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."


"The long term employment outlook for maintenance 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
Speaking of Winter
So it has finally happened. The first rain of the year. The storm that passed through yesterday was a pretty bad one-lots of trees down, some power outages, and flooding. Through all that my guys were out working the line "Pushing Tin" as we say.Some of the things I should have mentioned in my previous post regarding winter I will address now. Probably one of the major things beside trying to stay dry is trying to keep your tools dry. As you all know we have to supply our own tools (a fact that a lot of people outside of maintenance are surprised to hear). If you are not careful you can come back to work after a rainy weekend and have your tools rusted out. Oil, Oil, and more Oil is how I treat my tools during this rainy season. I'm lucky enough to have my own personal golf cart that I use to go from gate call to gate call and as such have a dedicated-watertight-place for my tools. Most guys are at the mercy of relying on others to keep their stuff dry if they leave it on the shared golf carts.Speaking of leaving tools out: it surprises me how many of my fellow mechanics leave their tool boxes, bags, etc on the company golf carts when they go home. They seem to trust that no one will mess with their stuff. While I'm sure none of the mechanics here would intentionally mess with another mechanics tools there is always the possibility that something can happen. Also it seems kind of selfish to me to leave your junk on a cart that is shared by many people. Not only do we have to work around your tools but if something were to happen the blame would rest squarly on our shoulders. Also istead of putting yout tools away in the tool room they are left out in the weather. One guy even have a black truck box on the back of his cart (we all do). His had a hole in the top and would fill with water when it rained. I was horrified to see once that there was about 5-6 inches of water in the box and at the bottom of the box was a set of Snap-On wrenches! Crazy!Any way put your stuff away and keep em dry and lubed up in this rain!
Posted by Goat at 8:25 AM 0 comments
Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ratcheting Screw Drivers
Why can't any one but Snap-On make a good ratcheting screw driver???
Posted by Goat at 5:01 PM 0 comments
Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's going to be one of those days...
Sometimes you can just tell. Its how you wake up or the first thing some one says to you. Today is that day for me. Lets hope the Sky Gods are kind to me during my day shift and midnight shift that I'm doing today.
Posted by Goat at 8:01 AM 0 comments

I Told Ya So

Friday, October 16, 2009

I Told Ya So
So yesterday I had a feeling it was going to be a bad day. Well I had some personal news early on that seemed to frame the rest of the day and it went downhill from there. Its funny how it happens that way but let me layout the maint. side of my day for you:Day shift and I'm working with a good group of guys but the calls that were coming in were all whinny type of complaining calls. Nothing really broken but the plane "feels weird" or "three legs ago this light came on" you know what I mean. So I'm bump up Lead and I get news that my permanent Lead Mechanic bid just came in and I didn't get the position. No big deal really thats called seniority but added to my already foul mood and it sucked at the time.The day is almost over when we get a call about a plane on the ground with a "landing gear question". Usually those are about a leak or inspection light etc. Well not this time! This guy says he put the gear up and when it was up and he put the handle in the off position the right main gear "fell out". In other words the gear on the rightside was not staying retracted. Grounded! I thought it was crazy that the pilot did not call ahead to let us know about this choosing instead to call us when he was at the gate.So I know tat we are going to have to jack this plane and check things out. I'm in the office printing out the Maint. Manual when my boss comes in and tells me that a plane is diverting to us with, guess what? Thats right the landing gear would not retract! Two gear swings what are the odds?Well now its 1:30 and day shift ends at 2:30 so some choices have to be made. The boss calls people for OT (overtime) but no one wants to come in. I am due back for Midnight shift at 9pm but he wants me to stay with some of the other day shift guys to jack these two planes, swing the gear, etc. Make a long story short I stayed Jacked the air diversion plane first and fixed it (or so I thought). To back up a little: when you jack a plane its not quite as easy as jacking a car. We have to think of things like, fuel weight, keeping the plane level, and since we have no hangar, wind speed, etc. We use four jacks, two wing jacks, a nose jack, and a tail jack. By the way these are BIG jacks operated by air pressure. As the wing jacks lift the plane the Nose and tail jacks basically just follow the plane up and act as stabilizers. The two guys on the wing jacks-jack and the rest of use follow along all controlled by a guy standing on a ladder in the main wheel well watching a Plumb-Bob to keep the plane from going to out of level. It's a highly coordinated job and takes a while to do.As I was saying we let the first plane down and moved all the equipment to the other plane, jacked it, sure enough the right gear would not stay in the hole. We figured out that the uplock actuator has not working. Of course we do stock one of those so we order it and they say we won't get it until 10pm!I stayed and finished swing shift without too much trouble but one thing did happen that I have to mention. I went to a call and could tell that I was dealing with a mental giant just by watching him try to taxi into the gate. He stops twice to have the rampers move carts that he thinks are in his "safety zone" but which were not. I can tell this is a "my way or the highway" type of guy. So I go up and he tells me his issue but he is "sure that it is an indication issue". Whatever, no matter what they tell me I have to use my own sense and troubleshooting not what the pilots tell me. My number is going on the sign off so I can not allow anyone else to influence my decisions. So I tell this guy (captain a) that I'm going to go and check out the component to which he says again "I'm sure its just indication".When I come back upstairs Captain A is talking to Captain B. Captain B is taking over the plane from Captain A. Captain B turns out to be a not so unattractive female captain. So I overhear Captain A saying to Captain B in his most manly voice "I think it's indication but this guy knows more than me". Why can't these guys just accept that they do not know everything and why must we show off to the ladies? Jackass. Anyway I discussed the issue with Captain B and we both decided that Captain A was an idiot.