Aircraft Maintenance (line or hangar)

I don’t generally mention my career path to people.  I generally say I work for the airlines and kind of move on in the subject matter if possible.  I am most certainly not ashamed of my career path and I love my job and career field.  So what am I talking about?

I am an A&P (Airframe and Powerplant) mechanic.  I am also reasonably experienced in Avionics (Aviation Electronics).  In more recent years we are referred to as Aircraft Maintenance Technicians.  In other countries we are Aircraft Engineers.  Overall – the general public can’t relate to my career field!

This picture probably describes it best:


There is so much truth in this picture it is hard to even explain. …

Somehow when you refer to yourself as an Aircraft Mechanic/Maintenance Technician/ Aircraft Maintenance Engineer .. you have some sort of status …

All of the ‘titles above’ refer to the exact same profession but you can see that just by the variety in terminology for the exact same job – not an easy profession to explain and others to grasp.

Whenever someone starts asking about my job and all the cool intricacies I start with the worst system in the entire aeroplane.  Every mechanic, engineer, technician out there has a similar dread for this system yet it is the one system that every passenger passively counts on inadvertently.

Are you thinking flight controls, engines, hydraulics?  We don’t dread on those systems – there is no job worse on any aircraft (that has them) than the lavatory!

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I only mention this as a reality check!

The title of my post mentions ‘line or hangar’ these are two completely different breeds of technicians.  Hangar & line mechanics are are both highly skilled technicians.  The hangar technicians are ones who tend to specialise a little more so than say a line mechanic.  We are all to some degree, sheet-metal, avionics, airframe, powerplant mechanics.  Hangar mechanics however are more likely to be assigned work based on their skill level and preference in general.  Hangar technicians/mechanics/engineers prefer the indoors and big rollaway toolboxes.  In general they have the luxury of time and light!  And as far as most line mechanics are concerned – we don’t envy or want your job.  We share a mutual respect for our chosen paths -line vs hangar…

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Hangar mechanics have deadlines but in general they do not operate with urgency.  Usually hangar work falls into 2 categories: work that requires less wind, may take more than 6-8 hours, or is an intensive thorough overhaul as in lots of panels removed and the need for a lot of light, specialised inspections and in general TIME.

Line Maintenance Technicians/Engineers live in the unexpected and unknown.  I don’t mean unknown in the sense of not knowing what we are doing but rather the unknown in terms of knowing what our job will be for the moment, the hour, the day! Line mechanics deal with live flights.  We deal with aircraft that needs to depart and keep schedules and passengers on time.  In general we have between 20-45 minutes of ground time to solve whatever the pilot discrepancy(ies) may be.  A typical day for a line mechanic could be as easy as a quick ‘gate call’.  Most easy calls are oil top off, hydraulic fluid top off, window wash.  Just like a gas station attendant’s job of old.   But then there are the ‘cockpit chats’, and the OBTW (Oh By The Way) calls.   The cockpit chat calls are ones I love and dread.  These are the unknowns!  They could involve a wide variety of things from engine issues, to cabin easy issues, window washes, electronics … you just never know!  I have learned humilty in this job.  When I really don’t know the answer I ask/and always look it up!   Our maintenance manual references are our bible and nothing can replace the Maintenance Manual!  Truly!  The FAA requires it and as mechanics … we appreciate it!

A recent gate call of one of my fellow mechanics resulted in an engine change.  We take it all very seriously!   Safety is no accident!

My toolbox…similar w/out the toolsrange canti

Lessons from our friends – good to remember!


A reminder to be sure to spare more … for all who love us 🙂

I was forwarded an email with some appropriate dog images that and I can’t resist sharing some of those images here!

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Anyone who knows me knows that my pups are pretty important to me and source of great joy in my life.  Ever since I started living on my own I have had at least one dog.  For a while, whilst I lived in Texas with my big backyard and house I was actually up to 3 dogs and a cat.

In the more recent ears (until about 5 years ago) I had just one dog and a cat.  Boeing (dog) & Milo (cat).  Boeing & Milo loved each other and were great friends and playmates.

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Then Sky joined our life!

The Kids flat
Sky Boeing & Milo all got along perfectly!  There was a little period of getting to know each other for Milo (the cat) and Sky.  But both quickly accepted one another.  Boeing never had a problem with Sky.  Boeing was about 14 years old when I got Sky who was still essentially a puppy .  Sky was about a year old when I brought her home.

When Boeing passed away it became very obvious that Sky did not like to be left alone and so I found a puppy for us all on  Zulu was about 8 weeks old when we picked him up and has proved to be the perfect complement to our family.  Zulu has always been completely comfortable being left at home when I have to go to work or other places and as such has made Sky more comfortable being without me.  Sky and Zulu bonded instantly and they just live to love one another and enjoy life!

Dogs love and give so unconditionally that they are truly a terrific example for us humans who can sometimes get caught up in petty differences!  Thanks Sky, Zulu & Boeing for always being so loving to one another and to me.  Love is reflected in Love and they live and express that idea unconditionally!

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One of the special things about Zulu is the way he seems to know exactly which people to approach for love and which dogs to approach.  I have seem him run up towards people with his tail wagging only to realise before getting to close that they weren’t dog people and turn around without hurt feelings as though he had never even headed their way.  He reads people 2015-11-12 11.38.04-3
and dogs amazingly well and one of his dear friends from the day he met her is Tilly, the harbourmasters’ dog.  Tilly is at least 12-13 yr old and from the day he met her Zulu has always rushed up to her and showered her in kisses.  Tilly has been having a rough go of it for the past couple of years but more often than not, Zulu’s adoration perks Tilly up and at times she even runs to greet him too!

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I am so blessed to have these pups in my life and grateful for all the good times and even the challenging times.  They weren’t the perfect dogs out of the box and they are still very individual.  They are good dogs and rarely get in trouble or get me in trouble 🙂

Meet the Prius!

Truck before I fixed her!

As you may recall from an earlier post, I have done a lot of work on my little Toyota Tacoma to get it fixed and back on the road after the unfortunate car accident in February.  The job was no quick job and I knew I couldn’t get her back on the road quickly if I was to do a good job.  The insurance company of the man who hit me paid for my rental car for a few weeks whilst they were trying to determine if I was at any fault in the accident.  I was in a bit of limbo because though I knew I would not be found at fault I was unsure as to the value the insurance company would assess my truck and if it would be deemed fixable or not …. The truck was a 1996 Toyota Tacoma and though that sounds old, this truck has actually gone up in value as opposed to down.

Truck in work!! No small job!

I bought her for $4000 about 4-5 years ago and that was the going price.  Now you can’t buy one similar for $6000!  These trucks are known for their indestructible engines! I do wish the body had proved a little more indestructible but it’s all good now.

The insurance company wound up paying me $6000 for the truck and let me buy it back from them for $350.  It cost me about $1800 in parts to fix it.  In the meantime I needed another vehicle and was in search of a vehicle that could make my 25 mile commute to work a little more fuel efficient since gas prices are so high in California.  The vehicles I would find in the $6000 price range just weren’t right for me and I couldn’t find one that fit my preconceived notion of what I wanted.

I looked at Subarus, Toyotas, SUVs … I found cars I liked but when I would research reliability or especially fuel economy, well, there were no easy choices!

Eventually I happened on a 2010 Prius, local to me and for $10,800.  The Prius only had 52,000 miles on it and was valued by the bank at about 15k.  The catch is the vehicle had been used by a company and had a vinyl wrap on it for advertising their company.  Also, the interior – the cargo was a  bit beat up from the work related tooling and equipment they hauled in it.  Here are a few pictures of the car as I first bought it:

You can click on any of the pictures for larger size!

The pictures above show the way the car looked when I bought it!  All the white on the car was a white vinyl wrap with the lettering and graphics.  The car is white underneath the vinyl wrap and I didn’t really want to drive around advertising for free for a company I didn’t even know!!  With a little research I learned that vinyl wrap can be removed with heat.  I decided I would keep the stripe portion of the graphics and that involved carefully taking a razor blade and cutting just deep enough around the stripe and then heating and pulling the vinyl till it broke along the seam.

After the side graphics & hood graphics were removed I worked on creating a little pattern on the roof from the existing green graphics.


Now some final shots of the finished product!

I also rigged up a dog ramp that slides underneath a pallet I modified dog beds are on top of the pallet and the ramp slides out so that Sky doesn’t need to jump in or out of the vehicle and I don’t have to lift a dirty dog in the car! Of course they are rarely dirty – but beach ventures do seem to equate to wet sandy dog!!

Here us a link to my google photo album  of all the picts

A day at the beach

The last couple of months have been pretty hectic!   Wrecked truck.  Trying to figure out insurance issues then new wheels then getting the new wheels in order and most recently the work of rebuilding my truck.  My patient pups have still had a few outings and lots of walks in the harbour but they have not their usual trek to the beach which has always been so relaxing and fun for all three of us.anticipation

A few days ago, after doing a little weed-wacking around my storage container in the harbour, I decided we needed a good beach outing!!  Sky and Zulu were both quite excited when I asked them if they wanted to go to the beach!!

Here’s a photo of when we first arrived at the beach . . .they were definitely wide eyed and ready to go!



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I live in such a picturesque and dog-friendly place that most people don’t understand why I would drive 30 minutes and across 2 bridges, pay 2 tolls just to take my dogs to the beach.  Well Crissy field is just an amazing beach and for now one of the most dog friendly beaches in the bay area.  The dog owners at this beach are super conscientious.  The dog walkers are also conscientious and then the people without dogs who come to the beach with and without their kids seem to for the most part enjoy the dogs.  It is one of the few dog friendly places in the bay area that is really filled with conscientious respect for one another.  I love it and so do the pups!


The last couple of months … car accidents & rebuildings…

On the 17th of Feb 2016 I was rear-ended and pushed into another vehicle whilst on my way to work.  The accident on it’s own was scary and jolting to say the least!

This posting is not about the accident but rather about a transition that occurred as a result.  My 1996 Toyota Tacoma truck was declared ‘totaled’ by the party at fault.  The cost to repair it was estimated at around $3900 on the cheap side and closer to 5k on the realistic end.  The insurance company at fault considered my vehicle a total loss and payed me $6000 as a comparable equivalent to my loss. They then allowed me to buy my own vehicle back for $350.  Although a total loss for the insurance overall you couldn’t buy an equivalent replacement for the truck for 6k!

I priced out the basics from junk yards in the area.  $250 for a tailgate, $200 each for front and rear bumper, fenders around $75/ea hood $150 – close to $1000 for the other basics not including the most important part, the radiator support.

The radiator support goes across the front end and is what the radiator is bolted to.  This piece is welded on and there are no after market or readily available junk yard parts.

I started surfing Craigslist.  I found a truck with the exact year and model that was not running for $1700.  I offered him $1000 for his truck as is.  He did not accept but in the long run allowed me to buy all that I needed for the $1000!  The truck was located about 90 minutes away and a full 4-6 hours of work in disassembly.   I came home with all that I needed to reassemble my truck -except for time.

here is a photo album of the experience

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Then the matching of lines, welds and mechanical workings…

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It was a  lot of work but a great sense of satisfaction in it’s completion!  Grateful to have such a big backyard to work in and a harbour-master who is an expert welder!!

Check out my Google+ Photo album for more photos of the process.

And here are a couple of panoramas of my great work space!

A hot shower never felt so good!!

For the last several weeks I’ve been living the inconvenience of no hot water on my boat/my home.  Not to worry, I still found heater_insta way to get my daily shower.  I would shower at work or at our clubhouse in the marina but not nearly as convenient as showering in your own home!

My water is heater has worked flawlessly for the last 15 years (and it’s been on my boat much longer than that!).  It is a Paloma (Legacy -as in old) Ph5 propane tankless/on-demand water heater.  The last time I changed my propane tank out, in later December, I noticed that the water was just not as hot as usual!  The situation quickly worsened.  Luke warm at best showers and the research began.  The flame in the heater would light but the water wouldn’t get very warm and then wouldn’t stay even luke warm.

There are a lot of newer version on demand heaters out there but the main thing I love about this one is the compact size and the fact that it completely mechanical.  No electronic control board -a simple piezo ignition so no battery or power required.  The first thing I checked for in the troubleshooting process was a propane leak.  I soaked all my lines with leak detector and could find no flaws.  The Tankless Water experts at Low Energy Systems have a great website for the purpose of parts and even troubleshooting on a unit as old as mine.  They have a section that addresses common problems, complete with pictures and parts.  For the problem of water not getting hot enough the first suspect on their troubleshooting list is the water valve and this same company sells the water valve rebuild kit for $60.  the part that troubled me with this was the fact that the problem hadn’t occurred until I had changed the propane tank.  My inclination was consider a gas leak.  I have a propane detector in my boat (alarm that would go off it sensed propane) and I had checked all my lines for leaks.  My propane heater on the boat also worked fine.  As far as I was concerned it could be anything!

As luck would have it there was the exact model of propane heater available on Craigslist and the person selling it had terrific pictures and said to the best of his knowledge it looked virtually unused.  It was in Santa Cruz, a couple of hours away from me and he was willing to ship it for a reasonable fee.  I bought it sight unseen hoping for the best.  My reasoning on this was, yes I could buy a water valve rebuild kit which could fix the problem but what if it was a gas valve

In the process of my water heater repair troubleshooting research a common thread was along the lines of flushing the system out for lime deposits and such.  After I received the new water heater I rigged up a means to flush the water heater out using a submersible utility pump, washing machine hoses and a 5 gallon  bucket full of white vinegar.  I did this outside on the dock so as to not stink up my boat.  I flushed both water heaters thoroughly and went ahead and installed the water heater I had just received back into my boat.

I have to admit I was excited at the prospect of having  a nice hot shower in the comfort of my own boat.  Water lines & gas line back in place I was ready to go for it.  Time to light the pilot light and test it all out.  What a disappointment!  The new (used heater) had a faulty ignition valve.

As I would try to turn the valve to ignite the heater it felt like it was hitting a mechanical stop within the valve and I could not budge it past a certain point.  I had to take the new heater back out.  Back out on the dock I laid a couple of towels down over the boards because the only thing left to do was to try and disassemble the ignition valve and see if there was some way to get this heater going.  Everything about it looked shiny and I could only hope that it was the lack of use that had rendered the ignition valve frozen!  With the towels laid on the dock (so I wouldn’t take the chance of losing parts in the tear-down) I proceeded to disassemble the heater.


This is what the valve looks like after I got everything out of the way.  I wound up soaking the valve in a penetrating oil for a good 10 minutes.  After the soak I used a screw a large screwdriver in one of the notches pointed to on my picture to push the valve down and attempt to turn it.  I kept adding the penetrating oil and working the valve.  It must have been a good 20-30 minutes of letting i soak alternating with trying to move the valve.  Finally, success!  I could feel the ignition valve starting to work at last.

I mounted the first (bad heater) outside and with all safety precautions in place (fire extinguisher hose etc)  I rigged up the propane and the input hose to the first heater to see how hot the water would get.   Initially the water came out of my first heater with decent heat -better than luke warm but not hot.  I then rigged up this new heater (new to me not new mind you) and though it took a couple of tries to get the ignition to actually light off I soon had a full on flame going in the water heater just as it should be.  The best news of all: the water coming out of the water heater was now scalding hot.  In the 15 years of using the previous water heater I have never had water so hot!

It took me a while to finish this post.  Basically around Christmas 2015 is when my water heater started acting up and then I was fortunate enough to find this replacement one about 3 weeks later.  A long weekend was spent in all the troubleshooting and repairs but by about the middle of January I was able to take hot showers on my own boat again as opposed to having to take all my showers at work or in our marina clubhouse.  I have to say my first hot water shower on my own boat after several weeks of showering at work was absolutely awesome.  One of the longest and most relaxing showers ever.  Thanks James (the man I bought the water heater from) for being willing to ship it to me.  I know that part was a headache too but you were very kind to get it on my way so quickly.  I also want to mention that Seth at was very helpful in my call to them.  He was the one who said it would be ok to use the penetrating oil on the valve and her also diagnosed my problem in the old water heater to be the water valve.  I am quite sure it is the vale and when finances allow I will buy their rebuild kit for that valve and get that water heater going too.  I had been looking for this model heater for a while to put on my other boat so once I get the old one fixed I’ll have a source of hot water for my Gibson boat as I continue it’s remodel process.