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?