Thursday, July 10, 2014


There I was......that's how a lot of maintenance stories begin. "There I was, hydraulic fluid all over me, there I was, laying in a 2" deep puddle of rain, there I was, saving the day as usual."

The majority of days in our business are not that exciting. We muddle through the day putting oil in engines, fixing reading lights, adjusting the PA volume, checking tire pressure, any of hundreds of little things that comprise the industry.

One of the things that I'm sure the public does not realize is the amount of cooperation there is between airlines (at least in the maintenance departments). This is a brotherhood really and one that would grind the airlines to a halt if it did not exist.

Here is how it usually goes: Plane comes in and sure enough we need a new part. As usual the part you need is the one that you do not stock. Maintenance control will call around to maintenance departments around our area to see if they have the part. If they do and they are willing we can "borrow" the part from them. The borrowed part is used on a per hour or per cycle basis and is inspected and tested once returned.

That takes care of the big parts but what is really cool is how most airlines cooperate with the small parts. The innumerable bolts, nuts, washers, glue, sealant, grease, oil, tape, etc. Most often when a guy shows up at the shop from XYZ Airline and says he needs a bolt of such and such size with the correct washer we will simply let them have it. This may sound like a small thing to write about but I'll give an example of a couple of times where it saved me.

I was up in Seattle with a guy I'll call Mountain Man. We were there looking for short in a wire. The trouble was that this wire ran through the connection between the wing and the fuselage. After we got it all straightened out we realized that we needed a particular type of clamp for high temp areas. We called maintenance control and they suggested we head over to Alaska Airlines to see if they had one. A truck ride later and a quick visit to the Alaska Airline Maintenance hangar and the guy in the engine shop tossed one to us. We were able to install and get the plane ready for the next day. I should mention that it was around 2 or 3 am when this all went down. If we did not get the hook up from Alaska we would have had to wait until a clamp was flown up to us from Oakland sometime around 10 am the next morning.

Adel Clamp

The next example happened just the other day. We had a plane grounded that needed a CIT sensor replaced on the #1 engine. I was kind of excited because I could not recall ever changing one of those even though they do go bad every now and then requiring R&R. As it turned out when whoever took the old sensor out one of the threaded inserts in the engine case came out along with it's mounting bolt. I've never had one of those inserts fail like that and I'm pretty sure the guys I was with had never seen it either. Since that is a very unusual thing to replace we at SWA did not stock it in Oakland. The guys thought we were stuck until the foreman headed across the ramp to Alaska Airlines Maintenance and sure enough they were able to provide us with one so we could get that plane back in service.

Stupid little threaded inserts.

This cooperation occurs mainly on graveyard shift when a guy or gal from another airline's maintenance department will stop by to borrow a torque wrench, or hardware or whatever. While working graves I have had to drive to SFO and borrow parts from United Airlines plenty of times.

It's pretty cool that mechanics are like this (for the most part) any where you go. An airline mechanic will be more interested in getting that plane back in the air than worry about you being from the competition. There is no ego tripping or even thoughts of denying help. A write up is a write up, a plane is a plane, parts are parts.

This industry is surprisingly very small. We run into people we have worked with at other companies time and time again. What if you refuse to help a mechanic one night and years later he or she is doing the hiring at the next place you try to work?