Thursday, September 29, 2005

Being Responsible is Less Fun

During the pre-take-off checks, the fuel pressure on my right engine was high. Not just a little higher than normal, not just touching the red line on the gauge, but right through it. With the electric fuel pump turned off (leaving just the engine-driven pump supplying fuel to the engine), the pressure fell to normal. I turned the pump back on again. The needle went back through the red line. What to do?

The high fuel pressure probably would not do any harm. What's going to happen? It's not as if the pressure is going to get so high the engine explodes. It would be different if it were low fuel pressure. This airplane was needed for multiple flights. The weather was good. We had a clearance. A number of people, not to mention my entire day's income, depended on that airplane flying. Other pilots would also lose income, as would the company, if the airplane didn't fly. Maybe it was just parallax error that made the gauge appear to read in the red. Maybe I didn't notice it during take-off. The electric fuel pumps would be selected off during the flight, anyway. Yeah, right.

When I have a borderline serviceability issue, I ask myself: if I did this flight, and something happened, how would I feel explaining my decision to take off to Transport Canada, or to a passenger's family. I said out loud, "There's a reason why the manufacturer painted a red line on that gauge." We taxied back, and I recorded the problem, in ink, in the aircraft journey log. No changing my mind.

The required part was on order stock. The airplane is off line. The ripple effect is going to carry right through the week, disrupting schedules and disappointing people. No one gave me a word of criticism: not maintenance, not the customers, not my co-workers, not even management. But I didn't get to go flying today, received no flight pay, and I'm sure someone was pissed off.

It's just like being a responsible teenager. Safe decisions result in lower popularity, and missing out on the fun.


sweavo said...

You definitely did the right thing. When I fly scheduled flights (I'm a committed passenger), I'd much rather wait an extra 3 hours for a plane than get on one with an unexplained rattle.

aasmodeus said...

I'd quite miss your careful explanations of all things aeronautical if you were to disappear into the wide blue yonder due to some flight problem which you ignored on the ground. I, for one, am glad you agree with Safety Pup.

Anoynmous said...

I would much rather be respected than popular.

Here's another decision method: imagine explaining to the passengers that you're ignoring an out-of-bounds engine condition and going ahead with the flight anyway.

John said...

Hey, ya done good.

Another test you can use to see if an excuse sounds is good is to preface it with the phrase "Your honor:"

dibabear said...

Consider it delayed fun. Delayed fun is always more enjoyable.

Sam said...

I've written up a number of similar items in my life as a freight dog. I did get a few snide comments, ie "It's a clear blue day, whataya need the turn coordinator for?" to which I'd reply: I agree, somebody should modify the MEL. Until then, I'm abiding by it.

Traytable said...

Good onya. As you say, it's not easy being responsible. But losing a day's pay is definitely the better option than losing your aircraft or your life -or worse, you passengers' lives.

I've added you to my links if that's ok... love reading aviation blogs =)

tammy said...

Flying magazine columnist Lane Wallace has written that she has a good rule-of-thumb for go/no-go decisions: she imagines, if she decides to go and things go wrong, how the NTSB (or Transport Canada, in your case) report of the accident would read. If the report would make her look like an idiot, she doesn't go.

The stakes are higher, of course, when you have passengers to deal with, and it sounds like you made the right call.