Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Batter-OH I Mean-Mechanic Up!!

In every shop there are guys that the other guys don't think are pulling their weight. I think it is just the way it is. In any work group in any industry you will probably find the same thing.

Last week when I was at work we were pretty busy for most of the weekend. When it finally died down the guys put the show "The Franchise" on the TV. The show is about the SF Giants and the year they are having. A kind of behind the scene take on what goes on when no one is watching and what goes on to the players and their lives. It's a pretty good show, and I'm no big baseball fan.

One of the story lines was a player who got called up from the minors because of another player being injured. The guy did well but once the injured guy came back the called up player went into a slump. The Manager calls him into the office and sits him down. The Manager says "Look you know that you have been struggling, Big Bob is back and hitting good. I'm going to have to send you down (to the minors again). You have proved you can play up here (the major league), once you do some improvement you will be back."

On of the mechanics turns to me and says "Imagine we could do that to the mechanics here. They screw up over and over and they get sent down to the minors."

I thought this was a great idea! If there was a threat that you as a mechanic could be sent to a commuter airline (if there are commuter mechanics that read this blog, I apologize up front, but that is the way major airline people think). I bet that people would be a lot less irresponsible with their work!

I can picture it now: The boss comes in in the morning and calls Joe MechanCant into the office. He sits him down and says something like this:
"Joe you really screwed up that repair last night. On top of that you have two late punch ins and your paperwork keeps coming back because you are always screwing it up. I'm not sure what is going on with you MechanCant but we are going to send you down to the commuters. If you can manage to get you act together we will try to make a spot for you again".

How crazy would that be?!? Think of it from the other side. A guy got out of school, was scouted while there and picked by a commuter or 135 operation out in Colorado. After a few years there he has proven that he is worth his salt. The Airline Scouts hear about him and review his records, they even come out to talk to his boss and watch him work. After a month or so the airline scout has a meeting with his boss. Next thing you know the mechanic gets an offer to come to the big leagues!

If the mechanic is really good he may get a competing offer from another airline. Only the best of the best would be picked.

I know that it seems strange to suggest that everyone starts in a lower position like that at a 135 operation, but, think of the pay off for the airline. The mechanics who make it to an airline are the top of the bunch. There is a reason for the mechanics to strive to do their best. If the mechanic wants to screw off and be lazy he or she risks being sent down.

We all want to be the highest paid in the industry. We all know that there are guys making the same money as we do that are worth a lot less. We want to solve the industry problems we need to reevaluate how we hire and keep employees.

Let's scout the good ones out!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Lost Art Of The Practical Joke

When I first started at SWA there were a few characters in the shop who were great at the art of the practical joke. As the years have gone on the majority of those guys have transferred out or quit or have been fired. Those few who remain have been corralled by MGT into toning down the joking and pranks in our ever growing PC (politically correct) world. "Someones feeling may get hurt so it must be a bad thing."

To honor the old days and the guys who knew how to have fun at work I am going to share some of the pranks we used to pull. I can't recount them all because this post would be too long so I will only recount a few now and maybe it will be a recurring post.

The first is an old airline standard: The New Plane Air Sample

To pull this prank all you had to do was find a relatively new AC and some new hire Flight Attendant or Ramper. We would go up to the cabin find the newbie and give them a garbage bag. The would be told that since this was a new plane we needed air samples taken and ask them to go to the aft galley and wave the bag around to fill it up and then quickly tie the bag shut. Then they would go to the back and we would marvel at how seriously they would take their new job. This also works for Rampers and Cargo Bin air samples.

The Mechanic or Supervisor in training prank.

There was a guy who I will call Picard. Picard was one of those guys who was good at thinking up pranks and very good at execution of the prank. Picard would find out who was going to DAL for training and then figure out what hotel and room they were staying in. We all worked graveyard at the time so at around 3am DAL time he would call the room and tell the guy he had to move his rental car because he parked in the wrong area or whatever.
When the guy came back we would ask him about it, and they would all admit that they got up and moved the car or that they were in the elevator before they realized that Picard had got them.

Mice and Rats

We had a mechanic who I will call Prince. Prince was easily scared. When he was frightened he would scream like a girl!! You could sneak up behind him when he was changing a tire and yell BOO and he would jump three feet.
The guys found a dead mouse one day and tied a string around it's neck then taped the string to the inside of an Altoids tin. When you opened the tin the mouse's head would pop up out. This tin was left on the table in the break room and of course people would open the tin and get a surprise. When Prince opened the tin and the mouse popped up he screamed and jumped and the tin went flying across the room.
One of our best capers was when we cornered a killed a huge rat. This thing was the size of a small cat and had huge sharp teeth. We knew Prince was working day shift the next morning so we came up with a scheme. We tied the dead rat to an inboard landing light box with safety wire and tape, leaving about a foot of slack between the box and the rat. Then we positioned the box on the shelf so that it was closest and so the natural choice of anyone who would grab a light. When Prince came in we got in a place where we could see the show. Prince being a smoker was out in front of the shop near the landing light rack. We put out a fake call for a landing light change. Prince said he would get it and grabbed the box. To his surprise a huge rat came jumping off the rack from behind the landing light box! Prince went screaming and jumping out the parts room door. The best part was that he held onto the landing light box and so the rat was swinging after him all the way out the shop!

We had probbies trying to recylce old landing light bulbs (another Picard stunt).
We used to put Dave's Insanity Sauce (a really hot hot sauce) on cookies and popcorn and even in coffee.
Picard was a master at putting tiny holes into the coffee cups and watching people spill all over themselves.
Back in the day before computer orders for uniforms we would change peoples uniform pant size to something like 28 waist 42 length.
We used to tell the probbies that Wed was free coffee day in the terminal for SWA employees, they would go up stairs and show their badge and the coffee shop lady would look at them like fools. We had to stop that when one probbie took orders from everyone and ended up putting over $60 of coffee on his credit card.

All this does is remind me how much has changed at SWA MX in Oakland. These things would never fly these days. Too much babying of grown men. I couldn't imagine scaring someone with a dead rat these days. I would get time off with no pay because I hurt their pride or something. Stay tuned for more pranks from back in the day.