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

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.