Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another Hundred Hours

The flying is busy, letting me see the tall still-snowcapped mountains, the salt plains around the lake, and the peculiar purple water in the salt lake. It must be some kind of mineral in the water. I've never seen purple water before and I know it's not an algae bloom. Before I know it I'm out of time on the airplane.

Out of time? Every one hundred hours that my airplane flies, it needs to have a licensed mechanic from a licensed repair shop inspect it to see if any bits are falling off yet. Every fifty hours it needs an oil change and a bit of tire kicking, but the hundred hour check is a big job. It's fifty manhours just for the inspection, assuming nothing is wrong. And there is always something wrong.

When I started this job, I just flew the airplane, told my boss how many hours were left each night, and he arranged maintenance. But I'm a proactive sort of person so now when I am working in an area I make it my job to find out where there are FAA repair stations or licensed AMOs that might have time to do a 100 hr inspection. I talk to them, and communicate back to my boss about what might be a good shop.

This week I found two places that could do the work. I'll call them A and B. Place A said they were booked up for three weeks and Place B said they could do it, but it would take them a week. I knew that boss and customer expected the work done faster than that. When I reported the information to boss, he asked me if Place A could let us use hangar space for OUR company guys to do it. Place A said yes, and I hooked them and boss up to work out the details. Our guys will do the work at place A, which is in Salt Lake City.

I've chatted with local flight instructors enough to learn the Utahn (that's a real word: the newspapers use it) lingo and landmarks, so when I call up Salt Lake approach and they clear me into Class Bravo airspace, maintaining 8500' along the mountain road, I read it back confidently. The mountain road doesn't really go through the mountains, but when I follow it I snuggle up against the mountains, keeping them just off off my left wingtip as I'm given a step-down approach into the city.

On downwind, the tower controller asks me if I am familiar with the airport. What do I say to that? I've been there once. I have the terminal chart open on my lap. I've interrogated people on the oddities of local ATC. But I'm not prepared if she tells me to fly direct Joe's barn. So I say no. She clears me to land runway 35. I'll forever wonder what clearance I would have been given if I had claimed familiarity.

I hand the airplane over to competent-seeming people with a tow cart, and check into a hotel.


Dagny said...

Thanks for making me feel like I was there with you.


Anonymous said...

The purple water is probably purple from the color of the microbes that are living in it. Different bacteria like different levels of salt, as water evaporates and becomes more salty, the colors will change with the type of bacteria.

The salt ponds around the lower San Francisco Bay do this and are very colorful from the air.