Monday, December 13, 2010

I Just Do Not Understand

Blade damage-Big Time!!!- Thanks AzWoman

I claimed I was not going to complain anymore about how people work, but I can not let this go. I really love being an aircraft mechanic and I come from a pretty strong background of folks who work hard. I know that I am not always motivated and have off days-everyone does.

Why would a guy complain about me not doing his work and then complain about having to do his work? I know that's not real clear so let me give an example. This just happened to me:

I'm working swing shift on a Saturday. Saturdays in OAK are not the busiest days. The terminating planes usually come in early on Saturday as well. There were four of us working, me and three midnight shift mechanics. Now this whole thing between midnights and swings has been going on for a couple of years now. The midnight guys want the swings guys to "bust out" or work on planes that come in early, reducing the amount of work they have to deal with at night. Sounds good. The problem is that even when two or three planes are knocked out there are a number of midnight shift mechanics who will still complain about what they are assigned to work. Then there are the guys who say "wow you guys could only finish up three planes?" or "yeah swings did three plane, but they were only MV-1s."

These kinds of comments do not sit well with people who are on swing shift. They get no benefit from working the RON planes and then they get complaints about doing it. So the thing is-why help RON knock out planes when the RON guys just say that it is not enough?

We have all worked midnights and we all know how it is to stay up all night and get broke planes when you thought you had a relatively easy night. ALL the guys on days and swings worked graveyards, and  a lot of us worked graveyards at other airlines that had no "down time" when you finished a job, only more work brought into a hangar etc. We know what it is like. To say things like "you could only knock out one plane?" to us is very condescending.

Back to my story:

I was Lead and I like to run the shift with out having to keep a "list". A list is simply that, we list the mechanics working on a piece of paper and go down the list in turn when a gate call comes up. Most grown up people do not need a list to govern their actions but apparently a lot of mechanics do. Usually when no list is used we simply take turns and believe me you know who went before you and when you need to volunteer to get up and do something. Again this only works with grown ups!! As I was the lead I went to the first terminating plane. While there a gatecall came in for hydraulics at gate 25. I got on the radio and asked if someone could get it and after a pause one of the guys said sure.  About this time the terminaters started to come in hot and heavy and of course the three guys went out to work on them so they could have a few less planes at night, I understand that. What I do not understand is that when SWING shift gatecalls came in and I asked someone-anyone to get the call I got no answer on the radio. It went like this:

Ops: "Maint. Gate 28 wants oil"
Me: "Copy that, can any one get that?"
Others: ".........................." (silence)

So I had to call out names just to get the gatecalls done. Then I come to find out (the next day) that one of these guys was overheard saying that there were four guys on swings, but only three guys working. He thinks that I did nothing all shift!

I can't believe this but I should not be surprised. I did not work on any terminating aircraft. My job, my responsibility is for through flight planes. We were working SWING shift, not coming in early as sometimes happens to knock out RON planes. Plus the three of them were ALLOWED by ME to work on those planes. I could have stopped them but I didn't. Why would this guy say this about me? Why let me do you a favor and then turn around and spit in my face? Why complain about the work you are assigned? Why get so mad as to kick tool boxes, throw tools, yell at the work board? The simple reality is that some of us are not mature enough to have reasonable responses when things do not go our perceived way.

It's amazing how the same 8-10 guys are the ones who have problems with their work assignments and these same guys are the ones who concentrate more on what other shifts are doing than how they themselves are behaving on their own shift. It's called projection folks! You know you suck so you try to PROJECT that same attribute onto others.

I learned my lesson, I will ALWAYS take the Lead when it is available to me and I will ALWAYS keep a list when those guys are on shift. And I will ALWAYS make it clear that the gatecalls will take top priority. I guess the days of working with grownups are over. Oh and I will be having a "come to Jesus" talk with this one loud mouth.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It Started Out Like Such A Normal Night....

I had the pleasure of working mid-night shift one night this week. I actually enjoy working mid-nights every now and then. Because of the Thanksgiving holidays I have been off for two weeks and this was my first mid-night shift worked since my return. I got to work early. Usually I like to show up early to eat my dinner since I do not think it is cool to clock in at 9pm and then spend the next half hour eating as a few people do.

When the work was assigned I had two MV-1 checks. The checks are Maintenance Visits (MV) that we do nightly at OAK, they range from MV-1s to MV-3s. Other stations do heavier checks but in OAK we have limited space and part resources so we are relegated to the lower range of Maintenance Visits. To hear some guys you would think that doing an MV-3 is like the end of the world but truth be told none of the checks we do in OAK are all that bad.

We do get a lot of MEL and Non-Routine work through the shop and this night was no different. In an ideal world the guys with very few extra items on their planes would finish up and help the guys with a lot of items to work. This, however, is not the case as a fair number of guys only help their friends, will not help people who have ticked them off, won't help slow people (I may be in this group), or will not help anyone. What ever it all seems to work out and at the evening the planes are all done. Back to my typical night:

As usual the Leads try to assign one "clean" plane and one that has some work on it in an attempt to even out the work load among the mechanics. One of my MV-1s had two MELs on it: A broken lav fill port, and a slat in transit light. The MEL plane came in at 9pm and was terminated by swing shift. My clean plane was nearly in range so I decided to wait until it arrived, knock it out quickly, then hit my MEL plane for the rest of the night.

One of the draw backs to assigning work like we do is that often airplanes arrive with problems that can at times be pretty time consuming. (I think you can guess where this is going). When my secoond plane got to the gate I did my walk around and went to talk to the crew. They told me that the plane was good "EXCEPT" (these are the words we mechanics hate to hear from the flight crews) the two MELs that were on it. So here we go, the #2 N1 target will not drive when set and the left turn off light is inop.

All in all not very hard items to work so I am thinking my original plane is still intact. Once I remote the plane I change the landing light and do my outside stuff. When I go upstairs to test the light it still does not work! My whole plan was to not have to drive back and forth from remote area Tango and the shop. My golf cart has VERY old batteries and they do not hold up for the long drives. I decide to wait and check out the N1 gauge issue. Once I got that squared away, which was a lot quicker than I thought it would be, I figured I had to go and get a Multi-meter to check the power to the light, cb, and switch on the landing light.

Time is ticking away and I still have that slat indication issue on my second plane-Damn! So I check power at the circuit breaker-checks good, check power at the switch-checks good, check power at the light-no good! Now I am thinking that there is a bad wire from the switch to the light but just to be sure I want to get the part number for the switch. When I am shining my light in behind the panel I notice a little piece of metal laying on the bottom of the panel. I fished it out and it turned out to be a small strip of spring-steel that moves when you throw the switch in order to push down on the button that is incorporated into the back of the stupid switch. Back to the shop for a new switch.

Time is still ticking!!!

Got the switch all squared away now it all works great. Called for clearing numbers and go to sign off the book-the logbook needs to be changed! This plane is eating away all my time. Back to the shop for a logbook! Finally I can go to my MEL plane and get going on the slat issue.

This all tells you that the old saying "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry" is alive and well. My quick "clean" MV-1 was not so quick and clean after all and took a lot of work. As you mechanics who have worked 737 slat issues know even to trouble shoot the thing a panel or two must come down. The rest of my night was full of screws, speed handle, and drill, but it all got done.

That's the moral of the story: We get it all done, just not in the order we plan on getting it done.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

New Email!!!

Just wanted to let everyone know that I have changed the Blogs email due to some privacy concerns brought to my attention by Az-Woman. Thanks Az-Woman!!!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Imagine A Movie About Line Maintenance

This past Thanksgiving holiday I went and saw the movie "Unstoppable". This is a movie about a runaway train and how they get it stopped, but it also goes a long way in demonstrating how difficult and dangerous the job of Railroading is. The movie even touches on layoffs and worker strife.

I got to thinking what a movie about aircraft maintenance would be like. I can not for the life of me think of one movie that showed aircraft mechanics in a positive light. The early Airport movies showed Joe Patroni as a loud, obnoxious, foul mouthed, dude who really knew his stuff and took very little guff from the flight crews or airport brass. This is a good description of mechanics. Let's face it: the language in most maintenance shops is a little "colorful". Mechanics are often loud (we have to speak up over machinery etc.). We often have to face pushy flight crews who think they are all knowing and those confrontations are often heated.

But what would an aircraft maintenance movie be like? We have a dangerous job. The dangers run from falling off the crown of the plane to catching some crazy disease while fishing a cell phone out of a toilet.

There are labor/company relations in the industry that are strained. Most of us have been laid off at least once in our careers.

There are times when there is great excitement: The first engine run after a fuel pump change, correctly solving an on going electrical issue, etc.

The problem is that there are times of great boredom and repetitive work: I know when I worked overhaul I received a turn over of "We drilled these 284 holes, now you countersink these 284 holes" or the like more than once. On the Line there are very quite days when we get very few calls.

So what would this movie be like? Any ideas? Would it have to involve some kind of emergency? What do you think?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Knew It Would Happen One Day

When I first started this blog I knew that people at work would be reading it. I also knew that some of those guys reading it may figure out that I am talking about them. To that end I have changed names to "try to protect the innocent". You can figure out if I am writing about you or not. I also do not write about things that may be safety related, FAA type incidents, or any thing that the flying public may strike out at SWA for. As a lot of you know this still leaves me a lot of room for stories and advice for the readers or up and coming A&P mechanics.

Recently I was made aware of the fact that a certain person at work does not appreciate my use of a blog to "air our dirty laundry". For the life of me I can not figure out why this particular person feels so vexed by the stories and tales I recount. If a story about me and another guy going on a field trip and troubleshooting a problem to find a solution threatens him I can not be to blame. As a matter of fact of all the blogs that I have written-none of them pertain to this person. That's not to say that he does not have a bunch of stories associated with him. It is to say that this person has done things that fall into the above set of things that I do not write about. (Now that's scary).

The stories here are not intended to intimidate or bad mouth the guys I work with. As with any job there are mechanics here that I do not enjoy working with. If saying that means that this fellow will no longer read my blog or not like me or working with me then that's fine. Keep in  mind that I had to hear all this from third party sources so....maybe my facts are wrong. Let me know, I'm a grown ass man, I can take it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The More Things Change........

The longer I am in this line of work it never ceases to amaze me how many things have come and gone that were supposed to make the life of an aircraft mechanic easier. It seems that every year a new computer based maintenance program comes out with the latest and greatest techno gizmos. There are safety harnesses to keep us from bashing our heads, safety vests to keep us from being run over, new tools to help us troubleshoot, on and on.

With all these new tools it seems that the guys who get stuff done. The guys you can count on to fix a plane all have the same traits that the guys who can't fix planes do not have (no matter what fancy new tools they show up with). I know at my job there are guys who I will go on a road trip with and guys I will not go on a road trip with. The ones who I go with have to know how to work. By work I mean not give up when the first thing that someone else (MX Control) tells them to try does not work.

I'm not sure if there is some God given traits or talents that make a good mechanic. I do know that some of the best mechanics that I know all have certain things in common. They all:

Have common sense.
Know how to use Maintenance manuals.
Know how to read a wiring diagram.
Carry a surprisingly small number of tools with them.
Take very good care of those tools.
Work very smart.
Can be trusted to work alone.
Do not get pushed around by MX Control.

There are those who get by. There are those who rely on others to get by. Some hide. Some simply do nothing.

To be a good Line Mechanic you can not be burdened by all the new techo gizmology that comes out on a yearly basis. Bleed air test boxes for example will give false readings if not hooked up correctly. The reason to know how a system works is to not be overly dependant on test boxes or others (MX Control) to do your troubleshooting for you.

I have always said that you can fix any thing with a srewdriver,visegrip, and a hammer. Everything except laziness.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I'm sure everyone knows about the recently announced acquisition of Airtran by SWA. As a frontline employee I must trust the decisions that are made by management with regards to the direction that the company goes in. The reason they get paid the big bucks is to do things like this that will likely impact the company years and years down the road. As a mechanic I make decisions that affect the day to day running of the company and the upper management trusts me to do so.

I have no problem with the acquisition of Airtran but I do not understand why everyone keeps calling it a merger. SWA is buying Airtran. We are not merging with them. All the talk in the shop is about how to fairly integrate the 350 or so Airtran mechanics within our seniority list. While I am a little worried about the competence of AMFA in such negotiations, I do not think it will make all that much of a difference to me.

Lets review some of the options that I have heard thrown around the shop.

Option 1:
Add the Airtran guys to the bottom of the seniority list. Basically treat them as new hires.

Option 2:
One for one seniority. What this means is that the top Airtran guy goes right under our top guy, so on and so on until they reach their last guy. This would put all their mechanics ahead of me.

Option 3:
Fold them into our seniority list. What this would do is put an Airtran guy with a date of hire of Dec. 1 2000 right above one of our guys who has a date of hire of Dec. 2 2000. Their top guy would get all of his seniority as would all the rest of them.

These options seem pretty cut and dry but there are emotions involved in this thing. As we all know seniority is king in the airline industry and no one wants to give any up. The Airtran guys will be getting something like a $10.00/hour raise so the question of should they get a the money AND the seniority comes up. Added to all this is the fact that the Airtran guys were non-union until 2000 so how do we treat the portion of their time spent outside the union. I'm not the biggest union guy but that has to count for something.

For me I think option 3 with some kind of consideration to the fact that some of the Airtran guys spent time outside of a union. I also think that if they get the raise then some kind of 2 or 3 year for one trade would be fair. In other words a 6 year Airtran guy would now be placed at the three year level on our seniority list. We have to remember that we have ACQUIRED Airtran. This is NO merger. The has to be some give on the Airtran side of the table. I think the 2 or 3 year for one trade solves this as they give up a little and we give up a little.

In the end I think it will be ok for all of us. There are only 350 of them so we will have no problem absorbing that number of mechanics. What will happen is that we will do very little hiring for a while as we will now have more mechanics than we currently need. Watch out LAX! There may be some guys willing to work in Southern California after all.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

To Cargo Door Or To Not Cargo Door

This past weekend an old -300 came in and I had the pleasure of Terminating the plane. While doing the walk around I noticed that the rampers were having trouble opening the aft cargo door. This is not unusual and in fact happens a lot. Usually there is a bag or box that has fallen on the door or the door was closed with the cable or cable handle struck in the door jamb. This was what I suspected was the trouble but once the ramp supervisor and I got the door open it was clear that the threshold plate was damaged.

The plate was cracked and peeled up in such a way that it formed a pointy triangle that stuck up about and inch to an inch and a half. The rampers still had to get the bags off and I had to move the plane from the gate to Tango remote area. I got a hammer and beat the section back down so I could close the door for the remote and the rampers could off load the bags. The threshold is stainless steel and once I got it bent back, the piece broke off. I was able to remote the plane and wrote up the threshold plate on the board in the shop so that the mechanic who worked the plane that night could inspect it.

The next morning I found out that the threshold needed to be replaced (big surprise) AND the cargo door needed to be replaced as well. I admit that I did not look at the door when i was terminating as I should have done once I saw the condition of the threshold. I was surprised even more when I was told that the cargo door was being flown in on a ferry flight for US to change out! I know that we are mechanics and the this is a job that we SHOULD be able to accomplish in OAK. The reason I was surprised about it is that we have very little tooling in OAK and even less hardware etc.

Old Threshold with piece missing that I broke off.

Those of us who have worked hangar work or non-sched type maint. know that work like this is not as straight forward as it sounds. There is always something that will go wrong or some part that will be needed which is not originally thought of. In other words the can of worms will be opened!!

The plane should have been ferried out to PHX as was originally planned but as we know MX control knows better than us when it comes to such things. Instead of ferrying the plane to PHX the door was ferried to us and of course the plane sat here for three days because:

We have no parts.
We have no tooling.
The new threshold plate came without any holes and was then mis-drilled.
PHX mechanics had to come and RESCUE us.
The new door had to be fitted into the old opening.

On day two I went out to the plane to get some grip lengths for our manager, this was before the PHX rescue mission, I decided to check and see how far off the new mis-drilled threshold was. when I put it on I saw that only two of the holes were off, and those holes were not off by much. One hole was almost off by half a hole the other by about a quarter of a hole. I hate to say this but I think that I could have made it work. The persons assigned to the job were not real happy about doing it and so I think they found a convenient stopping point once they saw that the holes were a little off.

This is a recurring theme at OAK. We have people who are not interested in going the extra mile of trying to solve problems in order to get planes fixed. As I keep saying we in OAK cried, and cried about doing OPC mods (moving the On Board Computers in the -300 AC) until they stopped assigning them to us and MX Control thinks we will be able to hang a new cargo door? Any non-sched mechanic would have drilled out those holes and put larger fasteners or washers or something on it to make it work. Like I said this was an old plane and it has no winglets, and only one FMC so I believe SWA is going to be getting rid of it soon. A couple of button head fasteners instead of flush ones would not hurt this plane in any way shape or form.

The PHX guys came in and actually did the real maintenance work that the OAK guys didn't want to do. When they were half way through they came back to the shop and what really amazed them was that no one came out to watch them and maybe learn how to do the job for the next time. That says a lot about the level of work ethic in OAK and about what we once had that seems to be missing now-pride of workmanship.

Guys are more interested in resting than working and god forbid you ask them to try and learn something new. This is one of the things that is chasing me out of this station. Sure it's expensive to live here and I have personal reasons for leaving but this laziness is one of the things that makes it all little easier to make the move. I'm not sure if any of that exists in DAL but I am sure that it has been lost in OAK and that's a real sad thing for me to think about. I have learned a lot from a lot of people while working in OAK but now there are way more people who need to learn way more but don't want to. They have us out numbered.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Boise Road Trip

Last weekend we had only four guys working on day shift. As usual when there are only four mechanics working everything went to pot quickly. Amid the din of the radio calls for remoting, gate calls, and general upheaval, there was a phone call. The call was from Maint Control, and pertained a broken plane in Boise.

Those of us who have been to Boise know that once we get there (from Oakland) there is no way to get back until late in the day. The only return flight after like 9am is one at 6:45pm. This makes Boise road trips very desirable. A guy on day shift (me) could fly up to Boise, fix a plane and wait until 6:45pm to fly home, thereby getting a whole shift of OT.

Boise Terminal

Of course I agreed to go. I went on the trip with a guy I'll call Tang. Tang and I got all our tools and, with the help of the stores guy, all the parts needed. We were told there was a hydro leak and to take an electric pump with us.  Once we got on the plane and settled I sat back and tried to relax. When we pushed back from the gate I closed my eyes to sleep on the way up when Tang says "why are we turning around?" Sure enough we were turning back toward the terminal. The Captain comes on the PA and says that there is a light on in the cockpit that should be out. Tang and I went up front to talk to the crew and found out that the FO Pitot Static light was on.

Make a long story short we had to fix the plane that we took to fix the other plane. After changing the Pitot Tube the rest of the flight was uneventful.

Tang and I got to Boise and checked the plane out, sure enough there was a leak but luckily the pump itself was leaking so we just had to swap it out and go eat lunch and wait the 4 hours until we could make it back to Oakland. Boise sure is a premium road trip, when it comes up. These days road trips are getting scarce since LAX MX is the road trip station now.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tool Spotlight-Cordless Drills

The cordless drill is one of those things that a Line Mechanic needs to do his daily job. It is as essential as the screwdriver these days. You may think that since we typically do not remove panels and drill rivets out that you can get away without a cordless drill but you would be mistaken. I will say that the drill is not so much used as a drill but as a screw gun. The typical usage for a Line Mechanic would be removing landing light lenses or cover to get at position lights, etc. I have a Hitachi 12V cordless drill which I carry on my golf cart to all gate calls.
The drill came with the light, the apex bits, two batteries and the charger. It also came in a case which I keep it in, in my cart. The one pictured is an 18V but I went ahead and bought the 12V model instead. When I went looking for a drill to buy I wanted to keep it under $100 and I wanted something on the small side of the spectrum. For our work I figured it was useless carrying around a huge, long, heavy drill. Plus a drill my size fits into spaces like the airconditioning bays on the plane and other small spaces quite easily. I went with the 12V because it is the smallest of the Hitachi models (at that time) and it was a lot cheaper than the 14V, 18V or bigger models. I know that a lot of guys would not dare buy a 12V because the higher models provide more...something. We at SWA have been using company provided 12V drills since I got hired so I figured that 12V was good enough. The light has even come in handy, especially working in the wheel wells at night.

Recently the Lithion Ion batteried tools have come out and they are much lighter than the Nicad batteries like the one in my drill. A few of the guys at work have purchased the Makita Impact Driver and Impact Drills.

I like these bad boys! They are real light, real small, and real powerful. They are a little expensive but seem worth the cost of about $200.00. I like the case and we all know Makita is a good brand.

While on the subject of cordless drills there are some people who use them TOO MUCH. I can't tell you the number of times I've had to get out my hammer and large flat bladed screw driver to notch the safety screws on the nose tires because some fool used a drill with a clutch set on like 10 to install them. These screws should be hand tight plus like a quarter turn. I have seen guys use drills to remove and install 1/4 turn fasteners! My all time favorite is removing the wingtip on the 737-300s to replace the position lights only to find out that some goon has installed them with their drill clutch set on 10 or even to drill!! Lets start to think about the next guy when we are working.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Just Imagine!!

Some Concept Airliners.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

You Have Heard Of Morning People? What About A Morning Plane?

These past few days have been busy here in Oakland Line MX. The crew is now staffed to four guys on the weekend and Saturday happened to be one of those days when we only had four guys. Sounds like four should be good but we also had 10 aircraft parked at the remote parking all of which had to be moved within about a two hour period. Our remote parking area "Tango" has provisions for "stacking" the planes, in other words spot Tango 10 has a fwd and an aft position. For Tango 10 aft to remote it must wait for Tango 10 fwd to move first. Once you figure in late rampers, late operations people, late mechanics, you can see how four guys can get overwhelmed by the number of moves that have to go on.

This was the case on Saturday morning when two guys were trapped on planes waiting to remote by a ground stop in Burbank due to fog. The ground stop prevented the plane on the gate from pushing which kept a plane on Tango, which in turn trapped another plane in the aft position at Tango. It was very busy and crazy but not what I was going to write about.

There was a plane, an originator, that called with a question. I had actually moved the plane from Tango 7 about 40 minutes earlier. When I first boarded the plane when it was at Tango the APU would not start. After two tries it finally lit off and I moved her. When the crew called I was stuck on Tango so another guy went to the call.

Apparently what was happening was the FO's instruments were losing power. This sounds like a problem that can be troubleshot but not this time. The problem was that this would happen occasionally when the ground power was powering the plane, then it would fix itself and the problem would shift to the APU power. I'm not sure I said that correctly so: The FO's instruments would go down when the plane was powered by the ground power. it would work fine while the APU generator was powering the bus. Then it would go away and come back but this time the problem would be while the APU was powering the bus.

After deplaning and grounding the plane everything worked fine. We all went back to the shop and sat around the table trying to decide the correct course of action. After some discussion we figured that we should run the engines to see if the problem would show up while the plane was on the engine generators. If all worked well we would MEL the APU generator, which is what we ended up doing.

I came to work for midnight shift and of course the plane was spending the night in Oakland! One of the guys changed some relays and could not get it to break.

The next morning: "Maintenance, electrical question at gate 23". Guess which plane it was?? Once again after some switching and prodding the problem went away.

I figure, and I have experienced, this morning plane syndrome. There are some planes that take a long time to wake up for that first flight, but then seem to work fine the rest of the day. These temper mental planes need an extra start attempt, another power switch, a good swift hit with the trusty MagLite to get them going. Ever wonder why people refer to planes as she or her. I submit that this is the reason.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The View from The Ground

When you were a kid and you flew on an airplane I can guarantee that you begged your parents for the window seat and sat in awe of the people who worked outside getting the plane ready for your flight. I know I did and I affected me so much that I started my career in aviaiton at a very young age.

Although that kid is still inside me somewhere the view from the ground, working on these beasts has somewhat tarnished. I'm not sure if it is the fact that the work is hard, the work is often thankless, or the work sometimes has to be done under extreme pressure or circumsatnce. I love airplanes and I love working on them and I don't think that will ever end. What has ended is my desire to go the extra mile while I'm at work. I still do more than most I think but there was a time that I did way more than was required of me.

This may be a normal "growing" process that I am going through but the "edge" or the "eye of the tiger" has left me. I am an "old school" guy and the way things have changed in our industry has left me behind. I recently took an on line test to renew my Taxi and Run up privledges within SWA. Fourteen years ago when I began my career at SWA I took a similar test. The test was not on line of course but instead relied on one of the Senior mechanics to instruct me on how to safely operate an engine and perform taxi manuvers with proficiency. This process probably took 3 weeks in total. I had never taxiied an airplane or even had run up rivledges at Delta Airline so I soaked all the new info up like a sponge. The mechanic teaching us was methodical an often predictable with the emergency scenarios he threw at us but it was a very effective way to teach.

The first time I taxiied there were a couple of flight attendants on board watching us. As you know when you first throttle up and the plane just begins to move, you do a break check to ensure they are working correctly. Being the first time I was doing this I really slammed on the breaks, the plane STOPPED and our guests went sprawling forward and into the flight deck. The first time I taxied to the gate I was off the J-Line by about two feet so I had to buy Doughnuts for the guys.

Long and short of it: I learned by doing. Fast forward 14 years. I'm sitting in front of a computer which gives me a lesson and the a test. Much to my dismay there are 11 parts to the Taxi and Engine Start each one taking about 45 mins to go through, test, and review if necessary. At the end of the thing is the Final Exam. So that's a total of 12 tests and about two shifts of course work to go through. I have to say I feel like this is a result of the company not taking care of those mechanics who mess up, while taxiing, there by requiring all of us to sit through this torture. I learned less in those 11 lessons than I did 14 years earlier and I killed a bunch of brain cells by staring at a computer monitor for 8 hours over the course of two days. Add to this that I still had to go out and do gate calls when it was my turn and you can see that for a guy like me this is no way to learn something. I passed, and I passed with a very good grade, but I hardly learned any thing new.

That is the direction that this job is going for me. More and more rules and procedures with less and less reward. It's like the growing trend for a second mechanic to check your work when you are done. I do not like this and I'm sure there is more stuff like that to come. I will still work my best and do my job as well as I can but the atmosphere at work has changed and I do not seem to be able to change with it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

ASAP Questions About It's Fairness

We all know about the ASAP program that the FAA implemented a few years ago. Recently, although the spirit of the program is such that it keeps mechanics from getting in trouble, the ASAP "Committee" has denied some ASAP reports. I know of some people who do not even file any more because of the predatory nature of how the FAA has been dealing with them.

I myself have not filed an ASAP report and I do not think that the ASAP program is doing the job that it was intended to do.

Recently Comair Machinists have elected to withdraw from the ASAP program stating that they "no longer have faith that the program will ever be managed according to regulations." This comes after Comair disciplined mechanics after they filed ASAP reports.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

JetBlue Flight Attendant Goes Bananas!!! Our Industry Is Fighting Back

I'm sure most everyone has heard of Steven Slater by now. Steven Slater is the JetBlue flight attendant who had a break down on Monday and basically told the flying public what they could do with themselves. There is no excuse for some of his behavior, however, the flying public does take some liberties when it comes to flying and airline employees.

My blog is about airline maintenance, but being a line mechanic I have seen the ugly side of the flying public that made Steven Slater snap on Monday. The JetBlue flight attendant is likely similar to any of us airline employees: over worked and underpaid. The industry is not the glamor job that it may have been in the sixties or seventies.

Steven Slater was up against then same thing that a lot of us are: spoiled people who cannot seem to bend a little or even want to follow rules. I have witnessed arguments over seats, people who suddenly revert back to high school when they get into an airplane with the "he is looking at me funny" garbage. I have broken up actual fist throwing fights that erupt inside airplanes and have had to explain to adults that they could get arrested because they won't comply with the flight attendants requests. When people get into airplanes they turn into spoiled children.

I understand that flying costs a lot of money and you are entitled to a certain level of service when you pay that much money for a flight. That said you are not allowed to ignore and belittle the folks that work for the airline and who are there for your safety.

What Steven Slater did was beyond the reaction that should have occurred and for that he paid the price. He got arrested, will lose his job (not good these days). But Steven Slater did something that most of us airline folks cannot do, he spoke up and in doing so he became an instant working class hero.

The next time you are flying watch what the public does. The cell phones stay on, people won't sit down, they don't fasten their seat belts, put their seat backs up, or their tray tables up when told, but they pay our bills. Our society is built on being able to take liberties and have freedom. The problem comes when rules are imposed on us that go against those liberties. People have to learn to chillax as my kids say. Stop being so uptight and remember those people serving you drinks, making your beds in the hotels, taking your orders at the fast food joint, keeping you safe in the sky, are all trying to make a living. We in the airlines know that the front line employees, the flight attendants, customer service folks, the people working the ticket counters, have the hardest jobs. We mechanics, pilots, rampers, etc do not have to deal with people who may be having bad days themselves. I appreciate the flight attendants and all the airline folks who keep us going day in and day out. With out them putting up with all the daily crap the airlines would grind to a halt.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

This is a beautiful old bird! The Lockheed Constellation was designed in an era when not all planes looked the same. She looks like she is going 200mph just sitting on the ground. These mechanics are lucky to have worked on such a graceful beast. I'm sure they were not thinking that at the time but it is true.

Check out this picture! Look at the stand the mechanic is using to access the top of the Connie's engine. No safety railings. Check out the shoe that guy is wearing and his helper up on top is not wearing any fall arrest equipment. How did they ever do it?

A little background: The Constellation first went into service in 1945 with TWA. The design began back in the thirties and a few were finished in time to see some service at the end of WWII. Howard Hughes is rumored to have been heavily involved in the design of the plane. The elegant shape of the fuselage is due to the fact that no two frames are the same from the front of the plane to the back. While this resulted in an eye pleasing shape it was very expensive to manufacture that way and maintenance of the fuselage was also cost prohibitive. After the Connie all planes were made with uniform tube shaped fuselages.

There were 856 Constellation built and they were operated by quite a few big airlines. The Connie was the last of the big four engine piston airliners and was a victim of the quickly growing jet-age.

Early on in its life the Connie was plagued by engine fires. The Wright R-3350, an 18 cylinder radial, was a developmental nightmare, but eventually they got all the kinks worked out.

The Connie broke several records during it's time and still holds the record for the longest-duration non-stop passenger flight a 23 hour and 19 minute event during TWA's inaugural London to San Francisco flight on Oct 1-2, 1957.

A Connie also gave Orville Wright his last flight more than 40 years after his historic flight.

There will never be another like it and that is okay with me since it will stay unique.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Back In The Day...

Check this guy out! Landing on the snow and ice with a big old heavy metal jet! Back in the day when A&P mechanics were MECHANICS, no TECHNICIANS. When a guy could use a belt loader to check a dent on a horizontal stab with out the fear of incurring a fine from OSHA.When kids feared their parents and a band aid would fix all injuries. In other words: THE GOOD OLD DAYS.

Funny, I don't see any safety vests on these guys. I'm sure these guys could sign off their work with out having "mechanic b" verify that it was done correctly!

I'm pretty sure that I could trust these guys to do their job completely. It looks like a gear swing on the old DC-3. No safety tape, cones, warning lights, etc. If you were too stupid to realize that a gear swing was dangerous and you wandered into the path of the gear, you got hurt and it was your fault.

Look at these guys...they are paying attention to what the instructor is telling them. Look at the instructor...he looks like he would belt any of these guys across the face if they smart mouth him or check their text messages during the class. When did we turn into a bunch of wimps who let the few feeble minded idiots ruin our proud profession?
I love working on planes, I do not love working with what has increasingly been a bunch of spoiled, unknowledgable (is that a word?) meat heads who only want to do the least and think they are owed the most. I advise my kids not to become mechanics not because of the hard work or hours or working conditions, it is simply because I see the direction our profession is headed and it scares me for the next generation of mechanics or as they want to be called-Technicians

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Good News There is One Manufacturer Who Stand by Their Product!!!

A couple of posts ago I wrote about some work gloves that I bought made by Big Time Products. The gloves in question got pretty beat up the first day I used them and they developed a hole in one of the fingers. Well, the folks at Big Time Products sent me a new pair of the gloves for free!

I still use the older pair and I have even washed them twice to see if they were really washable as the company claims, and they are. I know a lot of you think that buying these things  is extravagant since the company supplies us with a pretty good work glove. What I have found is that the Big Time Products gloves, unlike the ones SWA supplies us, have a padded knuckle area. A while ago when working on a lower anti-collision light I cut my right knuckle very deeply. Of course being a big tough guy mechanic I just wrapped it up and let it heal on its own. I'm thinking that I probably should have gone to the doctor for stitches or something because after two months that thing still hurts but I'm sure all of you have done something similar. Anyway, the Big Time Products glove cushion that area on my hand so I feel that they are a good addition to my tool bag. Check em out when you get the chance.

Big Time Products 20103 Grease Monkey Large General Purpose Work Glove

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

That One Key Piece Of Info

The other day while at work I got to go on a road trip with Maybe-Maybe down to San Jose. The information given to us was that the HDG flag was showing on both the Capt and FO HSI. We gassed up the truck, J-Bird (one of our stores guys) loaded up the parts, we got our tools and were off. For this problem we brought with us an IRU (inertial reference unit), a DAA (digital analog adapter), and both of the overhead panels that talk to the IRU.

This is an IRU from Northrop Grumman. We use a Honeywell system but  no pics avail.

The plane had been taxiing out for departure when the instruments flagged. The flight crew returned to the gate, then contract MX came out, performed a re-align of the IRUs. The flags went away and they signed it off. On push back, this time, the instruments flagged again so they returned to the gate again and called us to go check it out.

Road trips are a perk of being a Line Mechanic. There is a certain amount of pride in knowing that the company trusts us enough to go out and fix planes away from station. There is also satisfaction in the figuring out of what is wrong and using knowledge, and available tools to get a plane that is stuck at an away station back into service. Most guys enjoy road trips and I have written about them before.

Maybe-Maybe and I are of the same mind in that we like to go, fix the plane and come back as quickly as possible. We figured that this would be a quick fix and back to OAK.

Once we got to SJC and read the logbook we found out that the problem only existed on the FOs side instruments. All the instruments: ADI, HSI, RMI, and even the PWS INOP light came on. We began by aligning the plane and checking for any faults in the system. Of course we found no faults and everything worked as it was supposed to. We decide to put the new IRU and DAA in as we were sure the #2 IRU was acting up. When we put the new IRU in we found out that it was "Bad From Stock". There was a fault code that would not reset or go away. So much for a quick trip! We called MX CTRL and they got one headed our way through LAX MX. We could expect it in a little over an hour.

While we waited we kept busy by cleaning the plane (the flight crew left in a hurry and had no time to do it). We also changed some seat belts on another plane that had an issue.

When our IRU arrived we threw it in and got everything working correctly. I called MX CTRL to tell them I was signing off the plane and let them know that it had in fact been working when we arrived hours ago. We did the deed and soon enough a new crew arrived. Maybe-Maybe and I decided that since the plane had returned to the gate twice before, we would wait until it took off to make sure everything was ok. (I think you all know where this is going) The plane boards, pushes back and sits there for like 6-7 minutes. Maybe-Maybe and I are saying "That's it he's broke.....he'll be coming back". We went to OPS and asked the OPS guy to call them. Sure enough he said he was working on the same problem the plane had before.

DAMN! The freaking plane is POSSESSED!!!

They came back to the gate and said that the instruments on the FO side flagged out, but as soon as he put the APU bus back on line the flags went away!! That was it!! that was our piece of info that we were missing!! When the pilots put the plane on the #2 generator the FOs instruments flagged. The #2 generator was not powering the #2 IRU bus!!!

We called MX CTRL and I suggested we MEL the #2 engine driven generator. That was all we had to do all those hours ago when we got there and we could have been done!!

It's amazing how one little piece of info can throw off a whole troubleshooting plan. We had been chasing the wrong problem the whole time! In hind sight we figured the #2 generator must have stopped powering that bus when they first were taxiing out the first time the problem manifested itself. Of course the re-align worked because they were most likely on GRD power or APU power at the time.

We did wait until the plane pushed out to ensure they left. We got to SJC at 12:30pm and finally left at 7pm. A long day of waiting and chasing phantom problems. Oh well, we did figure out what was happening. The plane did finally go make some money.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The COAX Connector From Hell

Today at work I got to do a few "firsts" for me. I worked on a plane that had a VHF problem which was traced down to a VHF COAX connector attached to the #1 VHF antenna. I have changed the VHF antennas before and I have monkeyed around with the connectors before. My prior experience with these fun little connectors has been realizing that one was bad and MELing the system since we do not carry the right parts or equipment to fix the thing in OAK.

Since this was a #1 VHF problem it was not MELable, and since the previous shift had traced the problem and ordered the parts I had the relative easy task of putting the thing back together. A first for me, although I did do some COAX crimping at my house for TV cabling.

A little description. COAX  (Coaxial Cable) is a shielded electrical wire. The wire has an inner conductor surrounded by a flexible insulator surrounded by the tubular shielding.

The theory is that the electromagnetic field produced by radios etc. is contained within the space between the insulator and the shielding allowing COAX to be run along other wire bundles without fear of much interference. The thing about COAX on aircraft is that the length of the wire is pretty critical and you are not allowed much slack as far as simply cutting it shorter to allow crimping, stripping, etc.

The connector crimps onto the wire but you have to strip the shielded part of the wire back some so that the wire fits into the end of the connector. Looking at the picture on the right the wire feeds into the narrow hole on the left of the connector. First the barrel is placed over the wire, you push the wire into the connector, making sure it contacts the pin inside, push the shielding down over the narrow thing on the left, slide the barrel down over the whole thing and crimp it. The shielding must contact the connector to ground it out.

Not only was it my first aircraft COAX crimp but they also sent a complete Daniels Strip and Crimp set. Most of you know that Daniels makes all kinds of crimpers that we use on airplanes. They also make pin pushers and pin pullers, hex crimpers, strippers, etc. For this fix the company sent me two Daniels sets! It was pretty cool seeing just one complete set but they sent two. I tried to find out how much they cost but could only find one set on Ebay for $3000.

Any way, we used the hex crimper for COAX, we found the right die block to put into the crimper and squeezed away. When we were done we had a perfect crimp and what do you know the #1 VHF was transmitting again!

One of the things that threw me off for a little was that the wire we were working on had a wire tag on it that said #2 VHF. Apparently Boeing changed the locations of the #1 and #2 VHF antennas on the 737-700s somewhere mid production so the wire tags are all jacked up. Watch out for this one as I can see it really messing people up. I'm not sure why they did not change the tag but, whatever. That was the final first, incorrectly marked wires from the factory.

I have to wonder, this is the second COAX that I have been involved in and I know there have been others, why in such a relatively young aircraft series (the -700s) are we having so many COAX issues? Mines is not to reason why, mines is just to push tin!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Work Gloves

Big Time Products 20103 Grease Monkey Large General Purpose Work Glove
So a while back I said I was going to try out some of those mechanic style work gloves. I was at Home Depot the other day and found a pair from a company called Big Time Products. These are called Grease Monkey general purpose gloves "made especially for mechanics." I really liked that tag line since I'm a mechanic and I figured these things would work for me.

The gloves are pretty comfortable and have a velcro shaft on the back of the wrist to tighten the glove. They are made out of a synthetic suede material on the fingers and palm and a spandex type of stretchable material on the back of the hand. There are padded areas on the palm and knuckle and they seemed reasonably breathable. They cost me $10 at the store.

I was working a triple the next day so I was excited to give the gloves a try. That night I was working midnight shift first so I got my assignment and went to it. The gloves worked really well and were very comfortable. I changed some tires and did some engine work and hydraulics, etc. The next shift was days and I used the gloves for nearly every call I went on. Day shift is primarily oil and hydraulics with a little engine work.

Around the end of day shift I noticed a problem with the left hand glove. The index finger on that side was developing a hole in it. Try as I might to "favor" that hand or finger I could not and soon enough the hole got bigger and bigger. The material that makes up the fingers of the glove is getting very thin on all the finger tips. I'm not sure if its the oil or hydraulic fluid, or just maybe the type of work we do as Aircraft mechanics but these "general purpose" gloves just won't hold up. In 24 hours the glove failed (in my opinion).

The gloves are comfortable enough but not durable enough for airplane work. To be fair I went to the Big Time Products website and they do say specifically "for auto mechanics". There are other gloves with reinforced finger tips but I bought these for the tactile touch I though they would provide.

I still like the gloves and I still and going to use them. As a matter of fact I cut the finger tip off the left glove and continue to use them.

Plus I'm a broke, cheap aircraft mechanic and as you guys know we always adapt. The next time I'll be sure to get some better gloves but I must say that I really like using them.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My New Mag-Lite LED XL100 Dayshift and Swing Shift Friendly

A long time ago I did a post on my trusty 3D cell LED Mag-Lite. Anyone who remembers that post can recall how much I endorse the Mag-Lite line of tools. Tough as nails, reliable and of course able to be used as a whacker (hammer). I still use my 3D Mag-Lite almost every day I'm at work and certainly every time I work midnight shift. The light works great but recently I have been looking for something smaller to carry when I'm on day shift or swings and certainly when I'm on a road trip. Ideally something that I could place in my pocket but still throw out some good light.

I started looking at all those little LED lights that you can find at the gas station or Wal-mart etc. As a matter of fact my buddy, Maybe-Maybe< carries one of those little lights and it works fine for him. I could not bring myself to using one of those cheapies at work. I own one that I keep in my car and another as a back-up light, but as a primary light I just can't do it. Maybe-Maybe has told me that he is at a point in his career in that he does not wish to buy any new tools. He claims to be about five years from retirement (yeah right). I am no spring chicken but I also have about another twenty years before retirement so I still want to buy some quality tools.

I like most Aircraft Mechanics am broke!!! So when I got a Home Depot gift card a while back I knew I would waste it all on tools and such. Today while picking up a hose for my refrigerator (it was on MEL), I looked around and saw the Mag-Lite LED XL100. Small, compact, water and drop resistant (hey it is a Mag-Lite!) and its an LED.

The XL100 is 4 3/4" long with a diameter of a quarter. Once I got it unpacked and loaded with the batteries (they came with the thing) I tried it out. To say it is bright is an understatement. The XL100 puts out a nice focused beam which is fully adjustable like any larger Mag-Lite. The light is turned on by a thumb switch on the butt end, sealed of course.

One of the kind of gimmicky things that I don't really approve of is the way the light swithces between "modes". Yes Mag-Lite has jumped on the different modes band wagon, which is kind of sad but I know they have to appeal to more folks than just Old School Aircraft Mechanics. There are 5 modes: DIM (normal), STROBE, NITELIGHT, SIGNAL, and SOS. That would be ok but to switch between the modes you don't turn the little knob/button/switchy/red thing in the photo above like I thought. That thing may look like it is movable but it is not. I had to break open the included written directions to figure this thing out. Basically it is a motion sensitive switch, you hold the light so that the mode you want is at the twelve o'clock position, press the on/off switch and hold it down, in the DIM mode you can adjust the brightness by then twisting your wrist in a counter clock wise or clock wise direction. Ridiculous!!

I'm pretty sure I will never use any mode besides the normal one (DIM??).  Anyway the thing is pretty bright and for that it is doing it's job. I hope to never have to test it's drop test toughability but I'm sure it will happen sooner or later.

I will let you guys know how well it holds up. I hope to never have to read an instruction manual to figure out how to use what is supposed to be a simple tool but I fear the days of simple tools are over. Ahh another post subject....

Happy fixing!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Golden Age Pics from SkyWalker

The plane above is a CV-340. I don't know any thing about the CV-340 yet but I am an airliner nut so I will be looking it up to learn some more. This is an incredible picture, it looks like a Untied Airlines plane that either had a gear down or got stuck in the mud or something. Check out the mechanics and the cranes! This was a day all those guys who worked on the plane would have remembered for their whole career. Thanks for the pic SkyWalker and anyone with info on the CV-340 drop us a line!
here is a link to Wikipedia for more info on the Convair 340:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Did you really ask me that, Mr. Captain?"

I love working Line Maintenance and one of the things that really keeps me interested is seeing how other guys I work with deal with the situations that come up versus how I would react to them. For the most part we all have about the same reactions to Flight Crews, airplanes, the FAA, etc. There are those guys who have a really negative view toward all of the above and those guys generally hate their jobs/life. These are the types who are always negative. Most of the guys at SWA have positive out looks and really try to help the company by getting the planes back into service.

This week when I was at work something happened that put into words a philosophy that I have come to accept as a reasonable way to deal with Flight Crews who ask stupid questions or complain about systems that work fine.

We had a Captain who had just pushed off the gate and was taxiing to the runway when his APU shutdown on him uncommanded. Instead of calling Dispatch he called MX Control and they could not decipher his mumbo jumbo explanation so they told him to return to the gate. As we know if he had called Dispatch they would have helped him to Crew Deffer the APU and he would have been on his way. They mechanic (let's call him NiceNice) got the low down from the Captain and started to work the problem. Surprise, surprise the APU worked normally, there were on Faults on the thing and it would not break for NiceNice.

I was out working on another plane when the call came in so I was listening to all this on the radio. After a while NiceNice came back into the shop and I asked him what that was all about. NiceNice explained to me why the Captain returned to the Gate (MX Control) and what he was doing to check out the APU. When he was done and said the thing worked great I asked him if he signed it off as "Ops checks good, no faults found". NiceNice said "Nope. The APU was fine but I MEL'd it anyway because the Captain didn't deserve to have an APU". It turns out that when crews call him to fix things that are not broken or things that don't work because of something that the crews did, NiceNice always MELs it. He says that if they can't figure out or don't know how it works-they don't deserve to enjoy the use of it!

I really like that way of operating and until now I was torn when I came upon crews who are the ultimate reason for problems that I was trying to fix. Next time I come across the HUD problem and I look into the Fault History coming across the old ALTITUDE Warn, or INCORRECT NAV faults, I am going to MEL the HUD. Better to take it away from those dummies than to let them use it incorrectly.

I figure this will also work well for the crews that refuse to "take the plane" until their little problems are fixed or who are really demanding or obstinate about the work being done etc. One of my buddies here is MEL King. This is very close to what he does. He is known for MELing items because the Crew got on his nerves or couldn't explain things fully. Maybe if we all did such the Crews would bother to learn more about their systems....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Old Aircraft Spotlight- Lockheed L1011 Tri-Star

The Lockheed L1011 Tri-Star was the third wide body airliner to enter commercial operations. In the 60's American Airlines approached Lockheed about making a competitor for the Boeing 747. Ultimately American chose the DC-10 and the Lockheed L-1011 was launched by TWA and Eastern Airlines. The L1011 was very similar to the DC-10 in appearance and they both had three engines with the L-1011's number two engine is integrated into the tail by an "S" duct for improved quietness and stability. The plane had a bunch of production delays, mostly due to the selection of the Rolls Royce RB211 as the powerplant. The DC-10 was able to get into service before the L-1011 and consequently only 250 L-1011s were produced by Lockheed versus a production run of 446 for the DC-10.

The L1011 entered revenue service in 1972. Delta Airlines eventually became the largest customer for the L-1011 and that is where I first met her. We all remember the first real airliner that we work on and mine was a Delta Airline L1011 tail number 789.

Being pretty much straight out of school I was amazed by the sheer size of the plane. The largest plane I had been around before that was an Aero Commander. I did overhaul work at Delta and the L-1011 was not exactly an easy plane to do that sort of work on. The plane was built like a tank, everything was heavy, and none of it really wanted to be taken apart. We would strip everything out of one, fix the discrepancies and put it back together again. My time spent there gave me a huge appreciation for the airplane. I did not get to do a lot of different jobs on her but I tried to learn as much as I could about her while I was there.

I do recall that the flight deck on the L-1011 was huge! The picture above does not even show the observer seat and that was as big as a business class seat. Those of you who have squeezed into the observer seat in a 737 can appreciate that. I also recall that the windshields were very heavy. I had the chance to change one and we used an overhead crane in order to lift it. The doors, the Galleys, the elevator they were all very heavy and required four guys to lift them. The largest repairs I was involved in were gigantic door doublers for the entry doors and Beam Caps in the cabin floor area. This beast was all metal and way ahead of it's time. I know she had RCCBs (remotely controlled circuit breakers) and that she was the first wide body aircraft to achieve a CATIIIc rating. Apparently the autopilot system was way ahead of its time as well and one of the reasons pilots really liked to fly her. I wish I had the chance to do some Line Maintenance on the L-1011 but like I mentioned earlier they went into service in 1972 (when I was two years old) and I got to Delta in 1991, the L-1011 was pulled from service by it's last US operator (Delta Airlines) in 2001 so unless I move to Africa or South America I'm not likely to see one.

I know that I will never forget the BOOM and following cloud of dark exhaust that followed the starting of those RB211s or the BANG and shaking following a test deploy of the RAT (ram air turbine). I will also never forget the amount of work involved in overhauling the Eastern Airlines L-1011s we got from out of the desert. "S" ducts, Lower Galleys, RCCBs, CATIIIc, RB211s, corrosion all a major part of me and those of us lucky enough to work one of the true Queens of the Air.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ahh Yes The Old Relay Quandry!!!!

Those of you who work the Line know what the picture to the right is. For the rest of you, it is a picture of a bunch of relays that live behind the First Officers seat up in the Flight Deck on the 737. Out working the Line you may get calls like "the so and so light is on and it won't shut off" or "I switched power and the Master caution light won't turn on". All of these are real problems to our end users (Pilots) but often not "real" problems in a sense.

I will explain it like this, the 737 must have hundreds if not thousands of relays in it. For any one who does not know what a relay is an electrically operated switch. In other words electricity is supplied to the relay and a switch or contact is made to initiate the flow of electricity to operate a system. Relays are wonderful little and big things that allow the plane to turn on an or off systems very quickly and often times without Pilot or Mechanic actions. Relays must make or break systems thousands of times a flight.

As with any mechanical thing relays some times "hang up" as we say. When a relay hangs up it stays on or off when the power to the coil (the coil opens and or closes the switch) is off. As you can imagine when a relay hangs up it causes erroneous indications or effects on the Flight Deck.

More often than not you can reset a hung relay by simply switching power sources. In other words switch from Ground Power to APU Power and back again. The interruption of power can relax the relay and the system goes back to normal, you look like a hero! There are times, however when that will not work. The next step is not in the Maintenance Manual but it is a time proven technique. Take your flip-flop screwdriver and give the relay a little love tap. This is probably the most used technique out there. If the system or light goes back to normal you have figured it out! There are of course times when nothing but changing the relay will work but, take a look at the picture above and try to figure out which relay is giving you the problem. A look at a wiring diagram will tell you the relay to look for if you are lucky but often there are two, three, four or more relays in a system. Now is the time to take off your High Tech Mechanix Gloves and feel for the HOT relay. Relays that get stuck get hot, quickly!

Changing out the relay is easy enough when you are at the home base with Stores available. But my question is: What to do when you are down line on a road trip and have no relay, no stores, and the next part can not get to you for four or five hours? If the old love tap worked and there are no other problems how do you sign it off? Sure arrangements can be made to have the relay changed downline or at the RON if it is in a maintenance station but, how far should you take it? My personal feeling is if there are no other problems, if you can not get the issue to repeat again, if the plane is going one or at the most two legs and then to maintenance, if the Flight Crew is comfortable with it, than it can be signed off as "Reset system" or "System operates as normal".

What do you think? It's kind of a sticky one, huh?

Monday, May 24, 2010

High Tech Work Gloves

I was thinking about buying a pair of these Mechanix Gloves. I have been using the Tsunami Gloves that SWA supplies us at work and they are ok. I like that they are a lot more flexible than the older leather gloves that we have and they breathe a lot better. I have read some blogs, etc about these types of gloves and most people like them alot. Being oil resistant and better at protecting your hands than the surgical gloves are what attracts me to them. I have never bought a pair, however, and was wondering if any of you out there have used or use them. Let me know.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

To Drill Or Not To Drill

I like my drill I use at work. I have a Hitachi cordless drill and it has worked for me very well. I am an advocate for using cordless drills, they speed up panel removal, etc. I do, however, get into these moods where I do not want to use my drill to remove panels. Occasionally I like to remove screws by hand, it helps me keep touch with the tactile, hands on nature of our profession. I also notice that there are guys at my job who use the drill to remove and install all sorts of screws into all sorts of things. I have seen guys use a drill to remove and install the little screws that safety the nose wheel retainer ring on. Then they wonder why the thing gets stripped out! I have seen a guy use a drill to put 1/4 turn fasteners in! I mean they only require a 1/4 turn of the wrist for goodness sake!

I think the cordless drill is a blessing to our jobs but people should also be able to use a speed handle or ever a screw driver and I'm convinced that some guys do not know how! We all know that even if you have a panel that has 100 fasteners it is easier, and I think smarter, to loosen each one with a speed handle before trying a drill. We all know this and yet time and time again I see guys blasting away with their drill, cussing when they strip out a screw head, and loathing having to go back and try easy outing the screw.

I know that I am an old fashioned type of guy and that there are cool new easy-outs now that almost always work, but I still reach for the old speed handle. Of course I am also finishing up before most because I do not have to drill out screws because of stripped heads.

This thought was not really about speed handles but rather simply using hand tools now and then. Once a long time ago I was changing a forward position light on a 737-300. I had my speed handle going and my ratcheting screwdriver and I was happy as a clam. One of the other RON mechanics was driving by and asked if I wanted to use his drill motor. I told him no thanks and explained that I wanted to do it by hand. He drove off with a confused look on his face and returned later with a drill motor that he left on my belt loader (that should tell you how long ago it was). Apparently by the time he reached the shop he had convinced himself that I was kidding around!

Call me a glutton for punishment but there are times when using a screwdriver makes me feel like I have accomplished something.