Thursday, July 03, 2008

Beer Credits

I've been sent to pick up an airplane that has been waiting idle for me. I've paid my parking fee (a suspiciously symmetrical $100: I suspect they just pulled the number out of thin air), finished the walkaround, cleaned grime and bug corpses off the windows, loaded the cargo and gone to the bathroom. It's time to make airplane noise.

I run the prestart checklist and reach for the electric fuel pump to prime the right engine for start. The switch goes click. Not whirr. Just click. I turn the switch off and on again a few more times. I listen to the quality of the click to see if the switch is perhaps bad. I recheck the circuit breakers, even though those were part of the prestart checks. Click. I check the other pump. It works.

I've been here before. Anyone remember? I think it was in Stoat Landing, maybe Earwig Creek. The problem was solved by having a grizzled individual crawl underneath and hit it with a hammer, all without taking the cigarette out of his mouth.

I'm now in a town named not after an animal and a body of water, but named after a person, probably the wife of a famous white guy. Perhaps here we will use tools more sophisticated than hammers. I shut off the magnetos and the master, text the boss about the delay, and go back to the desk of the FBO to inquire about professional help. She directs me to a nearby maintenance hangar. There doesn't seem to be anyone inside, but I wander through into an adjacent hanger where there are two young guys at a workbench bench. I ask. They do interiors, not mechanical, and they direct me back to the first hangar, telling me which hidden door to look behind.

I knock and come in, confessing that pilots show no respect for coffee breaks. He's friendly and I tell him my problem. "Did you check the circuit breakers?" he asks. That's an "Is it plugged in?" type tech support question for mechanics. "Where is it?" he asks.

It's underneath, I couldn't point to the exact spot." My memory of watching the investigation being done relates more to the lit cigarette than the exact location of the part. We go out to the airplane and he has me turn on the working fuel pump. He traces its location from the sound and assumes symmetry.

"Wait here a moment," he says. "I'm going to get a ." It sounded like the something was "hammer handle." Must be a technical term.

My phone rings with the boss, who asks me if I checked the circuit breakers, and if I tried turning it on and off again a few times. I tell him yes, that there's someone here who is looking at it.

The mechanic returns with a rubber mallet. I'm still in the cockpit. He passes out of sight under the airplane. whump! whump

"Try it now," he says.

Master on. Fuel pump on. Whirrrr! Big grin from happy pilot. He tells me to leave it on for a moment. He listens and nods. It's good. We're both willing to accept that it just needed a little encouragement after sitting unattended. He waves me off.

I've been helped many times with minor issues like that, without time or opportunity to buy someone who deserves it a beer. I'm glad that last time I met an AME I bought her lunch. In the future, I intend to buy a few beers for unsuspecting GA mechanics. I'm sure they have all done something similarly deserving.

For now I let the boss know that I'm on my way, and taxi out for departure.

9 comments:

traveller42 said...

As you mentioned, the only way to handle this is to pay it forward.

amulbunny said...

Pay it forward is an awesome idea. My spouse says there isn't much that can't be fixed using duct tape, a hammer and a set of wire ties.

Fly safe.
amulbunny

AndyC said...

On a holiday a few years ago, we had a flat tyre in a hire car, half way between Lilloett and Goldbridge in BC. Google maps will tell you this is not a well travelled road.

The jack broke as I was lifting the wheel up. I'm cursing and figuring out a plan so that when I walk around the car I can tell the wife "the jack broke, this is what we're going to do"... when someone pulls over to ask if we need help.

He helps me change the tyre, and as we bid each other farewell, I reach into the car and pull a cold beer out of the icebox.

Man was that guy impressed. He stopped because it's What You Do on the backroads. I hope he enjoyed the beer!

majroj said...

We were almost home from a family outing and an elderly couple with out of state plates (a car, not an aircraft) were puzzling over a simple map with the scale about 100miles to the quarter inch. They asked me if I could direct them to such and such street near our home. No problem! I did it verbally, using left and north and right and east etc. Then, for good measure, I went back to our car, pulled the map out, already neatly folded, and handed it to them with a flourish and uttered the deadly words:
"There, you can't miss it".

We had driven for ten miles before I noticed I had given them the map of our trip's destination, not home, where the target site was!
Oh, Mommy.....

PS: how do yo unstick that pump if it re-freezes about 5/7ths through the takeoff?

Aviatrix said...

How do you unstick that pump if it re-freezes about 5/7ths through the takeoff?

You don't. You'd never know during a takeoff roll, because there's no warning light. I'm not sure I can hear the difference between the sound of one pump running and the sound of two pumps running even with the engines turned off. I would certainly never notice it with the engines at takeoff power.

Even if you somehow divined its stopping, it's not a serious enough malfunction to abort a take-off for. It's not like a car where you have only one fuel pump per engine (and only one engine, at that!).

The regular engine-driven fuel pumps will provide an adequate fuel flow for the entire flight, and the pilot would notice the boost pump failure at the next start up. Some airplanes I have flown have a secondary boost pump per engine, along with an automatic changeover system and a warning light if the automatic changeover system isn't working, but that level of overkill isn't provided on this aircraft.

If the (independent) engine driven pump AND the electric boost pump fail on the same engine during the same takeoff, then I perform the procedure which I brief before every flight, either landing straight ahead or performing a single-engine go around, depending on speed, available runway and terrain.

majroj said...

...and recite a few "firetrucks"?

The spirit of "can-do" and "ah, coffee break, fuggedaboudit, let's get this mudder flyin'!" is great, though. Good to read that corporate-ism hasn't swallowed up all the talent.

Maybe you could keep a few beers with little parachutes to circle back with?....

Soaring Student said...

Amulbunny's spousal unit: You forgot the WD-40.

If it's too tight, WD-40. If it's too loose, Duct tape. Don't force it, use a bigger hammer.

Paul said...

Yea, here's to the A&Ps who help you when you're really in a bind.

I had the ELT go off in flight while talking to ATC. Of course, that was the end of that conversation. Dancing on the reset switch is having no effect.

How much power they put out I don't know, but all I heard was the, "dweedal, dweedal, dweedal..." on all radios and all frequencies. I land and the FAA is on the phone to the airport wondering if they have more paper work to fill out when this A&P comes over. Naturally, the screws are painted shut on the access cover--not doing this the easy way. Anyhow, he shimmies down the tail cone to turn the fool thing off. After all that he won't take a cent.

--paul

Anonymous said...

This brings the System Administrator Appreciation Day to my mind. See: http://www.sysadminday.com/

Maybe you could set up something similar for mechanics. :-) I didn't find anything similar with quick googling.