Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Floor is Making Noises!!

There are times when we are at work and we have to make decisions to ground a plane or not ground a plane. We never take these decisions lightly and of course we know that the impact to passengers and schedulers are going to be huge. There are times, however, that require us to ground a plane when we suspect there is no real problem. This is exactly what happened to us last week.

One of the guys got a call for a chat, lets call him-Baby Boy. So Baby Boy goes out and gets into this "discussion" with the on coming Captain and an off going Flight Attendant. The FA says that when she walks down the center aisle by the overwing exit the floor panel makes a popping sound. The captain that is supposed to take this flight out is well known to us mechanics and is a nervous wreck, since he is famous for grounding planes because of the floor placard that shows the pilot seat position I'll call him Capt. Placard.

By the time Baby Boy gets up to the plane the FA has Capt. Placard convinced that there is some structural damage to the floor of this plane. I should mention that the plane is a 737-700. After trying to calm down the captain Baby Boy comes back into the office looking for advice. Since I have worked overhaul I knew that the popping sound the floor panels make are because of foam tape which is put on the panels where they rest on the floor beams. After some time the tape wears through in spots leaving the sticky part of the tape on the panel. When a person steps on it the sticky part makes contact with the floor beam, when that person lifts his/her foot the adhesive lets go of the floor beam and the panel makes a popping sound.

Baby Boy went back to the plane to explain this to Capt. Placard but by now he was sure the floor was about to give way. He stepped on either side of the aisle by where the passengers at seats 12C and 12D would have their feet and sure enough the floor flexed and there was no way to talk him off the ledge at that point.

All of us agreed that baby Boy should just ground it and get Capt. Placard a different aircraft. Not being a shy person Baby Boy let Capt. Placard and the FA know that this was not cool and basically a waste of time.

I went out to Tango (where we park our planes away from the terminal) to help Baby Boy pull up the floor panel in question. Since this was an "evolve" aircraft we pulled up the carpet squares and went to work on the floor panel fasteners. Some of them were stripped (of course) so we drilled out about four of the about 50 screws and pulled the panel back. Normally to get that panel up you would have to take off about six or seven rows of seats. We tried something new and were able to pull the panel up slightly and then down the aisle by sliding it along the aisle and under the seats. Guess what we found-NOTHING.

Floor panel up

The foam under the panel was worn which Baby Boy replaced. The flexing of that particular panel happens because of its position. The panel is located right over the wing box area and as such there are few lateral supports to attach it to the aircraft structure. Most panels have the long floor beams running the length of the plane and several intercostals (non structural beams running across the cabin from floor beam to floor beam. The wing box area is built in such a way that those intercostals are not installed there, as such the floor panel itself has to span a wider area and it flexes more than others do. Also this is a 700 aircraft, when they built the thing they tried to save as much weight as possible and left out as many of those non-structural intercostals as possible.

Waiting out on the wing for parts.

All in all it was a wasted effort but I wanted to show Baby Boy and the other guys that the popping sound it nothing to worry about and can be explained away. It was a beautiful day out there and we had all the doors and overwing exits open to enjoy it. We had the plane back in service in a couple of hours and learned something while doing it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Legend of ...........

I'm going to start a new series about "The Legend of......." This will be about mechanics that I have met and worked with who have made a lasting impression on me and others. Also since it is the holidays I have been away from the blog for a bit but I will try to keep it going and will resume with regular additions after the new year so thanks for your patience.

My buddy SkyWalker suggested this subject and even the person to start with!! Thanks brother!

The legend of Don Tripp.

Don Tripp used to work with us in Oakland. When I first got the job Tripp was already working there. He was a former Marine and you could tell he was a larger than life type of guy. One of my first memories of Tripp was one midnight shift when I was working at gate 17 doing an Service Check. Tripp was working all the way at gate 25 which is pretty far away in Oakland. I was outside doing something when I hear "FUUU@@@%%%", followed by sparks moving rapidly away from the tail of the plane on gate 25. Tripp was working on an APU, up on a stand and things were not going well. As per his character he was screaming and the sparks were his open end wrench which he threw in his frustration.

Tripp was the quintessential Marine. He told you what he thought and did not give a damn about what you thought. To be honest when I first started here I was intimidated by him. I knew he was tough and I was still new to this whole Line MX game.

For a while we Oakland Mechs were going to San Jose for one Service Check and any MELs and then onto San Francisco for any MEL issues. We did this with a bread truck stocked with parts and able to carry any additional things we would need for the trip. We all took turns going down to San Jose but after a while the same few guys would go. Tripp was one of those guys. He liked to travel and do the non-scheduled work involved in that type of job. Tripp had worked in San Jose at his previous job and had famously stood at the open R-1 door of an MD-80 as it was being tugged from the remote parking to the gate wearing nothing but his combat boots! (Since it was his last day there it seemed like the thing to do.)

Tripp would do things like pounce on crickets and catch moths and then shove them into his mouth and eat them, apparently they taste like peanut butter. Tripp wore old school marine corps shorts that were wayyy short and always a Hawaiian shirt for I.D. pictures.

Tripp was a pretty good mechanic but I'm not sure how he would survive in this day of computer-jet. He was definitely an old school, old-iron, hit and beat it until it worked type of guy. He went through Mag-Lites regularly simply because he beat them to death.

The man had no type of table manners and in fact often had a box of Entemanns chocolate donuts for lunch followed by a carton of milk. He chewed and talked with his mouth open and cussed like the marine he was. While he worked in Oakland he dated a woman who ran an escort service and lived in a condo with little furniture but for some reason it had a barbers chair in it. He collected frogs, and adult movies.

By the time the end came for Tripp he had become a close friend. I respected him and appreciated his I am what I am ways. The end was not very graceful for Tripp and it was full of controversy. He was put in a bad spot by a person he thought was a friend and that made him go over the edge. The early days at Oakland maintenance could not be considered complete without Tripp and I will not soon forget his honesty with everyone and his interesting troubleshooting methods (remember the Mag-Lites?).

I think that knowing Tripp during my early years of Line Maintenance helped to sculpt me and in many ways helped me to find my voice and realize that I could also speak up and say what I thought also. We miss having Tripp here and I wish him well wherever he may end up.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Respect Your Elders

When I first got hired at SWA we were flying 737-200s and -300s. The 200s were old and they had a lot of issues. I for one was simply excited to work on ANY airliner at the time. Within 3 years time we had started to phase out the 200s so I did not really get a chance to get tired of working on them.

These days at SWA we fly 737-300s, -700s, and -800s. The 300s are getting old. Maybe old is the wrong term, more like worn out. We have the highest aircraft utilization, in terms of hours/day, of any airline out there. The planes are mostly 80s and 90s vintage 737s and they are simply used up.

When a typical mechanic shows up at work we look at the job board and sometimes when we find out we are working one of these older planes we cringe. "Not another old beast." I admit that I myself have had those days when I get assigned a 300 and I think "this thing is going to be falling apart."

My buddy SkyWalker is the exact opposite-he gets a 700 and he thinks, "what a bunch of relays and circuits." SkyWalker likes the older mechanical jets. Planes like 727s and the older 737s are just his cup of tea.

I have been looking at the older planes, recently, as older friends or older family members. These old warriors deserve our respect. There have been times when we have had battles and cursed them and even hit them with hammers in frustration. These planes have made us lay down in puddles in the rain, burned our arms while trying to pry out their PRSOVs, cut us, and even knocked some of us out cold. The leaks that only show up during high power runs, the L1 and L2 windows that would not see themselfs removed, the Rudder PCUs that needed to be RR'd in ALL types of weather and any times of the day.

The one thing that I try to remember is that the 300s have done all those things to me and those working with me BUT they also kept me and my family feed and clothed, they put money in my pocket and for many of us have provided the ONLY stable job we have had in the airline business.

These planes deserve a little respect from us. They are worn out that much is true,but day in and day out they go out and do their thing. They may be old and worn but I still feel bad when they are cut up and scrapped.

Check out these links regarding some of my old friends who will not be taking to the skies any more.

Aircraft 504
Not AC 504 but a pic of AC 501

Aircraft 351
Pic: ITSParts

Aircraft 692
Pic: ITSParts
And the list goes on.....

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Power Of The Internet!!

We at work have been using a "web based" maintenance manual for some time now and we are transitioning to a new one as we speak. These programs hold a lot of promise for the future of our industry but are not quite "the end all be all" yet.

I have found that there are a few great web sites out there that are 737 related and one in particular that offers some really good troubleshooting tips. It's kind of a grey area in that we are all trained to use the maintenance manuals exclusively. I guess what I am saying is these sites are REALLY helpful but they are still just "reference only" material.

The best of the bunch is "Sjap's 737 maintenance experience exchange". On this site there are plenty of helpful hints from mechanics all over who have run into issues and were nice enough to share them here.

Is there a reason we should not use all available resources to make us better mechanics? We all have little tricks that we have learned over the years to help us in our troubleshooting. Sjap's site is one of the tools that the Internet has brought to us and it is in my virtual toolbox (actually it's in my "bookmarks").

Friday, September 21, 2012

The 737-800 Finally Routed Through OAK!

We have been preparing for months now and it seems like OAK is the last station to get a regularly scheduled line for the 800 but it has finally arrived. Once a day from OAK to DEN. The first one came in on a Sunday and it was met by all the enthusiastic employees taking pictures etc. This kind of surprised me since we had the plane come through once before as a diversion from SFO. I thought maybe the fanfare would die down but it did not.

The mechanics were (of course) not all that happy but we did go out and meet the plane. In addition to the new plane we at SWA are switching to TRAX for our maintenance software program. The TRAX system has been, how should I put this..........problematic. The system itself is supposed to be better than the old one we are used to (WIZARD) and how could it not. WIZARD is a DOS based program but we have been using it for so long that we all know how to move around in it and it makes sense to us. This TRAX thing is a WINDOW based program and it operates as such. You would think that it would be easy to use but it's not.

One TRAX write up can take as long as one hour to input into the damn thing! The mechanics have been slowly using TRAX as our older -700s are switched over to the system. Each night we get one or two TRAX planes to work, but the paperwork as far as entering into the computer seems like a nightmare. Make a long story short-we dread having ANY write ups on TRAX planes.

The -800 came into gate 30 so I along with a few other mechanics walked over to check her out. All the rampers, ops, csa's were busy snapping photos of the plane and we mechanics went right over to the wheel well and did our oohs and ahhs. Pointing out the little differences here and there we noticed the larger hyd return filters and the difference in the main wheels. I also opened the E/E bay and peeked around, not much changed. When I opened the forward E/E door I was amazed by the size of the weather radar RT. The old RT (Receiver/Transmitter) was a big black box about the same size as an IRU unit, lets say 15" x 15" and weighs about 25lbs. The new box is a standard small smart box, about 3" x 15" and it has to weigh less than 5lbs.

Going up stairs the interior is beautiful!! I really like the "Sky" interior although I have heard that the materials that make it up are not standing up to the beating our passengers put it through. Of course while I'm poking about I hear over the radio that the captain on gate 30 has a write up she wants to talk to us about.

Immediately I'm thinking "great, this thing may be down for this stupid write-up". All our TRAX planes that have write-ups have to be signed off, and the paperwork (log page) entered into the computer before the plane can be dispatched. The release for the plane is locked until the computer work is done. As I stated earlier it takes forever to input these things into the system.

When I got to the flight deck the captain tells me she had an overspeed and that she wrote it up. Then she tells me that there is an open write up in the book from the last flight crew about the same thing!

Now I'm almost in a panic! Two write-ups on a TRAX plane which by the way is also an ETOPS plane, one of which is an open write-up! I called MX-CTRL and they told me the overspeeds on the -800s are a nuisance fault and I could sign it off as 'Info noted by MX".

I immediately brought the pages back to the office and handed them to the Foreman. He immediately got on the phone to find out how to enter the log pages into TRAX. Luckily he got back to me and said that the "INFO ONLY" write-ups don't need to be entered-PHEW!

I think we will work out our issues with TRAX and to be honest the -800 does not scare me as much anymore. The -800 is the future of SWA, as well as the 737 MAX, and the sooner I get used to it the better.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Another Week Another Learning Experience

A plane was grounded when I got to work a couple of weeks ago. Not that unusual. What was unusual was the issue with the plane. this plane needed a stab trim cable replaced. We, in Oakland, have no experience with this type of job and in fact it is really considered a hangar job.

Another mechanic, Dr. was also starting his work week and we decided to work the plane since he, like me, enjoys doing jobs that we have never done before. There was a crew coming in from Phoenix to change out the cable but they were not going to arrive until around 11pm.

After checking the paperwork Dr. and I decided that there was plenty we could do while waiting for the Phoenix guys. Since I have a vast experience doing Cabin work (thanks Delta) I went inside and started to take apart the interior. What we had to do was to expose the Idler Pulleys in the system so that the new cable could be routed.

I took out the seats in the over wing area and pulled up the carpet and removed the floor panel and what do ya know...there were the pulleys.

Dr. in the mean time pulled the ceiling out of the bag bins to access more idler pulleys.

The Phoenix guys arrived and brought all those cool special tools that those hangar guys have. The best thing was that "the" cable guy came out with them. This guy, I'll call him The Cable Whisperer, pretty much only does cable and rigging jobs back in Phoenix.

Long story short we learned that changing those cables is not as scary as it first sounds. We learned a lot of tricks. We learned that a guy who has been working at this company for over 30 years can work circles around us!

One of the best parts of the job was when almost the entire roster of Day shift came out the next morning to help us out. Dr. and I had to leave but those guys closed up the plane and she is on her way making us money as we speak.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

And In The End....

The very last day of my work week and I was looking forward to winding down the week on a nice easy note. When we came in on days they told us that a slat was damaged the night before and a new one was on the way. I have to admit I was not looking forward to working it and I decided not to volunteer my services when it came in. We did our normal thing that day and the new slat came in around 11am. The Lead Mechanic, I'll call him 20 Year Grudge, came in and asked who wanted to volunteer. No body moved or said a thing. He left and came back shortly and told one of the guys (lets call him F1) that he was going to help another guy, Banyan, on the slat.

I breathed a sigh of relief! I sat there for about 10 minutes then decided to go and help also. Crazy but true.

Banyan, F1 and 20 Year Grudge were just getting started and I jumped in where I could. Panels had to come off, the actuator had to be disconnected, the anti-ice duct also. Wires checked and moved and the puzzle of what the best way to remove the thing was slowly worked out. The Foreman (lets call him Surf) delivered our new slat and it was prepped.

As I was not assigned the job, when a gate call came over the radio I went to work it along with another guy so that these fellas could keep going. Around shift change 2:30pm the next player arrived-Tuna. Tuna was to be our inspector for the job. When we have large jobs or any time we mess with the flight controls we assign an inspector to look over the work and keep us all honest. Surf came over the radio "Banyan, you wanna stay for swing shift to finish the job?" Banyan was tired, he told me he could not wait to be done today so he could go home. I could tell he did not like the idea of staying but I knew that, like a lot of us, the idea of leaving a job half done was worse to him. He told the swing shift Lead (let's call him SkiBoat) that he would stay if they let Goat stay. he also said that if we stayed we could get the thing done in four hours. SkiBoat got on the radio and said "Hey Surf, Banyan will stay if we let Goat stay, he, Goat and F1 think they can finish in four hours." To my surprise Surf came back and said it was OK!

We got that old slat off and put the new one on. We actually put the new one on three times because we kept forgetting to hook up a wire or bracket or something. We finally got it up and Tuna inspected everything before we did our ops check. Tuna gave the OK to close the panels and we grabbed our screw guns and went to town.

We finished around 4:15 so all in all we spent about 5 hours on the thing. It felt good to work with guys that knew how to get a job done. No whining, no complaints just honest work. These guys don't stop for food or stupid things like that. They work hard and they work hard until the job is done. I am glad and proud to be in this group of workers and I hope that they feel they can rely on me the way I know I can rely on them.

One strange thing that happened: Once we were done and cleaned up F1 comes in and tells us that the plane we were working on is due to be retired in a month and a half! All that work and the plane is most likely going to the desert to be chopped up! We had shed sweat and even some blood to keep this thing flying and in the end...she was an old tired lady.

I have said it before and I will say it again, it's a strange feeling to know the plane you work so hard on is going to be leaving soon. All of us, for years worked hard to keep that plane going, "just get her over the fence" as we say. She no longer makes economical sense to keep around. Most likely she is timed out, too many cycles, not worth keeping with all the new more economical planes coming out. Like the 737-200s that this 737-300 replaced they will slowly fade away until they are stuff of legend, just a story to tell a probbie: "We used to change those heavy slats out here in the sun and rain and in the end...she was parked in the desert and dismantled."

Photo:Bobby Allison via airliners.net

Monday, July 16, 2012

Funny Thing Happened Last Week

Last week at work was pretty routine. We had the normal gate calls from the flight crews, a few tire changes, a couple of grounded planes. Rumors were passed around and some were simply invented to see how others would react. We had a plane grounded with a strut repack, a plane that needed a window changed and I even went down to SAN to help out with a broken plane.

The strangest, and in my opinion, most amusing thing that happened was that the 737-800 actually made a stop here in OAK. It was crazy, you would have thought that the president had arrived! When the plane pulled into the gate there were at least 40 people out there to see it. There were employees that I had never seen before circling around the plane and taking pictures. They were amazed, clapping, cheering. Every one was happy-except the mechanics!

When the plane was pulling in the Foreman came in and told us it was here and there was a collective moan in the room. We went outside, but only just outside the door. No cheers. No clapping. We knew what this meant. That plane is just another system to learn, another set of tricks to try to figure out, more gate calls, more tires, more brakes, more oil.

Don't get us wrong, we are proud to have the -800 in the fleet, but to maintenance it's just another airplane to learn. It takes us time to learn all the tricks to fixing these things and I, personally, have only just started to feel like I know the -700 tricks!

By the way what do you think happened to that plane while it was in OAK? That's right-it broke! The two guys working on it had to call MX Control and they had to get the ONE controller who sorta knew what was going on to help them figure out what to do. I would say it was about a 30 minute delay once it was all done.

All other departments see that plane as an attraction. Something new to ride in. "It looks so shiny", "The seats are so nice", "The new interior is cool", "It's so long". Sometimes I wonder if they ever think about what it takes to keep that plane in the air. Sure the plane is nice looking and rides nice but the mechanics have to deal with those nice planes when the Devil comes out of them. In the middle of the night when it's leaking fuel, or in the pouring rain when the window heat decides to stop working. That nice, cool, pretty plane is going to be hit with fists, kicked, struck with hammers, wrenches, and screw drivers out of frustration. The true plane will come out late at night when it's 30 degrees outside and the slat actuator stops working.

AC 301 a plane that earned it's respect from the mechanics. Gone to the graveyard now.

That's also when the plane will earn it's respect from the mechanics. Maintenance guys are not interested in the picture opportunities of these first few months, but if the captain seat comes out nice and easy or if the air conditioning packs are easy to understand and fix, those are the things that will get cheers from us.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Southwest 717 inspections

Most every one at SWA is happy to see the 717s go (Delta has decided to lease them). Here is an article about crack inspections that the FAA is requiring us to complete. Click the following link:

Southwest and Boeing seek delays in 717 inspections.

Monday, July 2, 2012

"What Else Can I Do?"

We work line maintenance. We do a great job of working line maintenance. Southwest Airlines is by far the best maintenance outfit I have worked for. Over the years I have learned a lot and had a lot of fun. One of the great things about this job is that I am constantly learning new things. One of the things that I have learned is that no matter how successful an organization is it can be eaten away from within by complacency.

There are a core group of guys at the job that work and work hard. The problem is that there is another group that does all they can do to actually do as little as they can. I know that I can't control the actions of others but it one of the things that really bugs me.

This post is not really about other mechanics doing the minimum to make their job easier. It is actually about me finding a way to behave at work that ensures I never fall into that trap. One of the good guys at work (lets call him The Dr.) came up to me a few weeks ago and said that on every gate call he does he tries to do something extra, something that the crew did not call for. This can be as easy as washing the windows when the crew calls for oils, checking the tires when you are called for hydro, etc. How easy is that?

Since beginning The Dr.'s method I have an increased sense of job satisfaction and it's really good to feel like you are going above and beyond in your job. Any of you who read this blog and are going to school for your A&P take my advise: When you are done with any task on an airplane (or anywhere for that matter) always ask yourself "What else can I do?" You will learn more, be more appreciated by co workers, become a better employee, and ultimately help your company's bottom line.

Let's not become a group of employees that always look for the easy way out, or always do the minimum amount of work. Let's keep our planes in top shape and the only way to do that is for all of us to take the extra step. When I got hired here at SWA we were able to say we had the best maintenance in the industry and I want to be able to say that when I retire as well. I will thank The Dr. for ya.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Would you make the cut?

Before I begin I have to admit that I stole this idea from another blog. When I read it it really made me think about my job and how I work. I think it's important to constantly try to improve yourself and I know that there are people out there who read this blog and are currently studying to become mechanics. Read this, my take on it, and remember it while you are working.

I have worked for SWA for almost 16 years now. I see a lot of new guys come and I have seen a lot of new guys go (fired or transferred out). I think that SWA is a great place to work and I love the job. When I see people that I work with behave as if they don't care about the job or take advantage of the job it really bugs me. I have spoken to some mechanics and their attitude is "they can't make me do it so why should I go the extra mile?" I agree that the company can not force us to do things but my question is: why would you not?

The things I am talking about are getting your Engine Run Qualification and getting your Taxi Qualification and getting CAT III Qualified. We work in a Line MX environment. That means that we do all the maintenance on the plane. We work engines and avionics and EVERYTHING. Is it fair to other mechanics when you do not get those qualifications? When a guy does not have those qualifications then another guy has to go out and do your work for you. Run YOUR engine. Taxi YOUR plane. Sign off YOUR CAT III work. It makes no sense to me as a MECHANIC to have to be relying on others to complete my work for me. And it seems to me that when you were hired you said you would do ANYTHING to get the job. Which brings me to the subject: Would you make the cut?

Take a good look at your work performance in the past year. Be honest. Have you done everything that you could have? Have you been calling in sick every Friday? (Hot topic these days). Do you go out of your way to learn about how the plane works? (I bet you said you would during the interview). When another mechanic is out there working at 4am and you have been done for two hours but decided to wait out there on your plane before coming into the shop (sand bagging) are you "thinking outside of the box" like you said you do on your resume? Does being a "go getter" or "self starter" like is mentioned in the interviews mean that you go and get the easiest airplane to work on? How many times during the interview did you tell the HR guy that you were going to bitch and moan about what job you would be assigned on any given night?

It's been sixteen years and I guess the interview questions have changed. Today's interview must be something like this:

"Welcome please come and work for SWA, oh and don't bother trying or learning we have a handful of guys who will do your work for you."

I recently had a convo with a guy who was complaining about the work he was assigned. As the Lead left the room this guy (I'll call him "Yellow") called out over his shoulder "well, you better send someone over to run my engines for me." This, to me, meant that the Lead should not assign Yellow any work that involves running engines! At least that is what Yellow believes. So I asked Yellow how long he has been here (which dose not really matter) and why he does not have his engine run yet. He tells me that he did "all that" at his last job and is not "interested" in doing it here. I said "I bet that's not what you told them during the interview". He tried to blow it off and I called him a lazy sack and he went on his way.

We should all take a close look at ourselves. If we had to interview again today would we make the cut? If the company decided to re-interview all of us, who would they keep? Would they keep the guys who can't even look up things in the maintenance manual? Not likely. So why not learn?

If the company could (which of course they can't) and they re-interviewed, knowing what they know about your work ethic, would you be invited back? I can say that I'm not even sure I would be back in that case, but I know that at least half of the 50ish mechanics we have here in OAK would not be back if I were doing the selecting.

It's an interesting exercise to think about it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

P-40 Kittyhawk Found in Egyptian Desert

P-40 Kittyhawk Found in Egyptian Desert

More cool old planes found! Check out the above link and then the link to the original article for photos.

FAA Proposes Fines for Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air

FAA Proposes Fines for Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air

"The agency says that during 10 occasions between June 19, 2010 and Jan. 13, 2011, Alaska allegedly performed maintenance on six of its Boeing 737s while failing to comply with the “required alternative deactivation procedures.” Alaska allegedly failed to document alternative actions it carried out and to install the appropriate danger tag, which reduces safety hazards as technicians are working on maintenance and to prevent damage to the aircraft parts and systems themselves."

This is crazy! Did you know that we could get fined for not using our "Lock Out-Tag Out" proceedures? The FAA is getting desperate if you ask me.


737 Nose-Gear Extension Confirms Larger Engine Choice

737 Nose-Gear Extension Confirms Larger Engine Choice

As we figured the nose gear will be longer, 8 inches longer.


Pristine Spitfires Found in Burma

Pristine Spitfires Found in Burma

Not only am I an aviation professional but I am also am airplane nerd. I love all airplane but have a special fondness for old WWII aircraft. This story is amazing! They found as many as 120 Spitfire airplanes boxed up from the war time in Burma. Enjoy the attached article!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Enter The "PROBBIES"

We have a new batch of mechanics here in Oakland. It seems like we are always hiring but that is the nature of our station. California is a very expensive place to live and the people we hire move on to greener pastures. We call the new guys "probbies" because they are on probation. If at any time during their probationary period the company deems it necessary to fire the probbie then it can, with certain stipulations of course.

I still remember vividly the time I spent on probation. I was proud, happy, ecstatic really, to have been hired and was willing to do any thing the mechanics asked me to do in order to keep the job. There were three of hired at once and we swept the shop, tire connexes, rotated the new tires to the back of the connex, cleaned up, stayed up, and tried to always look busy yet stay out of the way. As I said there were three of us, Teflon, Revere, and myself. The schedule for all the mechanics used to be posted on the window of the managers office. It listed all the mechanics and their days off. About a month into the probation I came into work off my weekend, I clocked in and notice that there was a big red line through Revere's name. Already paranoid I froze and realized that Revere got canned! I told Teflon but of course he was not worried. The probation period way back then was 3 months long and it was a very long three months, but it was also a time for learning, building camaraderie, and showing what you were made of.

Nowadays the probation period is SIX MONTHS! That's a long time. Of course there is way more to learn then there used to be. While we can no longer make the probbies clean up the shop or clean off  the golf carts we can and should teach them what they will need to know to succeed at SWA (or where ever you, the reader works). We want mechanics who are go getter's, self-starters, willing to listen, willing to learn (on their own and under instruction), who we are willing to work with for a long time (the rest of our careers). We also need to deprogram them from where ever they came from. No one wants to hear "well at Delta we used to do this..." We need them to want to help, not be afraid to ask questions and we have to figure out if they are "stand up" type people.

I bring all these things up because I heard a rumor that some mechanics do no want to work with the probbies. They say it's not their job to "train" new guys. They don't want to be "slowed down" by having to explain the ins and outs of the job to the new person.

I say not only should you be required to work with new guys but you should want to. These guys need to be taught how we do things in our shop. They also need to see what kind of guys and gals they will be working with when and if they pass probation. The probbies are like sponges and if they get treated like s@&% then that is how they will act once they are off probation. I'm not saying that they should not still clean up and take the normal ribbing from the mechanics-it builds character. What I'm saying is that if you choose not to show the probbies how to work then you have no right to complain about how they work. When they are off probation and not working how you think they should then you most likely did not explain things to them when they were on probation.

The other thing that is ironic is that I'm sure the guys saying they don't want to work with the probbies got plenty of help while they were on probation. As a matter of fact I bet some of them just barely passed probation themselves!

winglet lightning strike

When I was a Delta we new guys were called "JEEPS". Just Enough Education to Pass. "Hey JEEP go get me an airhose." "Hey JEEP get me a drill." "Hey JEEP pay attention." I made it through and the next set of guys got the ribbing. It's a right of passage in our industry and one that any mechanic worth a dime does not mind going through, but remember it's a two way street. Time to suck it up and slow down to show these new people the way. Who knows you may even learn something.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Birds!!!!

I was thinking of all the interesting things that Line Mechanics do. We go on road trips and work on engine issues and have the pleasure of working in the sun, rain, and snow. We change windows, tires, APUs, and the like. We change vomit covered seatbelts and broken coffee makers. And I thought to myself that I have likely mentioned most of these things in my past blogs. One of the more interesting things we do that I have not mentioned is BIRD STRIKES.

Recently the bird strike activity of the airlines has come into public focus with the US Air emergency landing into the Hudson River by Capt. Sully. That was an amazing bit of flying and an unusual result of the bird strikes that we encounter as Line Mechanics.

Strike on a Kruger Flap

Working the Line for the last 15 years I must have worked on or been involved with hundreds of bird strikes. That may surprise some people but it happens every week. For the most part when we go out to a call about a bird strike we simply do a "Bird Strike Inspection", do some clean up and the plane is on its merry way. There have been some unusual ones that I have been involved in that cause damage but the vast majority of the bird strikes do no damage at all.

Because of the recent publicity of the bird strikes, however, we must now collect a sample of the bird (a feather or chunk of meat) bag it up in this neat little "Bird Strike Kit" that we now stock and sent it to the Smithsonian Institute in D.C. In D.C. they can tell from the sample what type of bird we killed and I guess that must be fed into some kind of super computer somewhere which tells them.....I have no idea what.

I once went to a terminating plane. It was night time and I did my usual walk around before going up to talk to the pilots. On the walk around I counted 26 bird strikes! I went up to the flight deck and I asked the crew if they were aiming for the damn things! They said they were on approach to land and a whole flock of tiny birds took off right in front of them. The Captain said it sounded like machine gun fire was hitting them. They Midnight shift guy did the inspection and found no damage.

One time while doing a walk around, again at night, I came around to the nose of the plane and the radome was caved in like someone punched a car door only larger. The crew told me a pterodactyl hit them (that's how big the thing was). Again we did the inspection R/R'd the radome and that was that.

Those instances and many more were before we had to mail evidence of the birds to D.C. Since then there were two interesting bird strikes that I was involved in. The first was a call from an F.O. He was doing his walk around and said there was a bird strike on the left gear. Me and another guy I'll call GrassHopper went out to see what was up. Once there I could not believe it: there wrapped around the still hot brake was an entire turkey vulture!

 Usually we only see some blood, feathers and maybe a couple of chunks of meat but this thing was complete! As a matter of fact the hot brake had cooked some of the bird! We unwrapped it and did our inspection (no damage) and then got to thinking. Most of you know that when mechanic get to thinking the result is not going to be good

. Since there was no management there at the time and the whole "Bird Strike Kit" thing was not put together yet, all we had to go on was a letter that stated we were to keep a sample of the bird to sent to D.C. GrassHopper and I thought 'we can do better than that, we can send them the whole damn bird!" We got a trash bag, put the bird in and stuck it in the freezer in the shop. I then copied the log page and wrote a letter to the manager and left both on his desk. I never did hear anything about it and I never saw the bird again.

The latest large bird strike I was involved in was what I ended up calling "Bird -Ageddon". This thing was a mess but at first it was decieving. This plane was again a terminator. When I was walking around her I noticed some feathers sticking to the left forward wing-to-body fairing and some blood streaked aft of there. There was nothing in the engine, nothing on the gear, nothing on the tail leading edges. I went up to talk to the crew and they told me they saw the thing, it was pretty big, they tried to miss it but then heard the thump. As a matter of fact the passengers and the Flight Attendants heard it too.

After the crew left I went back down and started to look the hit over. The bird hit on the leading edge of a seam between two panels. I pulled the feathers out and could see that the panels were damaged. The holes that once had screws in them had been torn and the screws were missing all along the seam. I called the Foreman and asked him to bring the camera so he could take a picture of the panel and sent it to MX Control. My buddy Brika-Brack came over and we were looking over the damage. I told him "I have a funny feeling that bird is back behind that panel". He was not sure but he helped me to take the panel off. As soon as we got the panel off I called the Foreman (and his camera) back. Just as I thought the bird hit that seam, it deformed, the bird went inside, and then the panel popped back into place.

 Inside that panel was like a bomb went off. There were bird parts and blood everywhere. The bird hit so hard it actually bent the box structure that comprised part of the kruger flap compartment. The bird continued in two pieces up over the wing and down under the wing in the spaces left by the wing-to-body fairings. The Foreman was quite impressed, he said it looked like the bird exploded in there and that is a real good description of it. That plane was down for something like 5-6 days while they figured out how to clean/repair all the damage!

That was certainly the messiest bird strike I have been involved with others are just strange. Any Line Mechanic will tell you about bird strikes that leave no evidence except a perfect impression of the animal on the plane. It's like a ghostly imprint. You can make out the head, beak, feathers, feet, some times even the eye, but there is no blood or damage. I have heard of bird strikes that go through the radome, through the forward bulkhead and into the flight deck-spraying the pilots with blood! At Delta we had one the hit the side of the plane, on a seam I assume, made its way into the fuselage, past the sidewall and sprayed the passengers!

Those last two are very rare. As a matter of fact any damage resulting from birds is rare. Bird strikes, however, are NOT rare and as a Line Mechanic it's just another in a long list of "interesting" calls you will contend with. The other thing about birds is that they seem to find their way into the engines. As with Capt. Sully's plane this can cause the engine to flame out, damage blades, etc. This is also pretty rare and while there is a special inspection for birds that go into the engine most of the time the planes are good to keep flying.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Doomsday Prepped!!!

There are a lot of shows on TV these days about Preppers and Prepping for the coming Apocalypse. These are the folks who store a years worth of food and water so they can survive in case the S%#@ Hits The Fan. The preppers have guns and ammo and tactical gear at the ready and practice exactly what they would do in the event of a an emergency. There is good reason to be ready if an event happens that would require you and your family to "bug out" or "bug in" as the preppers say and I must admit that it makes sense to me to have some food and extra water in the event that it is needed. I am pretty sure that I will never have a years worth of food and water stored but to each his own.

pic submitted by SkyWalker

These shows got me thinking, airline mechanics are like preppers or at least they should be. While the preppers are getting ready for the next polar shift or super volcano we mechanics (at least the responsible ones) are always thinking and getting ready for the next lay-off. Ever since I got laid off at Delta Airlines I never really looked at any of my next jobs the same. Lay-offs are a way of life in the airline industry and most everyone at the airline level has been through one. I even know one guy who has been at 14 different air carriers!

pic submitted by SkyWalker

A responsible mechanic will keep his/her skill level up-just in case. Again I will say we should never stop learning new things at our jobs. Sure there are practicle reasons like not having to ask for help running an engine but the other reason is-you never know. You never know when the company you work at will have financial issues, get bought out, or simply close the doors.

What would you do if you were told that in 2 weeks time you were going to be put out on the street? What if during your whole time at  your current job you never took advantage of any of the engine run, taxi, sheetmetal, inspection, etc classes that the company offered you? Now you are out of a job and have learned nothing during the time you spent with said company.

We should all get in the habit of being prepared. Learn all you can. Volunteer to do things you have not done before. Look things up in the MX manual. Experience what a Lead Mechanic or Foreman do by doing "Bump-up" duty. Learn how the paperwork is handled. How do you order parts? How do you contact and talk to Engineering? Never did an engine change or MEC change?-Volunteer. These are all skills that can help you out if you were to ever get that lay off notice.

I know one thing-I am doing it. I like to learn new stuff anyway so it is not hard for me to try. I will never get caught flat footed again. And if any thing like that happens again I want to be able to say that I am even more marketable than when I got this job.

Please understand that I don't think that SWA will be laying anyone off any time soon. I love the company and feel very secure here. Those things do not diminish  my responsibility to my family and that comes first. I am a Vocational Prepper I guess. Stay prepared and you won't be surprised-Oh and you may learn a thing or two along the way.

If I was a person looking to hire a mechanic and I saw two resumes from mechanics that were at the same company for the same amount of time but one of them was engine run and taxi qualified and the  other was not. One mechanic has stated that he did bump up Foreman duty on occasion and one did not-who do you think I would hire?

Doomsday to most Americans would be a Tsunami, hurricane, tornado or flood. But doomsday in my house would  be getting laid off and being a little less marketable than the other 100,000 airline mechanics out of work.

I am taking on a new challenge this year. I am currently studying to get my IA rating from the FAA. I always wanted to get my IA and now seems like a good time to go for it. Who knows one day it may come in handy. Stay tuned!!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Troubleshooting Be Damned!!

I was working recently when a call came in from MX Control. There was a plane in Portland that they needed two guys to fly up to look at. This was one of our -300s and the "ANTI-SKID INOP" light would illuminate when the crew set the parking brake. Once we figured out who was going on the road trip, me and a guy I'll call "Tactical",  we started our normal pre-road trip routine:

Get your tools ready. I know guys who only bring the tools they think they will need for the specific job they are going to do but I tend to over pack. The problem with just packing what you think you will need is that we often get there and another issue pops up. Also check your flashlights and bring extra batteries.

Check the history. I wish I could tattoo this one some of the guys foreheads. Before you work any problem, if you have the time, you should always check the discrepancy history. If you go and change a part and then look in the history only to find out that someone changed that same part, for the same problem, just yesterday than you just wasted time and a lot of money. In the case of our Anti skid issue we had time so we checked the history. I found history back to over 120 days for this airplane having Anti skid lights coming on. They had changed about everything in the system so we had some troubleshooting ahead of us.

Check the weather! If it's raining where you are going than you better bring some rain gear.

Luckily we have a great stores department but it was not always that way. Once upon a time we had to pack our own parts which means you have to check the effectivity and make sure it will work for the airplane you are going to fix.

Get on your plane and go.

In our case stores packed a control panel, an Anti-skid valve, and a  parking brake valve. We of course had our multi meters and I brought my kit I made for when I have to shoot wires. You will hear the term "shooting wires" or "ringing out" wires. All this means is to check for continuity and power of certain wire runs. We also  printed out and brought with us the wiring diagram for the anti-skid system.

I grabbed my road trip bag, extra set  of clothes, tooth paste and tooth brush, deodorant, etc.

Luckily we got some seats on the plane (did not have to sit on the jumpseats in the flightdeck) and away we went.

Once we landed and made sure our tools were ok we went up to the plane which was parked and turned off. As we opened the jetway door I kiddingly said to Tactical "Watch the thing work now-since they turned the plane off". As sure as a bear s!%&$ in the woods when we turned her on the light was off! "Kick the brakes off and set them again" said Tactical. I did and it all worked according to design.

Now you might think "that's great! let's pack it up and go home", but it's not that easy. We knew that the plane had a long history of this stupid  light coming on so we have a responsibility to try and see what is going on. In some ways this is the hardest type of write up you can get as an aircraft mechanic. The problem comes up and by the time you get there the damn thing works great. As a true mechanic you still have to troubleshoot and try to find out what is going on. As I say we have to try to break it to figure out what's wrong.

As it turned out for Tactical and I we could not get the thing to break again. A few hours into it and we had to contact MX Control to let them know what was going on. We spent about 3-4 hours trying to figure out what the problem was and could not get the stupid anti-skid light to come on when we set the parking brake. After talking to the MX Controller we decided to change the parking brake valve as a precaution and let her ride. Another hour and a half later we were crossing our fingers as we tested the system after changing the parking brake valve and it all still worked. Believe me when I tell you there are times when you change the part and the damn thing is still broke or another thing is busted!

The point of the story is that there are times when you can not get the plane to act in the way that the flight crew did and therefore can not duplicate the problem. That does not mean that you can stop and sign it off. You are still a mechanic and you still should try and get the thing to fault. I'm not saying that there won't be times when you use the old "could not duplicate" for your sign off. The title "mechanic" comes with certain responsibilities and the one I'm talking about now is the responsibility to you. Take your job seriously and use every chance to learn and expand your art.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Success In The Industry

I have recently read some articles that have tried to establish ways to be successful in our industry. It's interesting to me that our choice of career has a lot in common with and is a lot different than most jobs. Like most folks we decide what we want to do for a living, we to go to school and pursue the challenge of getting our A&P license. We graduate or test out and are on our way. I think that for a lot of people that is where the dream ends. When they realise that the fresh out of school mechanic will have to take a really low paying job doing things like assembly work, overhaul work, throwing bags, or fueling just to get their foot in the door it tends to lean the ranks of the fresh recruits. Add to that the fact that most of the places that hire A&P mechanics without the coveted "EXPERIENCE" are overhaul places in out of the way places like Alabama, Indianapolis, Everett and Dallas and the New York based kid with a new A&P ticket has a big decision to make.

The other way that kid can go is to try and get on with a contract maintenance company at a local airport. While this could provide invaluable experience it is also a "thrown to the lions" way of learning the trade. Contract work is Line Maintenance and it is a type of maintenance that not every one excels at. When I was out of school I got real lucky and was hired by an airline to do overhaul in Atlanta GA. It was a big decision, I am a New Yorker and I was going to school in Florida. While it may not seem like a big move it was a big move for me. My only other employment opportunity involved stocking shelves or pushing a broom at the time so I was not going to pass it up. I think that the big move is what blocks a lot of people from being successful.

 But success is not just getting the job. Success should also include how well you perform in the job, progression, performance and satisfaction. In order to not become a simple parts changer (any one can do that) in order to become a true mechanic there are certain things you should do.

1.     Keep your passion alive. It works in marriage and it works in maintenance. The reason we became mechanics is because we love airplanes (hopefully). I still airplane watch and now with sites like Airliners.net I can do it even at home or when the weather sucks outside.

2.     Never stop learning. Every job I have been at offered training classes. Take advantage of these classes. If there are factory classes offered take them. When I first started working the line I was given some simple advice: when the work is all done for the night go up to one of the planes, turn on the IRUs and play with the BITE checks in the FMC. This alone helped me to figure out how to navigate through the menus and pages that can seem a bit confusing to a new comer. There is no way to mess up the plane by going through the BITE systems so don't be afraid.

3. Never stop asking questions. This is something we all try to teach our kids but once we get into a work situation we tend not to follow this simple advice. No one can be expected to remember everything that they learn. If you can't remember something or don't know how to do something just ask. You ask the guys at my job and they will tell you that Goat asks (sometimes) lots of questions. For me it's a time thing, I have, usually, about 20 minutes to work an issue. To get as much input as I can for a problem I ask over the radio if anyone has had the problem before or if any one knows a shortcut in the BITE.

4.    Be nice. It's simple but you would be surprised at the amount of a-holes you meet in this industry. I am amazed at some of the behavior that grown men will display at work. Also being nice is not just important when you are dealing with mechanics but also for the flight crews. These guys are your customers and as crazy as it sounds being nice to these guys and gals goes a long way. They know that if they tell me about an issue I will work on it and in turn I know that they respect me and the work I do.

5.     Don't be a know it all. Nobody likes that.

6.     Make friends. This is a small industry. I work with a guy I will call GUN. Gun and I worked together at Delta Airlines. One day while I was on probation in walks Gun, the newest mechanic (at the time). Several of the guys at work actually worked together at other airlines and several of the people who were scheduled to be interviewed were nixed due to their reputations at other airlines preceding them. Also on this note I will say that I have friends that I have made at SWA that I know will last a lifetime.

7.     Have fun. This is a SWA thing to the core. We get together for BBQs and other events. These things are not for us the mechanics but rather for our families. We spend a third of our waking life at our jobs, remember to thank your family for their support by taking them to the BBQ or Christmas party. This is a very important thing.

8.     Reward yourself. I am a toolaholic. I like my tools and I like nice new tools. Every now and then it's ok to get yourself a nice tool as a reward. It's a happy coincidence that it also helps you do your job better.

9.     Teach your kids about aviation. My kids know more about planes than almost every kid their age. All their lives they have been flying and will soon start taking flight lessons (my wife and father in law are flight instructors). We need to teach our kids everything we know while they are young.  You never know when the knowledge of how to use a pair of safety wire pliers or simple electronics, soldering,welding, basic pneumatics, engine work, hydraulics may come in handy. What if you knew all these things since before you entered high school? How much easier would your schooling have been. Even if they do not enter the industry these skills will set them above other people when they are at a job seeking age.

10.   Last and one of the most important: Keep reading my Blog!!.......please.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Qantas eyes maintenance job cuts

ABC News Australia reports that Quantas is thinking about cutting maintenance jobs. More wrenches out on the street! Check the article; I think they are talking about mechanics, they call us engineers in most other countries but our own. It also looks like Quantas has been oredered to check wing cracks in the wings of all the A380s they run. One would wonder why they would think its a good time to let mechanics go when they have these inspections looming??

Another Airline Gone!

Air Australia closed it's doors today. Looks like they left a bunch of folks stranded.
Sunday Morning Herald of Australia reports the company was selling tickets yesterday and closed it's doors today.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Our Newest Baby!

Just wanted to drop the first pics of our first 737-800 as it was unloaded from the train and into the factory up in Seattle.

Ours is the one riding the crane. Some guys think that the other two are SWA as well but there is no confirmation of that yet.

This is the cleanest we will ever see her! The fun begins in less that 30 days (those Boeing guys are good). A few of the guys have gone to the Differences Training and from what I'm gathering there is not a lot that has changed with the exception of the Air conditioning system. One of the fellas shared the schematic of the -800 system with me and I like what I see. No more coallesor bags to change! Someone in the know said that the system resembles that of the 757 so that's pretty cool.

Big things are coming for us at SWA but I'm sure we can handle it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Loss Of A Member Of Our Maintenance Family

Recently we lost a valuable member of our Oakland Maintenance family, one that has been in OAK longer than me and was a real hard worker and very dependable. I an referring of course to our Maintenance Van.

I remember when I first met the van. I was  working here for a couple of months when we had to make a run to San Jose to fix a couple of planes. About six of us piled into the van. There were at time only two seats in the van, however, so I asked what we were going to do. KW (he no longer works for SWA but I changed the name for his safety) told me to grab some cardboard of foam packing and find a spot on the floor. It was a fun and thrilling time for me as I was new to this whole Line MX thing and it had an air of doing whatever we had to in order to get the job done.

The van, at one time, was our road trip vehicle. We used it to travel all over the Bay Area and I believe it even made the trip to Reno a few times. It was also a popular Midnight shift vehicle since it had a radio and a tow hitch. Guys would load their tools into the back and rock out at their planes with the rear doors open.

Back when we were able to be Badged at different airports I rode in the van to SFO with Trooper and another guy. Our manager told us to park in the short term lot and he would reimburse us for the cost. Well back before the remodel there were these metal balls that hung down on chains from a sign across the entrance to the lot. These balls were supposed to warn you if your vehicle was too tall for the garage. We laughed because the truck in front of us cleared the "balls of death" but the guy had his camper shell aft window up and open. The "balls of death" smashed his window to bits. We knew the van would fit but did not take into account the beacon on top of the van. That beacon stood no chance against the balls and they claimed their second victim in under two minutes.

In the last few years the van has been our parking lot shuttle. Parked out there waiting for the next shift to come in. The van happily fulfilled this duty until late last month when the engine started to make dying noises and finally gave up the ghost.

The van had it's quirks. The side door was welded shut due to the fact that it fell off once when the guys were driving on the highway. The other odd thing was that the front roof section was caved in. As I liked to say in the shop: "all the cool guys know why the roof of the van is caved in."

There is a movement going on right now to buy her a new engine or even get a different van. I kind of lean toward the new engine side. That van was originally a Morris Air van and is part of SWA history. I think it deserves another shot.