have seen some that open way wider than that.
Remember the MagLite post? It seems that we all need to beat something at some time and no one carries a hammer. Line guys do not carry hammers in their bags. They may have one in their toolbox in the shop or carry one one their golf carts like I do but they do not carry hammers in their Line bags. As I mentioned earlier these Ford Wrenches are heavy metal and often stand in for that missing hammer. I would bet that guys use them more for hitting tools than as a wrench.
Working the Line is all about thinking on your feet. The truly good Line Mechanics do not run back and forth from the airplane to their toolbox in the shop. They use what they have and some common sense to fix the problem. The Ford Wrench is one of those tools that allow you to do just that. Sure it's not the first tool people think of as a must have and often times it won't cross our minds at all until that one moment when you look at a job and the thought goes through your mind, "I bet I can get my Ford Wrench on that".

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Veteran Tool Spotlight! Speed Handle

The other day at work we got to talking about tools and speed handles came up. It's funny how many guys do not carry a speed handle with them. When you are away from the shop, using a cordless drill, and the battery dies that speed handle comes in handy. If you do not have one you will have to get back on your golf cart, tug, or truck and drive all the way back to the shop to pick up a battery for your drill. Me, I prefer to carry a speed handle that way I can take out those few screws (because as you know the drill always dies when you only have one or two screws to go).

The other thing that a speed handle is very good for is removing stripped screws. The handle gives you the ability to apply pressure while maintaining control over how much torque you put on the head of the screw. In short you have much more control over a speed handle than you do over a drill motor. Often times when working with someone who only uses drills I will be turning my screws with my speed handle and will hear that tell tale sound of a apex bit in a drill tearing up a screw head.

Before you run out and purchase a speed handle at Sears or Loews you need to know some ugly truths about the current generation of speed handles. The current speed handles basically suck. The newer speed handles have straight handles which are impossible to "lean" on in order to apply a good amount of pressure onto a screw. All the old speed handles have round handles that you can place your shoulder against and really lean into the work at hand. Why they changed the handles I'm not sure, but it seems that all the manufacturers have gone with the straight handles. One guy told me that people were getting injured leaning on the tools so the companies changed the way they make them to stop this practice. If that is the case it just goes to show you that even something that is designed perfectly can be corrupted by people complaining about getting hurt when it was likely something they did incorrectly to get themselves hurt. So to get your hands on an older speed handle you will have to cruise the swap meets or used tool stores.

Out on the line a 1/4" speed handle is the way to go. Most of the guys carry a full 1/4" socket set so it will allow you to work with your sockets. A bit holder is needed to use your apex bits but those are usually supplied by the company. I use a 3/8" speed handle. I like the extra size and it allows me to put even more pressure on screws, etc. When I first started at SWA we had mostly 300 series aircraft and a 3/8" speed handle allows you to put the Thrust Reverser lock out pins in quickly. As any of you who have locked out a 300 Thrust Reverser out know it takes some time and the speed handle makes it go a little quicker and allows you to put a lean on those pins when they don't quite line up. My 3/8" speed handle also fits into the manual start hole in the engine cowl and allows me to open the start valve manually. I know the 700 series has TR lock out pins that are made for 1/4" ratchets but they also line up a lot better than the old 300 ones do.

I have an old Craftsman model that I was lucky enough to find at a Flea Market. If I remember correctly it cost me $3.00! Since I bought it about 15 years ago I have removed countless screws, hundreds of panels, and saved numerous screw heads and therefore a bunch of time by going the "slow" route and using my speed handle instead of a drill. Remember this is a game of time, if I can get screws out with out having to drill and east out them I save myself time and frustration. I'm not saying to fore sake your drill but first break out your speed handle and give each screw a turn or two to break them loose before you go back and remove them the rest of the way with your drill. Another way you can practice Zen Maintenance! Don't rush! Patience!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Show Me The Money

For those of you who are thinking about getting into this business, wondering about if there is any money to be made. The answer is mostly no. Companies are cutting back and farming out the labor to contract companies such as Tramco in Seattle. Pay is down and benefits are being whittled away. There is, however, one way to make some money working on airplanes at an airline. In order to make decent money you have to be willing to work weekends and holidays.

Working the weekends is like a fact of life in the airline industry. Until your seniority is built up, which is going to take a while, you will most likely have weekdays off. Even those guys who have weekends off will have to work some weekends if they really want to be in a money making position. It always seems like things are breaking on the weekends, we on the line attribute this to low seniority flight crews. The work is lousy and often times sucks real bad but it is what it is-an opportunity to make some cash.

Another idiosyncrasy about the airline biz is working on holidays. Most guys want off on holidays and have put vacation days in the book. While this may seem unfair it is also an opportunity for those of us who want to work a little extra to make some extra pay. Holidays like Christmas are a great for situations such as this. Mechanics call in sick and those on vacation leave a vacuum for those willing to work.

So if someone asks if there is any money in this industry let them know: Sure but you will have to be willing to work when most people don't want to.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Another Cool Tool

I was at work the other day (big surprise) and we got a call for a plane that was already fully loaded and ready to push. The forward cargo door had a small issue, when the rampers closed the door it could be pushed OPEN with just a good bump. Well of course it turned out that the door was not closing all the way and the door rollers were not turning when the handle was moved in the closed direction.

So another mechanic and I got inside to open the back of the door up. This guy is kind of our door specialist and knows how to rig and work on the doors, etc. Well he broke out his drill and started to take the panels off. Make a long story short after we were done and the plane was fixed (it made it's flight by the way) he showed me his set of DeWalt bits that he used to fix the plane. They are black almost like impact bits and are not really bits but sockets that can be chucked into the drill. He got them in a set from 1/4" up to 9/16" (I think). The unique thing about these sockets is that they had a collar on the shank that you could pull up and the thing turned into a wobble type set-up. Pushing the collar back down locked the bit and it could be used as normal. The walls of the bits were not too fat like those you see on some cheap-o tools and they had magnets in them to hold nuts or bolts, etc.

I will try to get a picture up of them soon and I will be looking out for them at the store.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Old Metal

Not really old but still a cool plane: the BAE-146. PSA used to fly these little guys into Concord Airport. Thanks again Picard.

It seems like when you search for classic jet liners you always end up with a picture of a Pan Am jet. I think Pan Am must be the most photographed airline. Thanks Picard for the pic!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I can get to the blog from the work computers again! There must have been something on one of the ads that SWA filters did not like. Hopefully you guys will keep on checking it out.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Found A Cool Website

I was searching around for some more info to put up on the blog for my Throw Back Month (December) when I ran across this web site. The site is called "The Boeing 737 Technical Site" and is now listed in my link section. I like it because it has some good info on all the 737 dash types and has some really good pics. Also on the site is a virtual walk around for all you new mechanics and even a quiz on systems that you can torture yourself with. All in all a pretty cool site.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Remember the 200s?

I consider myself lucky because when I first got hired on at SWA we still had 737-200s. They were old and cantankerous but most everyone loved them. The flight crews loved them because they were fast. "It's a real jet" as they told me, and apparently they flew pretty fast. We had a cadre of older flight crews who only flew the 200s, I guess that was their favorite.
On the maintenance side it was a pretty simple plane. No E&E bay jammed with computers oh no, the E&E bay had something like 8 or 10 boxes and a simple auto pilot system. I remember the Roll Computer and there must have been a Yaw Computer or something like that. They were made of METAL (remember that stuff?). You could beat that plane with a hammer and it would be ok, you could walk on almost any surface and it would be ok. There were mechanics who loved working the JT-8s. I never had a chance to do much on them but add oil and do simple service checks and A checks. The senior guys really liked the old birds and seemed to know every nut and bolt, all the tricks to get them humming. One of the coolest moments was when I first got my taxi ticket and got to taxi the 200s around (they were fast). As with all things time brings about change and in 1997-8(?) SWA decided to stop using 737-200s all together. For those of us who had the privilege to work on those graceful jets the memories will last a life time. A pure jet. A money maker. A legend.

Travel Pic From CT

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Old Maintenance Pictures

I like to surf and download pictures of mechanics working on planes back in the day. This picture is of one of Pan Am's hangars some where. Its pretty cool how much stuff has changed and at the same time how much stuff is the same. Anybody out there got any old maintenance snap shots that I can share with all?

Can You Speak Flight Crew?

A big part of being a Line Mechanic is talking to the flight crews and trying to decipher what they are telling you into something that we normal folks can understand. This may sound easy but let me tell you it can be very hard. When I first started working the line I had a hard time with listening to the flight crews and breaking down what they said into an action that I could take to fix the problem.

In essence the flight crews and the mechanics speak different languages. I wish I could say what their language is and give you a distinct break down of "this means that" but its not that easy. For the most part a flight deck is an auto-cratic work place, usually what ever the captain says goes (with-in reason of course). The flight crews are also trained to think quickly to solve or sometimes just to react to the situations that arise.

We as mechanics are much different. When we are working we are usually very accepting of other peoples advice. I know that I am aware that there is no way I could remember every trick or every system on the plane so I almost always ask for advice when I think I need it. We mechanics also have the luxury of time, time to think about a problem and just that problem until we come up with a solution.

There are times when you have to "gently" remind the captain or first officer that you are there because they called you. The flight crews often stay in that "this is my airplane" mode even after they are on the ground and seeking our help. This happens enough that I'm sure most of you have had an experience with the captain who says "you will do this" or "fix this or I'm not taking this plane" etc. While there is no set reaction to an attitude like this there are a few that I have used or seen used by other mechanics that seem to work. I have told crews that since the plane was on the ground and they called me it was in fact "my" plane until such time as I say they can have it back. This seems to work real good for the "macho" crews who are trying to keep you in your place. One time when I called for help over the radio a first officer asked me "how many mechanics does it take to change a light bulb?". I told him to watch what he says because "they trained a monkey to fly a spaceship". I have also told the flight crews that I would leave and they can call me back when they want to start listening to me. There have been captains that I have walked out on and let them rant on their own. I have seen other mechanics pull captains out onto the jetway steps and really lay into them.

For the most part the relationship between the crews and mechanics is very healthy, but as mechanics it is something we have to work on when we first start to work on the line. My main advice I give to new hires is to go to all the morning gate calls they can even if someone else is assigned the call. Doing this serves two purposes, first they can get used to the flight crews and start to understand the way they talk, second it shows them how more senior mechanics react to and intermingle with the flight crews.

If, as I have seen in the past, the mechanics do not work on this skill they lose a lot in the translation of what the flight crews are trying to say. If you are not clear as to what they want, then there is no way to address the problem. There is no reason to fear the flight crews and much of what they say is exactly what we do, but it is laid out in a different way. Remember the most important thing is to get that plane back in the sky safely and both work groups want that.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A New Milestone Has Been Reached By This Blog

I came to work the other day and went to check the blog on the company computer as I have always done. When I typed in the address I discovered that my blog is now blocked by Southwest Airlines for "streaming media". I do not know what that means and I do not have any streaming anything on my site but what the hey. Stay posted I'll keep it up.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Road Trips

Often times when you work as a Line Mechanic you are asked to go on the road to fix a plane. We say "road trip" although most of the time we fly to an out station that a plane is broken at. We in Oakland travel to San Jose, San Francisco, Sacramento, Reno, San Diego, Burbank, Orange County, Seattle, Portland, Spokane, Boisie and I'm sure there are some I'm forgetting.

Working on the road is everything being a Line Mechanic is about. Freedom, independence, pressure, pride of work, it all comes into play. The only difference is that the company is relying even more on you to get the job done and you have even fewer resources with which to do it. Often you only have what you brought. Parts, tools and equipment have to be thought out ahead of time based on the job at hand (this is where a good stores clerk comes in handy). We pack boxes with our tools and parts that we think will most likely fix the plane.

The obvious problem with this system is that there are times when the things we bring do not fix the plane. When this happens we have to communicate with the AOG desk and they can get us the parts or equipment we need most often by flying us more stuff.

I like going on road trips. I like the challenge. They are especially fun when you get to go with a mechanic that shares your working style. I have gone on probably a hundred road trips since I have been at SWA and a couple stand out for completely different reasons.

One day I flew down to San Diego for a hydraulic leak on the left wing. I went down there with one of the guys senior to me. We packed the usual stuff for a hydraulic leak, rags, the temp line kit, a good selection of wrenches, and lots of rags. We also packed one drill motor and a few (like 5 drill bits). So we get down to San Diego and go to the plane, turn it on, I clear him for hydraulics and a leak the size of Niagra Falls erupts from the left outboard flap area. In order to investigate further we drive the flaps down electrically and one of the larger hydraulic lines up in there is sawed almost in half by the aileron cable. One of the pulleys that the cable rides on broke allowing the cable to rest on the tube eventually cutting it. Well this line was like eight feet long. The line actually went from that area into the left pylon. Needless to say we had no pulleys and no line. The company got a pulley on the way to us and we got to work putting three or four temp lines together to create a line long enough for what we needed.

To get to the union inside the pylon we had to take off three panels on the pylon. As a lot of you know those screws don't just come out, most of them are painted over or stripped out. Remember we had one drill and 5 drill bits and ended with something like twenty screws to drill out! On top of that we had two easy outs that the other guy happened to find in the bottom of his tool bag. Around 3am we were down to our last drill bit and the drill was dying but we managed to drill out all the screws. We took turns resting while we fit the temp line and clamped it into place. At around 8am out pulley came in and once again we lucked out by having pulley blocks in our stuff. We finished around 1 or 2 pm and flew back completely filthy.

The other road trip that was memorable was a "simple" strut service in Sacramento. Me and my buddy drove up there expecting to pump up the strut and be all good. Once we got there we realized we had a bigger problem. All the fluid came out of the strut. Luckily there was some strut oil in the supply shed in Sacramento but we had no pump to put it into the strut. So we pumped the strut way high with nitrogen, cleaned to strut and lubriplated it (it was still legal to do that way back then) in hopes that we could clean and condition the seals enough that they would seal up again. We lowered the strut all the way down, and repeated this two or three times. The last time we lowered it and went to work trying to figure out how to get the fluid into the strut. So my buddy "finds" some hose that we can use and we jury rig a pump made out of an empty hand cleaner pump bottle. This thing only held like two or three ounces of fluid at at time but that s all we had. We took the service nipple off the strut, fed the hose in and began pumping. This process took quite a while but it worked. We put it all back together and pumped it full of nitrogen and it held.

Road trips can be challenging because of what you are going to fix and they can be challenging due to lack of parts and supplies. In either case it helps if you and the person you are with are on the same page when it comes to getting the job done. Remember the beauty is in the struggle!!

Hangar Life-thanks L for the pic!

The Meaning Of Christmas (Not A Religeous Post)

We mechanics love Christmas time. Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Ramadan, etc all mean the same thing to us-TOOLS!. It is so easy for our significant others to shop for us: Let's see what would he like? Can't think of anything...guess I'll buy some tools. I'm not complaining because I love tools. If my wife wants to buy me tools for my birthday, our anniversary, Christmas, whatever I'm all for it! In the next couple of weeks I would like to share some gift ideas (basically stuff we see in the tool section of the local hardware store). If you see anything interesting let me know and we can share it with everyone.

Friday, December 4, 2009

TSA Planning To Inspect Shops That Repair Jets

USA TODAY reporter Thomas Frank writes:
Thousands of airplane maintenance shops in the U.S. and abroad would get increased scrutiny to make sure they are not easy prey for terrorists looking to sabotage U.S. jets during routine repairs, a government proposal says. Some experts and lawmakers have warned for years about potential terrorist saboteurs infiltrating airplane repair shops, and have urged security oversight.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says the greatest danger is posed by repair shops that are on or next to airports because a terrorist could take control of an airplane. A TSA regulation proposed Monday would for the first time enable the agency to inspect airplane repair shops. If the TSA found a problematic repair shop, the agency would tell the Federal Aviation Administration to suspend the shop's operating license.
TSA Assistant Administrator Lee Kair said the new requirement "guards against the potential threat of an aircraft being destroyed or used as a weapon." The agency is soliciting public comments on the proposal and could finalize it later this year. Airplanes ranging from small recreational planes to wide-body jets are repaired at more than 4,200 shops across the U.S. as well as at 700 shops abroad, in countries such as France, Germany, Singapore, Egypt and Jordan.
The shops include small operations that fix seat cushions and massive complexes that overhaul engines. Some industry officials say lawmakers have overstated the potential threat posed by repair shops, noting that shops must be inspected and licensed by the FAA to work on U.S.-based planes.

Stores or Inventory Control

Its something that I never really thought of until I got my first job at an airline. When we work on airplanes we use a lot of parts. Keeping up with how many parts are used, how many parts are needed for the next nights work or even just the daily operation at a Line or Hangar Station is a very important job. Over the years I have known a lot of Stores Clerks and can not underestimate the importance of this job.

When I worked at a repair station overhauling engines I was responsibile for figuring out the parts I needed and ordering them. If I forgot to order something or it was not in stock it was a big deal for my engine so I took care to do a good job and it made me realise the importance of inventory control.

At Delta we had a tremendous stores system with robots and vacuum tubes etc. If you needed a part you went to the stores shack, ordered what you needed and most times in about an hour you had what you needed. When you work at a hangar you have the advantage of having most parts available to you.

Once I got to Ameriflight I was able to witness how stores operates in a Line type of station. Although we worked in a hangar we still ordered parts from our main base in Burbank allowing us to only keep the most used parts in our stores. The guys and gals in stores there were really good at keeping the place stocked with everything we needed and I do not remember many times when we had to wait on parts.

Here at Southwest we have no Hangar. The closest major base, as far as stores is concerned, is Pheonix. The art of keeping our base stocked is trickier here than at any other job I've been at. We use a tremendous amount of parts on a daily basis and our stores clerks have to be on top of their game to keep up with it. From lightbulbs, oil, window wash, slat actuators, ADI, MCPs, etc. It's a daily battle to stay ahead of it. When we do not have a part we order it from Dallas, or Houston, or Pheonix but that means the ac is down. At Southwest when we have a grounded plane we lose money. Southwest does not have a lot of spare aircraft like other airlines and generally uses all of the planes we have which puts even more responsibility on the stores clerks shoulders.

In my time I have known some really good stock clerks and some not so good ones. The way we operate it also helps when a stock clerk is willing to run parts to us at gate calls, look up effectivity, help us out when we have a road trip etc. Don't take the stock clerks for granted. They have a very important job and when you have a good stock clerk you definetley know it, when you do not have a good one it makes for a really bad shift.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Beauty Of The Job!!

There are people who find no glamour in being an aircraft mechanic. There are people who really dislike being aircraft mechanics. As a matter of fact those people most likely outnumber the ones that do. Every now and then you find a guy who enjoys what he does and can also see beauty in an otherwise drab dingy job. When 666 emailed me this pic I said to myself "here is a guy with talent". This pic is beautiful! I already can tell he enjoys his job just by working with him but he can also find beauty in a not so easy task such as changing an engine. Takes talent!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Reader Pic! Thanks L.

This is a view of the HUD (Heads Up Display) we have on our 737s.

I Hate To Criticize...

Occasionally while working the Line we are confronted with cold winter conditions that may lead to the need for Deicing. As one of the mechanics pointed out last week to me-we have worked here in Oakland for 13 years and only recently have we encountered this pressing need to deice the wings on our a/c. I'm not sure what changed globally or if the hole in the Ozone Layer has created this change in the Bay Area weather patterns but we have icing issues now that we did not have only a few short years ago.

So when we have a captain who decides he has too much ice on the wings we have a need for deicing. This was accomplished by the ramp (at SWA) who would come by with their trailer/stand combo cart thing and spray hot water onto the wings to melt the ice. Recently California has decided that we cannot deice at our airport and so the planes have to wait until the ice melts on its own! This takes a very long time and even longer if it is the end of the day. Anyway that is not what I wanted to talk about right now I just feel it is ridiculous that we cannot even spray hot water onto the wings.

The 737-700 ac seems to have the most incidences with frost in Oakland. I have seen planes come in with the landing gear struts completely covered in two or three inches of ice and ice packed around the wing to body fairing (wing root). That said the most typical icing we get is around the fuel bays on the top and bottom of the wings. This type of icing is called Hoar Ice or Hoar Frost and has to do with having the fuel real cold at altitude then descending and the skin cooling or warming or something and so a very thin layer of ice or frost forms often times right over the fuel bays.

The main thing we need to worry about is that there are captains out there who want you as the mechanic to make a decision as to if his wings are iced or frosted. It is very important to remember that the decision is up to the captain. Do not give any opinion as to frost or ice. With the FAA coming down on everything we do these days it is even more important to let the captain do his job and make his own decisions. We can bring a set of stairs over so the captain can check the wing surface himself but that is it! AND PLEASE MAKE SURE THE CAPTAIN DOES NOT TRY TO GET UP ON THE WING. HE CAN PUT HIS HAND ON THE WING TO FEEL THE FROST BUT NEVER ALLOW HIM TO CLIMB ON THE WING. BECAUSE...

I was called to provide a stair for a captain to inspect his wing for ice. I bring over a window wash stand and place it where he wanted it and stepped back. The captain looks at me as if he is waiting for me to go up. I said to him "you want me to check?" he says yes and I told him that I cannot make that decision for him. So away he goes up the stand. Instead of stopping at the top he steps out onto the wing. Now forgetting that there are places on top of the wing that should not be tread upon remember the reason he called me over? That's right ICE!! So the captain takes one step off the stand and starts slipping. Backward, forward, to the side then he is on his hands and knees! Remember which way the wing is sloped? That's right he is sliding toward the trailing edge. All the stuff falls out of his pocket and he is moving toward the edge and the great abyss after that which end with him hitting the concrete. About half way to the trailing edge he manages to stop himself. By this time I got to the top of the stand and said to him "how about you get down from there?".

Imagine the paperwork involved if this nut had fallen off the wing. I would be filling out incident reports, answering emails, irregularity reports, phone calls from Dallas etc. To top it all off who do you think would get into trouble over this? Not the captain, not the Port of Oakland or California.

My wife is a pilot at Alaska Airlines (furloughed). When she was in school they said that she should get out onto the wing to check and see if ice is present. She told them that there was no way she was going to try and walk on an icy wing and she is right. The crew members have pilot shoes, pilots pants, and no gloves typically and are going to try to walk on a wet wing! Crazy!

Just make sure the captains do not get onto the wings and do not let them pressure you into making a decision for them when it comes to icing.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Reader Pics Wanted!!

I Know a lot of you out ther take pictures while you are at work. If it's cool with you I would be proud to share them with everyone. BE AWARE THAT YOUR PICTURES MAY BE COPIED BY OTHER PEOPLE!! Email me your pics to wrightwaynejr@yahoo.com.

Reader Pic!! Compliments of SpininB

Winglet pics are all the rage right now and here is one from SpininB.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


When I got my first aircraft maintenance job I was fresh out of school. I was working heavy checks at Delta Airlines. One of the senior guys took me to the tool truck in the morning and told me "you need this, this, this, etc." One of the things he pointed out was a three D cell Mag-Light.

My Light was just like any typical Mag-Lite, black, heavy, and worked great. Like most aircraft mechanics I have owned several different Mag-Lites over the years and they are all pretty much the same. After a while the light is not as bright as before and the focus is not quite as sharp, but it always will work.

Fast forward a few years and I get this job. My first week here one of the senior guys who transferred in from another station tells me to look at him, as I turn he shines a really bright light into my eyes and blinds me. Haha! He says I need to get one of these new lights called Streamlight. I checked it out and his light was really, really bright-a lot brighter than my Mag-Lite. His light was really, really, light-a lot lighter than my Mag-Lite. His light was even rechargeable, no more changing batteries! So I bought one.

I liked my Streamlight when I first bought it. Bright, light weight and just generally a lot sexier than my Mag-Lite. Needless to say my Mag-Lite was relegated to the bottom of the tool box.

So I'm working and I drop my Streamlight. Thinking nothing of it I click it on and it no longer focused correctly. No big deal really. A little while later I'm working and I'm holding something that I need to whack to get it loose. I could have, stopped what I was doing went downstairs got my hammer and come back, but who is going to do that! Instead I do what I normally do I reach for my flashlight and whack it. Of course now the beam is even more fuzzy and not as bright as before.

I gave the Streamlight two or three good years then I decided to retire it. I was on my second battery pack and in need of another when I decided I had had enough. I missed my old bulky Mag-Lite. With a Mag-Lite I have pried seats loose, beat easy-outs into drilled out screws, pushed, beat and abused it. I have dropped it on the tarmac from my pocket, from the top of a main tire, from the wheel well, I have even dropped it from the aft galley door and it still worked.

My Mag-Lite is not pretty or flashy but it does a lot more than flash-a-light. Recently I went out and bought a new three cell LED Mag-Lite which is just as bright as those sleeker Streamlights or Stingers. I even dropped it and it still works. I think I will be a Mag-Lite guy from now on. Tough, reliable, and practically indestructible. Oh and by the way that Mag-Lite that I put in the bottom of the tool box, I took it out and hit the switch, it worked! Two years in the box old crappy batteries and it came on. With new batteries it lasted two more years until I retired it for the LED Mag-Lite.

I know a guy who has had the same Mag-Lite since the mid-80s (G2). Most of the paint is gone and it has some dents, etc. Bottom line is when he hits the switch it turns on and he does his thing. As a matter of fact I know two guys who has such 20 year old lights and I would trust their walk-arounds a lot more than some guys who have the $60-120 Streamlights and Stingers.

Another from the 666 collection

"The Barrel"

On the line we have a term called "the barrel" or more often we say "it's my turn in the barrel". Being in the barrel is our term for having to work on a grounded plane or a plane that is broken. There are days that the barrel is a very bad place to be. There are days when the barrel is a good place to be. The difference depends largely on you. Just as any body else would an aircraft mechanic has days when he or she just does not feel into doing that extra work and then there are days when you look forward to going the extra mile.

I enjoy working on grounded planes. I get a rush I guess out of figuring out whats wrong and fixing it. I enjoy the challenge. There have been days that I just am not into it. This is a natural thing and one of the things I enjoy about working line maintenance at SWA is if I am not feeling the groove the majority of the guys I work with are go to guys and can pick up the slack.

I think if you try to jump into that barrel every day you will get burned out pretty fast. SWA, or actually, the mechanics I work with allow me that flexibility.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Oh Don't Think I Forgot About Management

One of you guys commented on my last blog and brought up a really good point. Management that bends over backwards and spoils a few mechanics do ruin it for the rest. When I hear things like "I don't work fuel problems on my Friday" and the management obliges it sets us all back.

In a sense it seems that by being too accommodating the management has created a work environment that is out of control. The "Prison is being run by the inmates". I hear a lot of "I'm not going to do that" and "that's not my job" type of stuff and by allowing guys to basically do whatever they want the management does foster that type of anarchy. We create further laziness by not correcting this situation when it starts. If you are asked to do a job-do it. Often times the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and unfortunately that seems to apply on the job as well.

I know that I have been assigned jobs only to be reassigned when some jerk went into the office to complain that his job was harder than mine and "Goats on OT after all". I'm not sure if they really think that OT guys should get the crap jobs or if they truly believe that any thing we do out here is really that hard.

Maybe they see guys getting into trouble after working harder jobs and they are afraid it will happen to them. I would have to say that at least the guys who get into trouble are actually working! I would rather work with a guy who gets a talking to for taking a delay and actually fixing a plane than a guy who is so scared to actually work he will not be there for you when you need a hand.

My first Lead Mechanic at this job once said "If you are really working these planes then there is no way to not mess things up now and then".

But back to the original point: management that does not manage is pointless.

Oh and another thing: unless you are taking care of business or a personal matter, stay out of the managers office. It looks bad.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

One Of The Problems With The Industry

I say one of the problems because there are many, many problems that we face in the airline industry. For me to even try to list all of them would be way more than I would wish to do. For me in my role as an A&P mechanic to even understand all these issues is asking a lot of me. I have noticed a few of the issues that we face as A&P mechanics working in the airlines and one of the main problems is a lack of professionalism or lack of pride of work.

Used to be that when presented with a squawk a mechanic would work the issue until it was done, and done well. Now a days it seems like we all (we are all guilty) try to get our jobs done as quickly as possible just to be able to say we are done-damn how we got there or how it looks. The days of being proud of your work are gone in the airline industry. Most airline employees are beaten down by job loss, pay cuts, benefit cuts, etc. Its a rough industry to survive in!

These things, however, do not excuse not being professional about your work. Guys these days don't care about airplanes or fixing airplanes they are interested in their paychecks-period. Nothing affects them, chastise them, scold them, it doesn't matter. They do not care if the thing they fixed the night before breaks as soon as the plane pushes off the gate. Call me crazy but are we not paid to fix planes permanently? back in the day I would come home after a day of work and feel the pride of having just worked hard knowing that we did good work and did it well. I sometimes wonder how some people sleep after basically doing only the minimum amount of out put. Just enough to get by, don't do any more than is necessary. Why bother?

How some one can work at a job for five or six years and still not bother to learn how to run engines or how to trouble shoot properly is way beyond me. If only they knew that the companies ability to make revenue is directly connected to everyone in the company doing the best they can. There are days when I don't feel like busting ass all night, or days when I'm feeling sick, tired, or depressed for whatever reason. It's ok to have days like that, everyone does. But if 80% of the work group only does the minimum it leaves the rest of us to take up the slack.

For those of you out there thinking of entering this career do not become one of those guys who allow everyone else to carry them through their career. Always remember to go the extra mile with your work, you will be a better mechanic for it. I have had the pleasure to work with individuals that were very professional and had enough pride in their own work that when they said they fixed something you knew it was fixed. The problem is for every one of those guys in the airline there are about 10 who don't. Those are some pretty lousy odds.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Trouble Shoot, Trouble Shoot, Repeat.....

I was at work the other day and we had a plane with a fuel leak on the #1 engine. The crew actually called us out there for an "oil leak". The oil turned out to be fuel. The mechanic (mechanic #1) called for a hand and went upstairs after opening up the engine cowl. His "helper" stayed down at the engine to check where the fuel was coming from while mechanic #1 ran the engine.

The "helper" (mechanic #2) says the fuel leak is coming from the Fuel Pump Pad Drain. The plane is now grounded as there is no drip limit for the Fuel Pump Pad Drain. Mechanic #1 moves the plane from the terminal to the remote parking area and starts taking apart the fuel pump and HMU package. This is not a small job. About four hours later and the new pump and HMU are on now. The first thing to do is a leak check to make sure that you fixed the problem as well as check all the lines and hoses that had to be removed in order to change the fuel pump/HMU.

While doing the leak check fuel leaks from the Fuel Heater Servo, which is directly on top of the fuel pump/HMU package. Long story short-the Fuel Heater servo was what was leaking in the first place. It leaked fuel down on top of the HMU down the side of the HMU and then down the outside of the Fuel Pump Pad Drain line.

The point of this story is troubleshooting. When working on any system troubleshooting is an integral part of your job. If mechanic #1 in the story above had done some further troubleshooting once he got to the remote parking area he may have seen the leaking Fuel Heater Servo.

After being a mechanic for a while you tend to work with the same guys and typically one or two guys who you work with and work well with. When this happens you get comfortable and tend to trust these fellow mechanics. Trusting your fellow mechanic is fine, but putting in four hours of smelly, hard work because you did not double check another guys troubleshooting is a big waste of time and money. In the story above mechanic #2 was not even out there helping mechanic #1 change the pump/HMU so there was nothing to loose in double checking his troubleshooting.

You will also learn that there are guys who simply can not troubleshoot. I can't tell if it is laziness or incompetence but some mechanics can not do it. I have run into this at all levels of aircraft maintenance. Troubleshooting is like any skill in that you have to do it a lot in order to get better at it. Practice makes perfect. Once you start to learn some of the techniques it will come easier to you. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Troubleshoot, troubleshoot, repeat...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Good Bye To An Old Warrior

At the beginning of the year my manager called us in and we had a meeting. During the meeting he gave us the list of AC that we were retiring this year. Later that morning when I went out to my remote (moving AC from remote parking back to the terminal) I saw that AC 301 was out there (was one of the soon to be retired AC) so I snapped a couple of pics for the collection.

Fast forward 11 months and my buddy Jim sends me this pic that he found of the same AC. My poor old friend has seen better days. It's sad really. I don't know how most mechanics work out here but I tend to think of these planes as friends or even family. Seeing one like this is not a cool thing for me so-Good bye old friend, I know we had our battles but all is forgiven. Clear skies and fair weather-RIP.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

To Ground Or Not To Ground?

Every day we make decisions while working the Line that effect others. Perhaps the biggest decision and sometimes the most difficult is the decision to ground a fully loaded and fueled airplane. It's not an easy call to make and when you are working with other mechanics you often get the old -"you make the call"- thing. Of course nobody likes to ground planes but its a decision that has to be made from time to time.

When a plane comes in and I am working it I like to be the one who makes the call as far as grounded or not. I do not look to others for the decision as I believe being the first mechanic on the AC that call is up to me. There are times when it is obvious like major engine issues or flight control problems etc. But there are far more instances when grounding a plane is a subjective thing.

Part of the problem with deciding to ground airplanes is that often times the mechanic realizes that the sqwak is a grounding item but others do not. Pilots, Ops people, Customer Service, and even sometimes Dispatch will all try to influence you when it comes down to a go or no go situation. These are the times that not being sure and having doubt can get you into trouble.

Bottom line is if you as a mechanic believe that the airplane is not airworthy you should ground the plane. This is not an industry where you can flip a coin or hope that everything will turn out fine. In my experience, at an airline level, most mechanics know when planes need to be taken out of service and are not easily swayed on the issue of safety. These days with the FAA increasing the pressure on mechanic you have to protect yourself as well as the company, passengers, and flight crews.

When it's "grounded pal" it's grounded.

First Run After Engine Change

Friday, November 13, 2009

Goat, Tuna, Moose, Trees, Bug-a-Lug, Cricket, Luke...

Being an aircraft mechanic requires a lot of skills. One skill that is often overlooked is the ability to take some good natured ribbing from your co-workers. Often times this ribbing turns into something permanent in the form of a nickname. I have worked with plenty of guys and gals over the years who have had a lot of different nick names. My nickname is Goathead which over the years has been shortened to just Goat.

When I first got this glorious job we had a Lead Mechanic from Louisiana here. When we got to work you would check the board (where the work was written, a white dry erase board), put your name next to the a/c you wanted to work and go to it. Well we also carry radios and use them for most of our communications. As the nigh progressed the Cajun Lead would call me on the radio:

"Wayne, Copy!"

To which I would reply:

"Yeah, Go-ahead!"

After I was done with my work I came back into the office and my name was changed on the board from Wayne to "Goathead". I asked the lead what was up and he said "Everytime I call you on the radio, you call me a Goathead so I changed your name to Goathead."

I guess being from New York I have a slight accent and when I responded with "Go-ahead" it sounds like "Goathead." I have been Goathead ever since.

We also have here at OAK a Tuna-can or Tuna, Moose, Trees (loves nature), Bug or Bug-a-Lug, Cricket (dude makes cricket noises while he works), Tator Tot, Wu-Tang, No-Do or (7-11) or Joe Patronie, Dizzel, Tito, Chicken Neck, McGallon, Wabo, Howdy, G2, Larry-Love, Smitty, Big D, Zeus, Bago, Kit, B2, Ho-ta-Ho-ta, Scuba, J-Bird, Dark Cloud, Wee-wee, Nerf, and Napoleon. Of course those are the nice nicknames, we won't mention the bad ones here.

I have also worked with: Luke-Skywalker or Skywalker, The Devil, Duke, Preacher, Tator, Bubba, Hayseed, Skippy, MT, Angry or SGT, Psy-cole, Trooper, and those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head.

Long and short of it is if you are privileged enough to receive one of these cherished nicknames it may start off as a slight or ribbing but it is an industry standard. When your fellow mechanics bestow one upon you you should be honored that you are carrying on a long tradition in our industry. I wonder what Charley Taylor's nickname was, Lefty, Righty, Greasy, Flip, Chuck...?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Look What I Found

Like most tool junkies when I have time to kill (not often) I like to go to the tool area of the nearest big box store and browse around. I learned from hanging out with my pal and fellow airline vet, Jim, that you find some of the coolest things if you take the time to look.

In my previous post I mentioned my "Made in China" large flat blade screwdriver with the shank that goes all the way through the handle and how much I have used it in the past. Well as luck would have it I found myself in the tool section at Loew's the other day and found a set of "Demolition Screwdrivers" made by Stanley Tools. As you can see in the picture above they have shanks that go right through the handle and ends that can be beat with hammers. They are marketed as part of Stanley's Fat Max line and seem like really good drivers. The handles have rubber on them for a good grip and they are pretty stout. The only difference is that the shaft of these screwdrivers is round where as mine has a square shaft. The set has one flat blade and one large phillips tip screwdrivers.
They are "Made in The USA" for all you patriots out there and you can bet that I will be picking up the pair as soon as I can.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Snap-On vs. Cheap-O

I have a few really good tools. I also have a few Snap-On tools. Not all my really good tools are Snap-On and not all my Snap-On tools are really good tools. I tend to lean more toward trying to decide which tools will work for me and buying them.

We all would love to have a complete set of Snap-On tools. But I get the feeling that not all of us have the money to buy them. I love Snap-On tools. They work, feel good, tend not to rust out, and do not break (usually). Most of the Snap-On tools I have I purchased at swap meets or used tool shops. I like to search these places for Snap-On stuff and hopefully get a little discount on them.

The majority of my tools are Craftsman tools. In the last few years Craftsman has really upgraded their line of tools. The Professional Series of hand tools are really good quality tools. The best thing about Craftsman as most of you know is the return policy. Basically if the tool breaks, you bring it in, and get a new one.

I also have (as do most A&P mechanics) a few select Cheap-O tools. The old Made in Taiwan or China stuff. These come in handy for doing jobs that may require a tool that can be modified, bent, ground down etc. On the rare occasion you find one of these tools that is actually better that the Snap-On or Craftsman variety. One such tool that I carry is a large flat blade screw driver. It has a square shank, and the shank goes all the way through the handle and ends outside the handle in a large mushroom shaped end. I have owned this thing since 1988. I have overhauled engines, broken frozen galley sections loose out of L-1011s, hammered, scraped,and chiseled many airplane pieces and parts and I carry it every day. It is simply one of the best tools I have and it is Made in China.

I was wondering, what kind of Cheap-O tools do you have that are indispensable to you?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Where The Jobs Are!

This past week I went to Daytona Beach FL to attend the homecoming at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. One of the main events was the Career Expo. Companies interested in ERAU grads. were there and could talk to the up and coming young prospects about their companies and such.

Now, I was not too keen on attending this thing. Being a 18 year airline vet my opinion of most of the industry is pretty jaded. I was expecting to hear a lot of excuses as to why these companies were not hiring, which I did hear a fair amount of. The big surprise for me was that there are companies out there hiring mechanics. My wife a (furloughed) pilot was gathering info for another friend of ours who is also out of work. The conversation would go something like this:

"Hello are you guys doing any (pilot) hiring now or any time soon?"

To which a bunch of the companies replied:

"No, we are not hiring pilots right now, we are looking for mechanics."

So, after they picked me up off the floor and used smelling salts to revive me, I recovered enough to ask some questions and here's what I found out:

The companies hiring right now are not the ones I would call first tier jobs. These are smaller companies. Not quite main stream ones-second tier companies.

I'm talking about places like:

Air Wisconsin-looking for A&P mechs and ONE inspector for St. Louis and I believe Philly. Top out is $29/hr.

Gulfstream-looking for A&P mechs for their manufacturing facilities in GA. Starting pay $12.50-13.75.

Textron-helicopter engine assembly and overhaul. Starting pay $12/hr.

A couple of "Air Service" companies (think contract maintenance). Paying $15-18/hr.

So people are hiring mechanics but if you are expecting to get any where close to airline pay-forget about it. Oh and be prepared to move to St. Louis.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Where it all began (almost). Well I'm back in FL this week for Homecoming at Embry-Riddle Aerobautical University. I'll be blogging about it when I get back. Especially about the Career Expo I went to! I found out some interesting things! Check back in a couple of days for an update.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Essentials

Often times when I'm lugging my tool bag up the jet way stairs I start to think about what would be the least amount of tools I could carry on a daily basis would be. I also have always said that I could fix anything on this plane (737) with a hammer, a vise grip, and a screw driver.

If I really had to choose however I think I would choose the following:

Ratcheting screw driver and bits
Adjustable wrench
Vise grips
Mag Lite

I think that in a pinch I could do almost everything that I need to do on a daily basis with just those tools. Add a roll of Cargo Pit Tape and Safety Wire and you could get away with most of the daily jobs (reading lights, landing lights, coffee makers, etc.).

The problem we as Line Mechanics have is that most days are not normal. There is no telling when you will have to whip out that 1/2 inch open end wrench that you shaved down so that it is really thin and which you put a torch to and bent just so it would fit in the ridiculously small space it needed to. As a result we have a hodge podge of common tools and custom tools that we have available if we need them. Also as a result its hard to work out of someone elses tool bag or box. You know exactly where your specialty wrench is or which pair of Hogs (slip-joint pliers) to use as a hammer and when. You go beating up someone else's Hogs and they may not appreciate it.

I've seen lots of mechanics and they all have their own collection of tools and all seem to get the job done. It's funny because if you ask just about any other person what they need to do their job, and then ask another person in that same field the same question you will get the same answer. In aviation, as far as mechanics are concerned, it is a very personal choice. The bent up wrench, the high dollar ratcheting screw driver, the broken screw driver that is only good for taking little tiny screws off of PTT switches, they all have their place in our high tech industry.

A lot of the older guys are even reluctant to divulge their secret arsenal of tools to the younger guys. They also tend to carry less than the younger Mechanics. Experience is priceless. I know a guy that when asked how he fixed different things he would always tell me "brute force and ignorance". Needless to say he carried very few tools, but always got the job done!

Sunrise at the airport

One of the best parts of my job as a Line Mechanic and working dayshift is being able to watch the sunrise while I'm remoting airplanes in the morning. Being in California and having the sun rise over the mountains is an awesome sight.

The Old 20-80 Rule

I have always said that at my job, and especially on midnight shift, 5% of the people do 80% of the work. I did not realize that there is a 20-80 rule that has been around for ever. 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Its hard for the 20% people to relate to the 80% people and its hard for the 80% people to relate to the 20% people. Its like that old saying "the smart people can't figure out why the stupid people are stupid and the stupid people can't figure out why the smart people are smart".

The guys and gals who typically do the majority of the work can't figure out why those who do not seem to be un-willing to do so. I like to think that I am one of those mechanics who work and not the group of mechanics who complain or avoid work. The problem is that at times I do not go out of my way to help other mechanics or even passengers who need help. Over the last however many years being one of the do-ers at work has worn me down. I'm tired of working my planes just to finish up and have to work other peoples issues. Now this is not something that has permanently affected me or will make me life member of the 80% club. Allowing the 20-80% thing to be the norm simply makes the20% of the mechanics carrying the other 80% tired or sometimes resentful. "They never have to work more than one plane so why should I"?

I like being in the 20% that are considered "good workers". I do have times when I waiver and get tired of doing what I perceive as other peoples jobs. I think that I, unlike the 80%, see the bottom line. I know that the company is the important thing not my perceptions of being over worked. I grew up knowing that hard work pays off and watching my mom and dad go to work everyday and as I posted earlier I got a majority of my work ethic by having the benefit of working around old school guys. It seems like there is a lot of skating going on in our maintenance shop and it really is ashamed.

My 5% - 80% statement may be an over exaggeration of the issue but to a guy who has to run engines or certify systems for another mechanic because that mechanic is simply too lazy to learn how to do it himself it feels unfair. We all have to remember the reason we were hired-to fix planes-and an environment where you as a mechanic can depend on your fellow mechanics to work as hard as you do makes an already difficult job just a little bit easier.

Lets hope that it does not take a layoff of something drastic to make us realize that we have something good here at work. Fix the planes. Its simple really.

Late Night Wing Repair

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Swine Flu (H1N1) and Line Maintenance

There is a lot of talk lately about Swine Flu. As Line Mechanics we are exposed to a lot of germs and a lot of people (especially when you work up in the cabin). I know there is some debate about getting the H1N1 vaccination. If you can, I think you should. If you cannot for whatever reason you have to wear gloves at all times when you work up in the cabin and always wash your hands when you get back to the shop!
I actually think that the companies we work for should supply us with the H1N1 shots. The company will be the most affected by employees missing work and so should help by having the vaccine available at the job site.
People I work around have had Swine Flu and it is a really scary thing for those of us with small children. Be careful out there! Glove up!

Tool Suppliers

Other businesses give out free samples of their latest tools or developments, why doesn't the companies that make our tools do the same? A little free-be from Snap-On, Mac, or Craftsman would go a long way in developing customer loyalty.

Engine Change about 10 Years Ago

Monday, October 26, 2009

Good News about our chosen career!

Our industry, A&P mechanics, has been hit hard by the economic downturn we are in now. I am very lucky to be employed by SWA. We have not had a lay off, yet, and we have not had a pay cut, yet. I say "yet" because I was at another company that told me they never would lay any one off and three years later I was out on the street.

I heard that the guys at United are making $30/hr after working for 20 years! We all know what happened to the guys at Northwest, and even Alaska Airlines is hurting right now. But wait...the good news...

A large number of people are coming up on retirement age in the airlines and the availability of jobs is gowing to sky rocket when this happens!

So I ask you: How many times have you heard that one before? I have been waiting for this mass exodus of mechanics for almost 20 years now. When I was in school I heard this same rumor from the instructors. When I was at Embry-Riddle that was the hope of many newly minted Airframe and Powerplant mechanics. When I got to Delta, the same from everyone (on midnight shift). To make this falsehood even worse it has been picked up by these companies and web sites that track job data and job outlook information.

From a government web site:

"Most job openings for aircraft mechanics through the year 2016 will stem from a large group expected to retire over the next decade."

From Avjobs.com

"The long term employment outlook for maintenance personnel...is very encouraging. One study indicates...openings for aircraft avionics and maintenance personnel, increasing to 40,000 openings per year. Based on analysis of anticipated aviation industry growth rates, and projected retirements of the World War II and Korea War veterans who presently hold many of the aviation maintenance jobs in airline and general aviation".

Career zone also lists the job outlook of aircraft mechanics as "favorable". This goes on and on. Poor high school aged kids that are trying to figure out what to do with their lives would read this mess and sign up. This type of misleading info sounds like the harps of heaven to a kid who is good with his hands and likely only going to have a high school diploma.

The reality of the situation is that the A&P industry is stagnant. Salaries have not gone up as a whole in years and in some cases the salaries are back down to pre 1989 levels. Our pay has not kept up with the times and a vast majority of airline mechanics make less than $30/hr. $30/hr to keep a 30-120 million dollar aircraft in the sky! And I don't see it getting any better soon.

The only glimmer I see is this new space plane or space based tourism that is in it's infancy right now. That may supply the boost to our industry similar to the boost it got when the airlines went to jets over prop-liners. There is also hope in that it seems that (in 2006) less people started enrolling in tech schools. It seems that people are reluctant to work the hours and wish to avoid working in the weather. If that is true and the trend holds up our salaries may benefit simply due to lack of supply of qualified personnel.

Life at the top

Ahh Winter operations without the luxury of a Hangar.

Big Brother is Watching

So I'm at work, and we have a meeting. During the meeting the Manager tells us that OSHA was at another station and were basically spying on the mechanics. They were there for 3 days watching the mechanics before they even made their presence known. The maintenance base and the mechanics were cited and will most likely be fined for various infractions most of which were things like not wearing a reflective safety vest or safety glasses out on the AOA (Airport Operations Area) basically any where outside of the office.

So first off, I think that what OSHA did or maybe the way they did it, spying on fellow mechanics, is pretty ridiculous. Make your presence known and do your thing if you are auditing safety procedures or whatever. I don't know how many of you out there have tried to do maintenance work in one of those orange reflective vests but they do tend to get in the way and get snagged on things. Part of the problem I have with the vests is that they are just one most item of clothing flapping around that can get caught up in a gear, wheel, pulley, or god forbid sucked into an engine along with me.

I understand the reason for groups like OSHA and the need for regulation but it seems lately that they have to justify their own existence and so they go about making up goofy rules that working people have trouble following. To add to this the mechanics in some cases are personally responsible for the fines that OSHA can levee. I try to wear my vest and glasses when I can but there are times that it is not feasible to do so. Those of you who know me know that I think that the government and these various rules and what not are just not necessary and we as a society would be better off with out them (ask me about my views on seat belt laws). Of course just because I don't like these rules does not allow me to ignore them and who among us can afford an $10,000 fine from OSHA for not wearing safety glasses.

What I'm saying is this, just because we know that OSHA, the FAA, and others have rules that often times border on ridiculous we as a professional group must still follow them. Lets face it the safety vest is ugly, gets in the way, and gets hot during the summer months but we still must wear it. The rules are the rules and a lot of the time they are stupid and make no sense but they have to be followed. The time for anarchy is not quite at hand-YET!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Old School vs New School

There is a very definite difference between old and new school line maintenance. I like to think that I am a member of the old school. The old school as I see it uses more common sense and a lot less complaining than the new school. I enjoy being a member of the old school. We are the guys that get the work done. If it is a crap job we do not complain, we go and knock it out. We can listen to a pilot and figure out what he means and use the common sense we have to fix the problem.

The new school guys like to talk. They talk instead of working. When I get assigned a job that requires two mechanics and I am assigned with a new schooler I know I'm in for it. The night will begin and as soon as we are supposed to start they begin by telling me about their weekend, girlfriend, truck, car, motorcycle, brother, sister, uncle, this, that, and the other. Now don't get me wrong we old school guys love to chat it up at work, but we are able to work and talk. You would be surprised how many people can not work while they talk. This is also the reason the new schoolers complain a lot about the old schoolers. Let me explain.

If I am assigned a job at night I go right to work and knock it out. When I finish I go onto the next thing. When I feel that I have done enough for the night-I stop working. I don't continue to work plane after plane just because these other guys are dragging their heels. Now a little while later (or a long time later) when those guys finish up they see me chilling in the shop. This is when all the trouble starts. "Hey why is Goat in the shop while we are still working?" "Why does Goat get all the easy jobs?" etc.

Well Goat didn't waste time smoking, socializing, or eating when he first got to work. Goat did not spend an hour complaining about how he got screwed by the Lead with a big job. Goat went to work and fixed his planes and now he is chilling. I'm not going to blow smoke here, our job is not too hard, something is broken and needs to be fixed. It works a certain way and it is not doing its thing right now. Sure it takes some knowledge but it really takes a heck of a lot of common sense. The ability to weed through all the frivolous info we get from the flight crews and attack the actual problem is a skill. That is one of the most important skills we as mechanics can develop. Sure its good to be able to change a tire or brake but knowing how to talk to and interact with the pilots is key for a line guy. One of the things i always tell a new guy (a probbie) is that learning to do RON (remain over night) check work is all well and good, but to survive and thrive on the Line you have to go and learn how to talk to the crews.

Communication is the key! Figure out what the crews want and it makes your life all the more easy. One of the Old school mechs and I used to always work RON together. He spent a lot of time cleaning the flight deck windows, taking care of the oil, tires, keeping the flight deck clean, etc. I finally had to ask him why he spent so much time doing these things. He told me to pay attention to the morning gate calls and see if any of his planes. Sure enough not one gate call, ever. He explained to me that if you do the things that keep the crews happy, in addition to the normal work, they won't call. Its little tid bits of info like that that make you a better Line Mechanic.

Old school or New school I think that I will have to take this up again at a later date, but as far as I'm concerned-Old School Rules!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This is a test to see if my mobile blogging works.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The View From The Other Side

Tonight I am the bump up Supervisor. In other words for one night I am in management. Now i've been a bump up supe before and I have to admit I have done my fair share of complaining about the regular supervisors. So I will try to express my views as a mechanic/supervisor or as I like to call it "The View From The Other Side".

Being a product of the "Old School" I tend not to complain too much to management because I feel it is always better to leave them out of the loop so to speak, if not you are inviting them to get too involved in the whole maintenance thing. My main complaint about mechanics when I'm being bump up supe is the persons who tend to spend an awful lot of time complaining about the work load or fainess of the work assignments etc. I do not understand the need to do these things but I know a lot of people do.

The supe should be involved only as much as necessary. If there is a real problem, a real problem, then the supe should get involved. If there is trouble, real trouble, by all means go get the supe. The problem I see from this side of the desk is that there is way too much merit or even ear time given to the few people that complain about the majority of things. These few people (of course) get the majority of the supes attention and really in an unfair and un-needed way. It's the squeaky wheel syndrome and I guess its inevitable.

When I'm supe I try to run the shop the way it ran when I first got hired on(we had no supe!). I always think I sound like an old man when I start this reminiscing but here we go. back in the old days we had no supe. The Lead Mechanic came in, put the work on the board and the mechanics came in and signed up for whatever work they wanted to do. This accomplished two things: first, there was a certain self motivation factor. People tended to come to work and start working right away. When the work is assigned there is no motivation to start right away, I'll just wait until they assign me and start then. The second thing not assigning work accomplished was a kind of healthy competition among the mechanics. We were always going back and forth about "I did this" or "I fixed that" etc. No body seems to care now and it seems like it is an actual chore when you are assigned work versus volunteering to do it.

New School - Old School.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Some obvious changes

So as you can tell I've had to change my Blogsite. The posts have been pasted into this one but they are backwards. From here on out they should show up as normal. Thanks Bonny for helping me out with this.
Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Laying of Blame
Its a part of the industry that a lot of people talk about but you never see anything written about. Of course I'm talking about "The Blame Game". As long as I have been in the airlines the blame game has been an integral part of the daily grind. I think that when people pull the "it was'nt me it was______" card or "that station should have fixed (whatever)" it's a normal part of being an A&P mech at least at the airlines.When I worked overhaul it was "Day shift did'nt finish the job" or "Swing shift should have knew better", you get the idea. Some of the best stories I've heard revolve around the Blame Game. Most of these stories cannot be retold but all you mechs out there know what I mean. Now that I think of it there are a lot of "games" we as mechs play. How about "The Excuse is Right". Is it me or does everyone seem to have an excuse for whatever idiotic thing they did? Maybe we will talk some about this one tomorrow.
Posted by Goat at 2:26 PM 0 comme
Line Maintenance and Winter
Wow! Where did the summer go? I work as a Line Mech and I spend a lot of time outside naturally. I sometimes pick up a graveyard shift and I can always tell the first really cold night of the year. For me that was last night. Cold and windy. Line maint. is a special breed of maint. The ability to troubleshoot while laying under a running engine at night, in a rain storm, while the wind is blowing the rain sideways and you are laying in a puddle of water, feeling it creep under your rain suit is something that very few guys would do.I personally love working the line. I have done overhaul, cargo ops, and general aviation but I think that line work offers the challenge that keeps me interested in the industry. As a Line Mech the ability to think on your toes and use common sense is honed and refined. Its a thrill to have a plane come in and figure out what is wrong with it-fix it-and get to see it push back for a revenue flight is awesome. The fact that it has to be done in the rain in my case or snow for some or even 100 degree weather is a contributing factor to my belief that Line Maint. is some of the most demanding yet satisfing work in the industry.
Posted by Goat at 8:25 AM 0 comments
Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Victorinox Swiss Tool
I figure since the name of the blog is Aircraft Maintenance and Tools I should start some reviews I guess of some of the tools I have found most helpful to me. I'm sure all of us carry some sort of multi tool like a Leatherman, Gerber, Buck, etc. I have had a few Leatherman tools from the very first style they offered to the Leatherman Crunch which had a vise grip on it(I liked that one but someone thought they could take better care of it than I could so it disappeared). My favorite multi tool that I have owned is my Victorinox Swiss Tool.
The Victorinox is large by most multi tool standards and pretty heavy. To get to the pliers you have to open the handles back like the older Leatherman. The handles are formed so that the edges are not sharp but rounded over so that when you bare down on them they will not bit into your hands. They handles are also slightly open when the pliers are closed all the way so you cannot pinch your hand there either.
My Victorinox is an older model so some of the features have changed but most are similar. The pliers are needle nose style with an open larger toothed mid section and a wire cutter/stripper on the lower section near the joint. One of the things I really like is that all the other tools are on the outside of the Victorinox. No need to open the pliers to get to the knife for example. So the other tools are: straight blade knife, large flat blade screwdriver, medium scraper blade with a bottle opener, small flat blade screwdriver with a can opener, and a wood/plastic saw on one handle. The other handle has a serrated knife, pick or awl, phillips srewdriver (#2 size), small flat blade srewdriver and a file. The file has a fine side and a course side as well as a fine toothh saw on its edge. All the tools open and lock into place with a simple finger and slide lock. Engraved onto either side of the handles are ruler marks-inches on one side and centermeters on the other. With the tool open and layed flat you can measure from 1-9 inches.
I believe the new Victorinox has a scissor onstead of a second knife but like I said I have and older model. Some guys have told me that my Victorinox os too heavy but being a line guy you have to use what you have and I have had to use mine as a hammer, pry, etc. It has some battle scars and wounds and Victorinox would repair it for me for free and make it all pretty for me but then it just would not seem like my Victorinox.
Posted by Goat at 8:37 AM 0 comments