Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Why I Love My Director of Maintenance

I'm afraid I have to be much vaguer than I would like to be, due to the company rule forbidding operational information on social media, but I want to share the DoM's awesomeness.

The first part of the story is probably familiar to all pilots and aircraft repair personnel. We had a long text conversation about a possible snag. (Snag is Canadian-speak (I think Commonwealth-wide) for a reportable aircraft defect--Americans call them squawks). I had noticed a small discrepancy between the way I expect the airplane to behave and the way it is behaving. It has done this on a couple of flights. It's subtle, and not a mode that I use for long on a typical flight, so it probably went a while before I noticed it at all. At first I had blamed my technique or inattention for the effect, so didn't perceive it as a reportable defect. But then I got verification from someone else who didn't know what I was expecting him to observe. It's a tiny effect, but if it is a system that breaks a little bit before it breaks altogether, it could be a really big deal.

My director of maintenance patiently texted back explanations of how the system works. The texts themselves were themselves neither condescending nor dismissive, but by assembling the pieces one could read the message "that's not how it works." I respect his knowledge, and I know that the mental model I have built from the description and diagram of the system in the aircraft manual is far from the way it works to the people who actually put wrenches on it. I can understand that what I think is happening isn't readily explained by the construction of the system. It's a difficult system to inspect, but there's a fairly straightforward shop test that can be done that might confirm the observation--but again it might not, because it's possible that the aircraft has to be in flight for the effect to occur. I suggest that that test be done, and promise to try and think of another explanation for my observation.

And then a single text message says it all:

I doubt you are wrong. It's probably fucked up. I will fix it for you.

Trust, directness, and action. Is there anything else one could require from someone who maintains her aircraft?

1 comment:

Ihab Awad said...

Our flying club has both a quantum anomaly and a spacetime discontinuity.

Quantum theory tells us that something can exist in a superposition of two states. For example, an airplane can be both broken and not-broken at the same time. The act of observation causes the wavefunction to collapse to one of the states.

In aviation, of course, the only observation that counts is that of the properly licensed IA A&P.

So let's say I squawk some problem. The plane is wheeled into the Mx hangar, and the IA looks at it. Due to the quantum anomaly, the wavefunction always collapses to the not-broken state. The appropriate notations are then made in the Mx log.

Then the plane is wheeled out of the hangar. At that point, it passes the spacetime discontinuity at the hangar door, and now goes to the inverse of the state it was in before. Of course, since the IA's observation forced the in-hangar state to be "not-broken", the state outside the hangar must be "broken". It's just simple physics.

This means that, if the airplane is not-broken, the mere fact of filing a squawk and having it observed by the IA causes it to be broken when it exits the hangar.

Which in turn explains why our IA is so annoyed with us when we squawk problems, because, if the aircraft is not-broken, then we are causing the aircraft to break, and thus compromising safety, by filing our squawks.

I have applied for Federal funding to study this phenomenon, and will let you know of our results as soon as possible.