Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Idiot Light

I work closely with airplane mechanics (often called engineers, although they don't actually hold engineering degrees) to keep my airplane working, so this blog entry from an aircraft maintenance engineer amused me. It's the view from the other side, and a message for pilots who don't heed the rule about not messing with the people who maintain your aircraft.

Mr.V, the blogger whose story this is, hasn't set up his blog so I can link to individual posts, so I have quoted the post in question below. His language and spelling are saltier than mine, but I'm not going to edit someone else's post.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

In my line of work I meet a lot of pilots. For the most part they are nice and cordial but then again there are some complete dicks....

The following is an account of a line call this morning.

6:10 am (radio goes off, Aircraft 218 requesting maintenance)

me: Good morning sir, what seems to be the problem

Mr pilot: the AP (auto pilot) indicator light is pointing in the wrong direction

the AP indicator is a dummy light that shows which person has the auto pilot engaged. This one happened to be pointing to the left. It is also a dummy light it has no effect on the AP.

Me: Well it looks like avionics was working on the auto pilot last night and and perhaps put in the wrong bulb. this is not something we carry in the maintenance truck

Mr Pilot: well this is not going to do we have got to get this fixed.

me: well it is not flight critical and it is just a dummy light it is not worth taking a delay over.

Mr (now rude) pilot: Just change the bulb and we will be on our way

Me: I just said we don't carry these in the maintenance van

Mr rude pilot: then get in your van and drive back to the hanger and get one.

Me: Perhaps if you called me earlier than 5 minutes before you where to board I could have taken care of this for you.. Like i said it is not worth taking a delay over

Mr extremely rude dick head pilot: Don't you tell me how to do my job just fix the dam system.

Me: Ok then I got and idea can I see the flight can? (flight can is a log book)

I took the flight can back to the maintenance van called maintenance control and deffered the entire auto pilot system.

The look on the pilots face when I handed him back the flight can and put the inop placard on the auto pilot indicator and pulled and collared the Ap circuit breakers..... Priceless

and the flight left on time

By way of explanation to non-pilot/maintenance readers, the pilot in command does have the right to decide whether equipment is working to his satisfaction. It isn't out of line for him to demand that a piece of equipment he is supposed to use works perfectly, even if the broken portion isn't core to the function of the equipment.

The thing is, for this particular company, the autopilot itself was not a required item for flight, just a nice-to-have item. So an unnecessary light on the autopilot was really not required. The pilot was, by being obstreperous, arguing that the light was a safety concern. And yes, I can see how having the wrong pilot indicated as the one who had engaged the autopilot could cause a problem. Transport Canada or the FAA could certainly (and have many times) asked for entire systems to be replaced because of malfunctions in unnecessary components. In fact, had the FAA been looking over the shoulders of the pilot and mechanic, they would probably have asked for exactly what the mechanic eventually did.

The mechanic gave the pilot every opportunity to see that he would be better off accepting the airplane with the faulty light, but the pilot wouldn't take it. So the mechanic solved his problem. Safely, legally, expeditiously and hilariously the mechanic solved it. Disabling and placarding a faulty but not required system is absolutely by-the-book. No one can touch the mechanic for doing that. And now the pilot isn't allowed to use that system. So as punishment for being a jerk, the pilot now has to hand fly the airplane all day. Brilliant.

Of course, most likely he'll just have the co-pilot hand fly it, and be a jerk to him or her, too.

While I'm linking to other people's blogs, Julien at Making Time for Flying has posted some pictures that perfectly illustrate tow bars and the flat spot I was fearing from the unauthorized tow my airplane received a few posts ago. It's not an uncommon sight if a pilot has accidentally landed with the brakes on or locked up the brakes, but the title of Julien's blog post gives away what caused that pilot to lock the brakes. I'm always amused by the various creatures people manage to hit with their airplanes, around the world.


Head in the Clouds said...

When my husband went for his private checkride, he and the examiner discovered that though one set of paperwork showed that the ELT (on our one-year old airplane)had been checked, it actually had not been. She told him he could fly home (he was at another airport), but she'd have the FAA there to meet him; he could have it checked and documented; or he could find an AMP to help him remove and placard it inop (he couldn't b/c he was not a certificated pilot yet). After several hours, he finally succeeded in finding an AMP who would help. So instead of flying with an ELT that may or may not work, he flew without one. Technically correct... but makes you wonder.

Phil said...

That's awesome. There are precious few jerk pilots where I work (and I suspect in general), but every one of them need this to happen to them.
Oh, and obstreperous? One of my favorite words, right behind vituperative.