Thursday, June 23, 2011

Maintenance -A Language Of It's Own

My wife is a pilot. A lot of my wife's friends are pilots. When her pilot friends come over or we are spending time with them they always start talking pilot talk and I have no idea what they are saying! I started to wonder about aircraft maintenance and  mechanics. Do we have our own language? When outsiders are amongst us aircraft mechanics do they have trouble understanding what we are talking about?

Of course the answer to both of these questions is: YES! We at SWA have our own lingo we revert to when we are in the break room or trouble shooting, etc. We have the tried and true 3 letter (or more) acronyms such as APU, CDS, EGT, FMC, and on and on and on.

There are other things that we say which are airline maint. specific. I started to compile a list of these sayings. Although I am not close to being finished with my list I figured I would share some with you guys and see if you readers have anything to add. With just one weekends work we at the shop came up with the following:

Aisle Donkey          a flight attendant

Dip-Shittery            your basic cluster in progress

Angle of the Dangle          this refers to using wrenches or tools and how the angle of the fastener relates   to the angle of the wrench you are using to remove it.

German Torque          unspecified torque on a bolt or fastener.

Pretzelized          when something is totally out of shape or crushed up

PBA          Prolly-Be-Alright

Lick it, Stick it and Kick it!!     MEL the thing and get it out of here.

Pushin' Tin          The process of keeping planes in the air. Doing maintenance so the plane keeps flying.

These are just a few of the things we say at work and I will keep adding to the list as time goes on. Until then keep Pushin' Tin!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Things You See At The Airport

I recently wrote about an American Airlines MD-80 that had it's nose gear pulled out by a huge jet tug. That got me thinking about all the cool things and all the strange things you get to see at an airport. I'm going to try and recount some of these things in this post, they are in no particular order and some of the pictures are from the Internet.

One of the nicest rituals practiced at an airport are the fire engine salutes to pilots who are retiring. When the pilot taxis in for the final time the fire engines line the taxi way and shoot arcs of water over the taxi way which the pilot taxis through. I know for those of you who have not witnessed this it seems kind of strange but it really is cool.

This same thing was done recently in OAK for Alaska Airlines. The airline was phasing out the MD-80 and the last MD-80 flight out of OAK was saluted in the same way.

Although the next picture is not as dramatic it shows the sense of unity that work groups at SWA have. There was a Provisioning guy who either retired or was hurt and way from work, or just buried a loved one, or had just returned from Iraq,I can't remember which. Anyway to show their co-worker that they were thinking of him the provo guys lined up their trucks and raised them as a salute.

Of course you get to see all kinds of cool airplanes while working at the airport. One of the first strange planes that I saw come into OAK was one of those huge Russian cargo planes. This one was not the six engined monster but rather it's little brother with four engines. We went over to check it out and it was a tank. The thing I remember most about that plane was the tires. All the tires were bald and most of them had patches on them. This stuck in my head because we at SWA change tires when they first show patch so for me to see these bad tires was crazy.

We also get to see a lot of fighter jets doing fly bys and buzzing the field. One time during Fleet Week in the Bay Area a mechanic and I drove over to the old United/World hangar to check out the Blue Angels who were using the area to set up for the show. We drove our little pick-up over there and stayed a respectable distance from them as they set up. One of their mechanics strolled up to us and we figured he was going to tell us to leave. Instead he says that he noticed our truck had a tow hitch and would we mind towing a ground power unit over to one of the planes for him? HELL YEAH we will. That was pretty cool in a maintenance geek type of way.

On another day I was out in the remote parking area trying to start one of the piece of junk man lifts that we had back then. I had my back to the airport and was facing the bay. This tremendous roar swept over me and about 100 feet passing directly over me was a B-17. I think he got permission to do a low pass over the field, saw me up on this man lift with my back to him and decided to have some fun.

At night I have seem falling stars, satellites, and even the space shuttle as it passed over head. I have seem all kinds of birds and I've seem all kinds of birds that have been hit by the airplanes. We got called for a bird strike once and found a whole bird wrapped around the number two brake.

One of the coolest things I saw was when Delta Airlines brought home the body of a soldier killed in Iraq. The whole airport was silent. Normally there is constant radio chatter but they requested that no one make any calls as the plane taxied to the gate. The family was escorted to the plane by some military vehicles and watched their kid get unloaded and put into a Hearst. The family drove away and there must have been over a hundred guys on Harleys waiting at the gate who escorted the family home with American flags flying on their bikes, very emotional.

I'll try to remember some more but a lot of these things happened before I got into the habit of taking pictures at work. These things are all the stuff that make working at an airport fun. Away from all the union things, job security issues, TSA garbage, its things like this that a guy in an office building some where down town will never get to experience.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Oil, oil and more OIL!!!

Those of you who work Line Maintenance know that a good portion of the calls we get during the course of the day are for things like coffee makers, seat belts, window washes, and of course oil. This past week started off normal enough. I start work mid week and one of the first calls was for oil. This is not unusual but as the day progressed it seemed like all the flight crews wanted oil. There were 5 or 6 of us on shift that day and I would bet that each of us went through 2 or 3 cases of oil EACH!!

We have a table that we put our empty oil cans on to drain out the last bits of oil and make the cans clean for the recyclers. The table was full and the cans were stacked! I know that this happens every now and then but this seemed to be excessive. Easily every other call was for oil I was amazed.

Turns out that the flight crews have a new requirement that says they must call Maintenance Control if they are at a station with no SWA maintenance and their oil qty is 65% or lower. I can only guess as to the reasoning behind this but I'm sure that if the dollars and cents, nitty gritty, nuts and bolts were explained to me, then it would make total sense. What I do know is that the flight crews do not want to talk to Maintenance Control. They like talking to them so little that they make sure that they get the oil filled up at a Maintenance Station, like OAK.

I admit that it is tiresome to go out and put 2 or 3 quarts of oil into an engine. I start to think things like "It's raining out here, the Captain is nice and dry upstairs and called me out in this mess to put a lousy 2 quarts of oil in the engine?!" Of course there are times when I have put over 10 quarts into an engine and that pisses me off too. "How could these fools leave whatever station they were at with the oil being so low?" It really irks me that  they would treat the engines, my engines like that.

I think whats going on is that the company wants to save as much money as possible and it really is kind of silly to have to pay contract maintenance to put oil in a plane that just left OAK (or where ever) one or two legs ago. Saving money helps SWA put food on my table so I guess I will go oil up that plane in the rain, snow, heat, dark even if it's a mere two quarts. It's taking care of our engines and our bottom line, two birds-one can of oil, type of thing.