Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Old Timey Maintenance

For a while now I have been collecting pictures of aircraft maintenance from back in the day. It facinates me. The pictures demonstrate how far we have come but in many ways also show how little has changed. I figured I would put some of these up for you guys to check out.

The old prop-liners were cool and the Connie was the coolest of them all. Check these guys out wearing their white coveralls. It looks to me like they have some kind of radar issue but whats funny is that even today we say "one guy working, two just watching". Some of the ground equipment even looks the same as the stuff you would find at any airport these days.

A patch from a mechanics hat from Wilmington-Catalina Airlines. Even back in the day we wanted to be recognized as mechanics, not rampers. Today there is a struggle-mechanics want to stand out, not be confused with other ground crew. How many times have I gone up to the flight deck to be handed the landing gear pins or the fuel slip by the captain because he thought I was a ramper or fueler. I know it's cost effective for companies to have everyone have the same uniform but every mechanic wants to be recognized as such.

Look at these poor bastards!! Look at those ladders and no safety lines or lanyards. The term "back when men were men" comes to mind. Imagine having to climb up that ladder with tools or heavy parts. Think any of them had a fear of heights? These days the heights may not be as great but they say a fall from even four feet could kill you. Remember that these days we do have to put ourselves in some crazy positions to fix these planes. Walking the crown looking for lightning strikes, RRing rudder PCUs, working out on the wings. The dangers are still prevalent.

This is actually an old picture. It was taken during WWII, and yes they had color photography back then. This is an awesome pic that shows that women have been involved in our industry from way back in the day. Even prior to WWII women did the majority of work on the fabric of fabric covered planes. It always amazes me when people are shocked that we have female mechanics at our job. As a matter of fact one of the best students at my A&P school was a woman. She already had a job lined up working in an auto garage and could work circles around us guys.

The last one for today is not an airplane but it does have a lot of similarities. Hatches are open, tools are being used, etc. These guys are hard at work on this old locomotive. I wanted to include this pic because of the dirt and grime. I don't think this was a staged shot. There is grease and dirt all over these guys and this is what maintenance is actually like. We have a dirty job, some nights you make it through and you are not too bad off, but other nights you are filthy. The dirt and grease get everywhere. Also this demonstrates that the chemicals that we use to keep our equipment (trains or planes or cars) running gets onto us and, let's face it, is slowly poisoning us as we work. It is an unfortunate by product of doing the job we love.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Remember Them Days.....

I am proud of where we have come as a group here in OAK Maintenance. We have a great work area, break room, tooling, etc. We do a kick ass job every day of the year. I wonder how many of us can recall the "old days" before the success back when we were all afraid of losing our jobs because that feeling of having lost our previous job was still fresh in our minds.

Pic of OAK when the T2X expansion was being built.

I am guilty of it, I drive a nice car with leather seats and cruise control. I like to eat out and go on nice vacations. The difference is that I remember them days! I remember when the car we owned could only make it on local trips, as a matter of fact we had a truck and that truck only sat three, but we are a family of five (actually four at that time). These types of things are what I would like to remind my fellow mechanics about in this post. Some times it seems to me that we have lost sight in the where we have come department.

I'm talking about years ago before the leather recliners, nice salaries and stuff. Let's see who remember them days.

Remember when your wife had to drop the kids off at the work parking lot so that she could get to work on time.

Remember when your wife had to drop you off at work because you only had one car?

Remember using the belt loaders for EVERY tire change AND brake change?!!

Remember the parts shed at gate 17?

15 minute turns?

Coach seating on our planes?!

Do you remember how the roof of the maintenance van got caved in?

How many of us remember driving down to San Jose in the van when there were no seats in the back?

Why is the vans sliding door welded shut?

How about the George Foreman Grill?

Snickers, smokes, and a coke.

Who can remember when we HAD to work 2 or 3 planes each per night or the work would not get done?

Remember finishing up work in OAK, heading to SJC to knock some work out and then going to SFO for some more work? And we were happy to do it!!

Remember calling MX CTRL for troubleshooting help?

Who can recall trying to fix MELs on turns? And days when we tried to have ZERO MELs fleet wide!!

Some of us can remember going to Frank's after work for a drink.

The point I'm making is not that the old days were all that grand. We worked and we worked hard. I think a little struggle goes a long way toward motivation. We worked and sacrificed because that layoff was still a bitter taste in our mouths. I fear that as time goes on, some of have forgotten what that was like.

The jobs we have are as stable as any job can be in the airline industry, but don't let that fool ya. We have all seen airlines make cuts that don't make sense, my goal is to make our work group too valuable to cut.

I have SWA's back because I don't want to go back  to the sharing a car with the wife days.  I'll take my leather seats in my own car and yes please install the seat heaters as well, I'm not getting any younger.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Scared of the Flight Crews

I work with a great group of mechanics. These guys have done and fixed planes in all kind of conditions, weather, anytime of day or night. I have seen them improvise and use all manner of tooling and improvised tooling for that matter to fix our fleet. All this makes me wonder why it is that a good number of them are scared of the flight crews.

When I say "scared of the flight crews" I'm not talking about being afraid of them physically. What I am saying is more and more of them refuse to terminate their planes and actually talk to the crews. When our planes land for the night we usually go and "terminate" them. As it was explained to me when I first got hired: you do a quick walk around, check the tires and brakes, then go upstairs to talk to the flight crews and see if they have any sqwacks about the aircraft. This always made sense to me, for one, these pilots are stationed in OAK and you can begin to get to know them and build a relationship with them. I have seen a lot of these guys come home from their very first day at SWA and now they are Captains whom I respect and who hopefully respect me as well. I like to think that when they tell me about something they trust me to fix it. Another thing is that when a crew actually tells you about an issue they go into further detail than you could ever get from the logbook write up. These guys fly these planes everyday and even get to know certain planes so when they say something is off they mean it.

There are a good number of the mechanics who refuse to talk to the flight crews. They will do a very detailed walk around, I'm talking like 20 to 30 mins until the crews are long gone and then go up to the flight deck. They will wait until Operations calls to let them know the plane is ready to be moved, again the crew is long gone. Some won't even go to the planes until they are ready by which time-once again-the crews are gone.

One of the remarkable things about SWA that I noticed when I was hired all those years ago is that all the work groups get along. The pilots and the mechanics get along and that was something new for me, having come from Delta where that was not the case. Perhaps these guys have come from a similar circumstance, who knows?

The thing is the simple act of meeting the crews and talking to them even when they have no problems is an essential part of the job in my opinion. Last month I saw a captain who I had not seen in some time when I went up to terminate his plane. He says "Goat!! I haven't seen you in awhile. Not since I transferred to (another base). Man I miss you OAK MX guys. The MX at (another base) never come out to the terminators anymore."

I let him know that it was becoming rare here in OAK as well and I had no idea why. We both came to the decision that they must be scared of the flight crews........who knows why?

Lightning Strike on antenna