Saturday, May 31, 2014

Airports and FOD

One time I tried counting the airports I've been at and actually worked on planes at. I stopped at 17 or 18. Remember that we Line Mechanics at SWA will fly to other airports when a plane breaks down. For example if there is an engine issue in PDX we fly up there to work the problem. It's actually one of the better parts of the job and it another thing that keeps the job from being routine.

As you can imagine it is normal for airports to be kept clean. Usually the airport operations people are very concerned with garbage and stuff like that on the ground in the ramp area. Foreign Object Damage (FOD) is a big concern for a few reasons:

FOD can get ingested in the engine of an aircraft and cause major damage to the fan blades. It will also bounce around the inlet and tear up the engine inlet.

FOD gets run over by planes and get stuck in the tires. I've seen plenty of bolts, nuts, caps, safety wire, stir sticks you name it stuck in aircraft tires.

FOD on the ground will also puncture the tires of the ground equipment such as jet tugs, etc.

FOD gets blown up by the airplanes as they taxi out to the runways and gets airborne. These missiles can hit equipment, other planes and always seems to find an eyeball or two.

Most airports take FOD damage very seriously and clean the ramp areas often to reduce the threat of such damage. I finally after visiting plenty of airports have decided that the dirtiest, most FOD filled, not caring airport of them all is the one I actually work at the most: Oakland International Airport.

Oakland International Airport is filthy. There are places where the dirt and FOD are piled up, wind blown and more than a few inches deep! It's really bad here in OAK and what makes it even worse is that a lot of the debris gets blown right into the Bay. The Port of Oakland people don't seem to care and they can't say that they don't notice it. As you walk into the airport along the service road from the employee lot the trash is piled up along the fence and just pass the fence is the Bay.

I must have gotten numb to it or else it has recently gotten really bad. Every night when the airport more or less is shut down to the public the cleaning crews come out. I'm not sure what they do all night but when I walk in at 5am and there are cigarette butts piled five or six inches deep in the smoking area trash thing and falling out onto the floor it can't be much. There are garbage cans around the ramp area that get filled up, overflow and wait days and days until they get any attention. The sheer amount of trash is astounding really and I'm not sure what to do about it. It has gotten to the point that it is high on the list of things that make me want to leave this job.

When I go to Sacramento or Boise I marvel at how clean the places are. There are FOD buckets around and the airport must come through with sweeper trucks quite often to keep them that way. I'm not sure how SWA allows Oakland to not clean up. They must know that all that stuff is going into the engines etc. No one seems to care much. I mean I grew up in NYC, The Bronx to be exact, in the 70's when no one really cared about littering. That is what Oakland International Airport reminds me of.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Aircraft Maintenance and Old Age

I know it's been a long time since I've posted (almost a  year!) but I had to get over this whole "Corporate Security" thing. Those of you who are or who know aircraft mechanics know that we can hold a grudge for quite a while! I'm going to continue on every now and then, more stories, more cool tools, etc.

This post is about getting old. It's something that we all have to face and for a lot of us it hits pretty hard and pretty quick. In the early days of my career I did Airline Overhaul. I was crawling around structures, getting into tight corners, lifting heavy-odd shaped things like aircraft lavs, climbing into fuel tanks, laying on aircraft ribs and stringers, grinding all matter of metals and corrosion, you get the picture. Back in the day I was able to do those things and hop right up, walk away, no pain, no aches.

The thought of having to go to work now in my mid 40s and possible climb into a fuel tank is frightening! The little  things are hard these days! Kneeling down to get the bolts off the main tire so we can change it kills my knees. My back puts up a fit when I have to change a flight deck seat. My shoulders scream while I'm changing a position light.

These aches and pains are something all you new up and coming mechs are going to have to look forward to.

The most startling change is the eyes. Back in the day I could read all those tiny tiny tiny wire numbers which are printed on those tiny tiny tiny aircraft wires. I could use a mirror and read those numbers along with those annoying parts data tags on various valves and actuators with no trouble at all. Now part of my Line MX Tool Kit are my reading glasses. Without the help of those suckers I would be in trouble.

I worked with a guy I'll call MDro. MDro was a good mechanic and he was a good supervisor after that. I remember when we would be reading wiring diagrams MDro would wear TWO pairs of reading glasses!

My intent is not to complain about aging but to let you guys know that it gets harder to do this job as you get older. A good friend of mine always say that "it takes a lot of work to make this job look easy". Just know that the work part may not increase but the aches and pain part will.