Saturday, October 17, 2009

Best Parts Story Ever

The person who told me the best parts story ever was working at an FBO and was asked to order instrument air filters for a Piper Chieftain. Panel instruments can heat up quite a bit from friction and electrical power, so typically there is a fan drawing air through a channel to cool the instruments. In order to avoid damaging the instruments with particles or dust, the air is filtered. Eventually the filter gets dirty and has to be changed. All very sensible and logical. Hence the need to order new ones.

As you would expect, the air filters have a part number. Ordering airplane parts is much like ordering anything else. You contact the supplier with the part number and shipping and payment information and they agree to send you the part. Ordering of this part was uneventful. I'm just drawing out the story.

The parcel arrives. Inside the box is a poly bag printed with the Piper name and the correct part number. Inside the poly bag is the paperwork certifying these to be genuine aircraft parts. And inside the bag are five Tampax tampons. I don't mean five rolled wads of cotton with strings on the end, closely resembling Tampax tampons. I mean five actual Tampax tampons, still in the manufacturer's individual wrappers, designating them as "super" absorbency, not regular or junior. I'm afraid I neglected to ask if they used the "pearl" or the biodegradable applicators.

They cost approximately ten dollars each.

I also didn't ask if they came with insertion instructions, but I'm going to assume that if they did, they weren't the same as the ones Tampax generally provides.

16 comments:

J said...

You've got to think this is a practical joke played by someone in the maintenance organization? They managed to take out the air filters, put in the tampons, and re-seal the package before passing it on to their colleague, or something?

Or would the air filters actually be made in the same factory as the tampons, given that they're both cotton products?

Aviatrix said...

It's not a practical joke. That airplane uses actual tampons as instrument air filters. There are a number of cases where non-aviation parts are put in numbered packages, certified and legally become aviation parts. This is just the funniest one I've ever encountered.

Capt. Schmoe said...

You would think for ten bucks they could at least take it out of the original package and make you think it was designed for it's intended purpose.

dpierce said...

I have seen a condom used as an emergency replacement diaphram in a fuel pump. Hardly official parts, though.

mattheww50 said...

Ugly things happen when you take ordinary parts make them into aircraft parts, or worse yet, make them into flight grade hardware for use in space. In the late 1960's my father was principal investigator on an instrument that went to the moon on the final Apollo mission. A full functional version with commercial parts was built for $20,000. The version built with flight grade parts for the moon mission came in at just under $1,000,000. Most of that cost came from documenting, and certifying a standard commercial part at every step in its manufacture. At the end of the day the only real difference between the commercial part and the flight rated part was the stack of paper (and price).

Anonymous said...

Early 90's, usage of VC10 toilet float valves at a "secret" RAF Air Transport base in the Shire of Oxford, UK, increased substantially - 10's per week compared to 1 or 2 per month during the previous accounting period. The "part" was properly NATO Codified with a valid NATO Stock Number, "OEM Part Number" and "Manufacturers" Code.

An investigation was carried out during which the RAF Support Management Branch found upon opening the "OEM" outer packaging a Dunlop Squash ball in its cute little original retail pack Dunlop cardboard package.

One of the Engineers on the VC10 Maintenance Squadron regularly played Squash (Racquets) and had found an alternative to paying 60pence - approx USD 1 - at the base gym for the Squash balls. He told someone who told someone else, who told... you get the the picture.

What should have happened was the Squash balls should have been removed form the Dunlop retail packaging before being re-packed in the "OEM" packaging.

ISH, UK

SwL_Wildcat said...

"That airplane uses actual tampons" This goes a long way to explaining the aircraft's mood swings...

Anonymous said...

OK - Puerile joke .
Hello bulbco ? Do you have one 2 watt bulb for a TDFM part three display panel ?
One what ?
No two .
Two what ?
Yes .
No .

Boom boom !

Jimmy said...

I can second the fact this is no joke. I couldn't believe it the first time I saw it either...

I really wonder about the QA process that 'certifies' tampons. Do they x-ray them like hardware? Dye penetrant test? Could there be any harm in just using ones from the drugstore as opposed to the Piper ones?

I use the Piper approved despite the markup. They worst part is trying to put them in. Not a whole lot of room. The AMEs play rock paper scissors to see who has to contort themselves to install them lol...

steve said...

another peurile comment,-
I'd tell Piper to stick their "filters" somewhere that the sun don't shine. :-)

Lakotahope said...

I just wanted to check the comments section and see if this story could be true. I shouldn't have doubted it when it comes to flying....I look forward to more stories....thanks
Tom

zb said...

My air filter story was no success: I have a couple of old oscilloscopes with lots (and I mean LOTS) of tubes inside. One scope has a power rating of roughly 500 W and thus generates a lot of heat.

They have a huge fan at the back, with a diameter of something like 20 cm (8"). A filter is supposed to be in front of the fan. I don't have original parts, so I tried the synthetic material of a vacuum cleaner's bag. Turns out it is too dense and too little air gets into the scope, and it runs hot.

Any recommendations of other non-electrical cheapo material from the drug store I might use?

Sarah said...

@zb, how about a forced-air furnace filter? The fabric is a loose weave fibreglass.

steve said...

In reply to ZB....BAF (Bonded Acetate Fibre) sold as upholstery and dress-making interlining and stiffening,I suspect the same material also makes the filters for "Dyson" Vacuum cleaners is one option, another is fibreglass insulation wadding.....at least one medical-equipment manufacturer used it for air-filtration down to half a micron,backin the 60's
another alternative is open-cell plastic foam, commonly used for equipment filtration.

Aviatrix said...

zb, you'd have to frame it in something, but how about gauze?

Also cheesecloth or just go through a sewing store and find the right weight of curtain fabric.

zb said...

Thanks! Open Cell Foam seems to be what electronics stores sell, but other types of redneck engineering solutions are of course great as well!