Monday, July 1, 2013

When the tools are missing!

If you do any sort of maintenance work, not just working on airplanes, but any thing really you will come upon a time that you realize some of your tools are missing. I'm not sure how things work in other industries but at the airlines we buy and own our own tools. The larger or calibrated tools are supplied by the company but everything else we must buy on our own. Because of this when a tool is lost it is a big deal to us. I'm sure some of you are thinking "great there are planes flying around with "lost" tools stuck in them." While I cannot say that no tool has ever been left in a plane I can say that there are steps that are taken to ensure that this does not happen too often.

When I worked at Delta Airlines in the overhaul hangar some of the older guys would say that they did not lose a tool but rather that someone else thought they could take better care of it.Or that someone else did not like the way I was treating the tool so they took it.

When I first heard this I assumed they were just being funny about a not-so-funny situation. Now, after all these years I have come to realize what those guys meant.

Let me explain:
In our business we have our own tools, as I already explained. Most of the jobs we do only require one mechanic and so there is no trouble. The issue comes when one, two or even three mechanics are working on a job together. Since we purchase our own tools we pretty much all use the same brands of tools: Snap-On, MAC tools, or Craftsman stuff.
Anyone who has done one of the bigger jobs where at least two mechanics are working can tell you that at some point you are passing tools back and forth without first saying "hey make sure you give that back" or something like that. There are times when the tools are all over the place! Here where I work we do our maintenance outside not in a nice clean hangar and often in the rain. Once a tool, especially a smaller tool like a socket hits the wet asphalt it can literally disappear!
Add the weather, the multiple mechanics and the time pressure and you can see why tools disappear.

HMU change

After the work is done comes the quick cleanup and then most times an engine run or taxi check or even a taxi over to the high power run up area. The fix is checked and then OPS wants the plane taxied over to the terminal, paperwork (which now takes almost as long as the actual work) is done and the crew is briefed. The whole time you are thinking about getting the plane back on line so that the passengers can get to where they are going.

Days later you reach into your tool bag, looking for that 5/16 wobble socket and of course it's gone. You think back to the last time you remember using it and sure you remember using it but for what? who was working with you? what was the actual day? Then you simply plan to head to the store and get another.

Sure there are times when you ask around and the tool shows up but more often than not it's gone. There are other times when you reach into your tool bag and pull out a 3/8 open end wrench that looks similar to your but it's not quite the same...

This is where the tools go. It's almost always the smaller tools, they are the easiest to overlook, especially in the heat of the battle.

"Someone else thought they could take better care of it than I did".-makes sense now.

Not my stuff but you get the idea.

Recently I realized that my 1/4,5/16, and 3/8 wobbles are gone. I have had them for a long time and as most of you know they are not cheap! I'm sure someone has them but who? The 3" extension is also gone so it must be with them, at least they won't be lonely!

At one time I would get upset about all this but looking back I know that it's all part of the industry, at least when you work the Line.

I know some of you will say that all of a persons tools should be marked, etched with a name or employee number. If you still believe that then you are new to the industry or being a little naive.

There are some guys who never seem to lose any tools, they are also the ones who never seem to get dirty, makes you wonder how they do it!?!