Monday, April 28, 2008

A recent question from the comment section

Asked 'what would you do different?'.

Well my young friend, first of all, I would have pursued that law degree instead.

But we won't go into that.

Let me ask you a question Rodolfo, 'Three to Five years.' Are ya sick of hearing that yet?

It's pretty much true. It will take you from three to five years to get a good foothold in this business.

What does that have to do with what I would do differently?

I'd spend that time to get a degree. Even though I never planned to turn wrenches forever I should have gone ahead and gotten a Bachelors of Aviation Maintenance Management. Do you see the keyword there?

Also, I'd pursue my IA. I've NEVER needed one in the situations I've been in but I'd get it anyway.

Why? A better (and more current) understanding and knowledge of the FARs.

Would you like to guess how many times I've had to do deep research in the FARs or even the 43:13 for that matter?

Damn few. Nearly ZERO.

So, again, why then? Wait 'til ya have to go toe to toe with a boneheaded inspector over some stoopitshit. It'll happen.

What else... Degree, IA...

I'd be a 'Tron! A Sparky. An Avionics Geek.

They don't do a lot of heavy lifting. They don't get greasy. Ya rarely see one of 'em bleeding. And, you almost never see one sweat!

(I ran that by another one of my Avionics Buddies today. He just chuckled and shook his head. I'd already been aggravating him. I needed a special pair of crimpers. He was a little busy so I threatened to use, "My car stereo crimpers". "Oh geeze David. Why would you use 3$ crimpers on a 5$ splice?!)

{{{Speaking of crimpers. KEEP YOUR DIGITS OUT OF 'EM!!! Once you close them past that first 'click' then you have to close them COMPLETELY before you can get them open again. That wasn't something they taught me in A&P school. I thank Joe Hitt for keeping me out of that bind.}}}

As things get more complex and more electric and more sophisticated (and they will) a solid capability with wiring diagrams and avionics/ electrical troubleshooting will be more in demand.

Sheetmetal/ Composites are another art form. Also, in demand. I envy the guys that can do that and do it well.

What else? I might even be more of a hangar rat. I've never understood the guys that get finished working on airplanes all day and the head over to another airport to hang out. BUT, NEVER underestimate that power of friends and contacts in this business!!!

Ol' Bill told me years ago, "Never treat an airplane as if you'll never see it again."

I'd add people to that theory.

A week or so ago I ran into an old friend. I mean a way back friend. We got our licenses within months of each other. He turned me on to an overseas job as a King Air Tech Rep. I applied and there is no word (or sign of any word coming) yet but you see the point. I can count on my hands the number of times I've even seen that fellow since 1990.

This part is easy for Me to say but, a Repair Station is great place to start BUT you'd better elbow, kick and scratch your way to the front. Get to where you are learning to troubleshoot and fix flight squawks.

EASY for me to say, don't get stuck in a back shop or the pits of a heavy.

This post is degenerating. It is really easy for me to preach from the couch. I've made my mistakes and I'd need both hands and have to take of my shoes just to add up the big mistakes. I'd just hate to see anybody else make the same ones.

Do keep us posted on your progress. How about a background story or a place to start from? Guam was it? Native? Navy? Or Military Brat? (I'm a quasi Army Brat.) Oh, and your friend... King Air pilot? The folks that are out there doing that sort of stuff are the ones to cultivate.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Draft. Uncut and Unedited. Part 1

What follows is a fictional account. Any resemblance to places or people; living or dead is their own damn fault.

Rated R for Adult Language and Situations.

The Western Inn
7666 NW Route 66
Bethune, OK

William George arrived in Okay City, OK with his truck and his toolbox.

William George made his living as an itinerant aircraft mechanic. Rolling from town to town wherever the work lead him.

Once again the road lead to Okay City.

The license plates say, “Oklahoma is OK!”

That summed it up for William George. Oklahoma IS ok. It’s not bad and it’s not great. It’s just ok.

That Sunday afternoon in February when he escaped I35 he picked the first motel that looked reasonably safe and convenient.

His tool box, lashed to the bed of the pick-up was foremost in his mind. To lose it to theft would be an overwhelming loss. Not just the expense of replacing it but the work lost without it.

Without it, he couldn’t work to replace it.

The last place he stopped for gas was just south of Dallas. It had been breezy but still shirt sleeve weather.

Okay City was another world. The wind was hard out of the north and bitter.

William George hustled into the motel office and scored a room for the night.

He backed into a space in front of his room and hustled inside.

Once inside he immediately cranked up the heat and threw open curtain, to keep an eye on the tool box.

With the bed pillows stacked and a cold beer on the night stand he made a few phone calls and fell asleep with the TV on.

At six am. He lurched out of bed and looked out the window. “Still there.” the tool box was still closed and lashed in place.

The recruiter had told him to report at seven-thirty a.m. Having worked in the same facility previously he remembered the start time was seven.

With plenty of time but no coffee pot in the room William George threw out the half full beer and hurried to get ready and get a few cups from the lobby before he had to leave.

He pulled on a light jacket and stepped out the door.


20 degrees a stiff wind and the truck windows frosted solid.

Once again he hustled to the lobby.

No coffee ready.

He checked out and hustled to the truck.


The inside of the cab was a deep freeze.

William George put the key in the ignition and turned it.

‘rauhh rauhh rauh rau’

The cold had sucked the life out of the battery.

He hustled once again to the lobby to call a taxi for a jump start.

“Yellow Cab.”

“I need a jump at the Overnight Motel.”

“Twenty dollars, up front, whether it starts or not.”

“I figured that. About how long?”

“30 to 45 minutes.”

“Great. I’ll be here.”

At least there was coffee brewing now. He took a Styrofoam cup and pulled the half full pot from the burner. Still brewing, the stream of hot coffee made a huge sizzling puddle on the burner, the counter and the floor.

He made a half hearted effort at cleaning up the mess and hustled back to the truck, ‘Maybe if I try one more time…’

‘rau, rau.’

“Damn it!”

Funds were tight and a twenty dollar “whether it starts or not” jump start was not in the budget.

A couple came down the stairs and began to get into the car in the next stall.

“Excuse me! Good morning. Do ya’ll have any jumper cables?”

“No, I’m sorry.”, the woman replied from over the roof.

“But, we’ve got a jumper box at home.”, the man added before getting into the passenger side.

“I could go get it…”

“She’s got to take me to work first…”

“But, I can be back in about twenty minutes.”

“Great. I’d really appreciate that. I just got to town and today is my first day of work.”

“Oh man, I’ll be back. We only live a few blocks from here.”

“I’ll be here. Thanks!”

William George hustled back to the lobby for another cup of coffee.

He stood there, peering out the plate glass window at the sunrise and the building traffic, “This does not bode well for my last trip to Okay City.”

For William George, EVERY trip to Okay City was to have been the last.

He’d grown up 90 miles from the spot where he stood.

1981 had been his first attempt to escape. Again in 1982.

Finally, he thought, he’d made his break and gone to Dallas. Once there he’d started a new life and career.

That career took him first to Selma, Alabama.

Dallas County Texas to Dallas County Alabama overnight.

Eleven years later that career brought him back for a year. At the first opportunity he was gone again for nearly four years.

He had returned to lick wounds and get back on track in 2000 and got stranded in the Okay City for several years.

Atlanta provided a year or so respite until he got angry and quit a job where he was caught up in “Political Crossfire” and budget crunching.

Another year and it was back to Texas. San Antonio, Texas.

San Antonio was the place where he’d long ago decided that if he had to live in the United States of America it would be in San Antonio in the By- God- Republic of Texas.

Back again to Okay City.

Every time it carried a lump of defeat.

‘I can’t do any better.’

‘I can’t make it anywhere else.’

“I’ll have to go back to the Okay City. Goddamn it!”

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rodolfo asked...

what tools I carried with me on the road.

By the time I found myself living on the road I had a couple of things to consider:
What was important and what wasn't.
Weight restrictions. Both the airline limits and my own.

My world shrunk to one checked bag, one carry on bag and a 19 inch Craftsman toolbox.

I had a tremendous advantage though. All of the sites I went to, with the exception of Kenya, were established field sites with at least one mechanic stationed there. That meant I had access to his tools and the company tools there.

I had my roll away laid out with the tools I used most often in the top drawer. The other drawers had say, the rest of my sockets and ratchets etc in one, wrenches in another, and so on.

Since I had already set it up that way I had a head start.

That would have included-
Ratchet Screwdriver with lots of apexes.
Dikes, 6"
Needle Nose Pliers, 6"
Safety Wire Pliers (The smaller of the two I had.)
12 Point 1/4" Drive Sockets (You can always use a 12 point on a 6 point fastener but not vice versa)
1/4" Drive Ratchet
Ignition Wrenches
Crescent Wrench, 6"
3/8" X 7/16" Ratchet Wrench
1/2" X 9/16" Ratchet Wrench

Honestly, I don't remember exactly what all was in the top drawer at that time.

I laid it all out on a bench next to my little tool box. Then, I took heavy duty 1/2" thick foam and "Shadowed" all of those things in. (Shadowing is where you cut out the shape of the tool from the foam. When you or anyone else look into your box it is obvious if anything is missing. It SUCKS to set it up but it is really nice once it's done.)

Once I had the top drawer stuff done I looked at the space I had and, "Hm, well, I use this a lot too. Oh, I don't use this often but it has saved my butt a time or two. And I'd hate to be with out this."

I think that box weighed 65 LBs.

As to brands, I do like Snap-On. I hate to use their slogan but there is a difference. I prefer them when it comes to tools with moving parts or something I'm going to have to put a ton of torque into.

Craftsman, Cornwell, MATCO, MAC or Snap-On... Get your price list. Hit the pawn shops.

One suggestion, unless you're just loaded, is buy less expensive stuff if you need it to start out and build up from there.

That does two things for you. First, it gets you on the job. Second, once you've upgraded you have a tool to cut down or grind or modify for a particular task. You will be 'making' tools all through your career.

Another good rule of thumb that actually came up today at work, "If you need to borrow it twice you need to buy it once."

I hope this helps. It might be a little vague for you and too specific for everybody else.

One Travel Tip. It seems obvious to me and others. I'm sure it's on plenty of travel websites.

Pack a change of clothes and your shaving kit in the carry on.

When we got transferred to Sicily I tried to tell my wife that. She gave me that, "I know what I'm doing look."

She packed her way and I packed mine.

My luggage got to there with me and hers didn't.

Did I say, "I told you so?"

Are you nuts?!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

"I Hold My Ticket... Revision 1 my hand.
I hold my ticket in my hand.
I'm headed for the Promised Land."

"Tonight I Think I'm Gonna Go Downtown"

"I'm lookin' for a Marks-A-Lot to polish my boots..."

I'll be a Son-of-a-Gun if Joe Ely didn't open with "1000 Miles From Home"!!!

I wandered down to the Blue Door last night and caught the late Joe Ely show.

The Blue Door is a VERY small venue. Maybe 120 people max capacity.

So the late show was maybe 70 people...

Joe and one acoustic guitar.

And he played. He played damn near all of my favorites-
"All Just To Get To You"
"The Road Goes On For Ever"

I lost track. I was so engrossed listening and watching his hands on the frets.

I sat against the wall on the end of a row that happened to be near a window.

I glanced out and what did I see?

A Full Moon....

"I glanced out the window
at the Joe Ely show

A full moon rising
Elegant and slow.

My eyes
My eyes swoll up
They did well up

I looked away
and studied the man there
up on the stage

wet eyes watching
every fret and change

I listened as he played
as he talked and
told jokes on Van Zandt
and stories of his life

Couldn't look away
I studied the man there
up on the stage

wet eyes watching
every fret and change..."

OK, Kinda Sophomoric but what do ya expect when I draft a work within a work. The Nada isn't work to me it's a form of expression.

There was a big moon coming up.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Whenever Two Or More Are Gathered

By that I mean, "Whenever two or more guys are gathered."

Ya put two of us together and any thing can happen.

Depends on the chemistry.

Take a hangar deck.

Throw thirty or so guys on five or six airplanes.

You'll see and hear all sorts of things.

If you work your way in and around various groups you'll see and hear even more.

I can only speak FROM the Trades. I can't speak FOR the Tradesmen.

Well, I guess I can speak OF them.

We are a rough, crude, mean, fun loving, ornery, harsh, caring, insensitive, obnoxious, eclectic bunch.

Notice any incongruities there?

There are certain Codes.

"If ya can't hang then ya shouldn't have came." English: You need a thicker skin.

"It's never too late for truck driving school." English: What made you think you could do this job?

"If I ain't screwing with your head it means that I don't like you so stay away." English: Do you really need a translation?

"If I'm Ignoring you see above and stay the blank/blank long way away!"

We are hardest on ourselves first and the folks we care about second and the others we leave be.
One guy is out with 'Shingles'. On the side of his head no less. We are all worried about him. We will all give him hell when he gets back. "We luv ya Brother! We missed ya. BS! Where is your XM radio?"

One of the young guys just bought a Snap-On roll away tool chest. A BIG Snap-On tool box. The damn thing cost more than my truck. He did get a great deal on it. Paid less than I paid for my truck for it. (I have bought cars for less tho.)

There was some 'oohhin' and aahhin' over his purchase.


The majority response went something like this-

"Boy!!! Did you get PERMISSION to buy that box?!", Me.

"Hey Bert! I see ya bought the do it yourself divorce kit!", Sheetmetal Leadman.

"Yer a dead man.", Any Mouse.

There is always verbal abuse. If we likes ya.

It can get physical.

(Not often because honestly it can be dangerous and none of us really want to hurt each other. Scarred for life is one thing but drawing blood is something entirely different.)

In this crowd no matter how old you get passing gas is always a gas.

You're in Korea in the summertime. You and your Knuckle Draggin' buddies have been out all night drinking OB Sky and Soju eating kimche and yakimando...

Next morning you're "feeling so spry" that you wedge yourself in a King Air between the pedestal and the side wall to pull brake master cylinders.

You hear one of your 'buddies' trying to sneak up into the plane.

"Don't You BLANK/BLANK do it!!!"

All you hear is a giggle and the click of the airstair door closing you in.


While in Korea in the wintertime, Christmas actually and one of your Buddies Wife is coming to visit.

So, ya set up a welcome. Breaking into his hotel room. Sling condoms and rice every, EVERY where. Disassemble the bed and stand it up in the bath tub and hide the hardware. Turn off the heat and open the window. Throw a few decks of playing cards and chips and empty beer cans around for good measure. Giggle like school boys and get out.

(He deserved it. She got even! Among other things, she got the maid to let her into my room where she soaked all of my underwear and stuffed it into the freezer! I forget what she did to the other guys.)


You're wedged in there inspecting under and behind the instrument panel with your head between the rudder pedals.

You hear someone call your name.

"Don't you BLANK/BLANK do it!"

You hear a giggle and he grabs the rudder and swings it side to side slapping your ears with the rudder pedals.


You're walking under the wing and don't hear a thing but pulleys and cables as the aileron makes a quick sweep up and down catching the bill of your cap and sending it flying.
(I did NOT do that one!)


(Those Shiny Boys in the front seats of the airplane aren't much better!!! The good ones anyway.)

I was in a T-39 headed back to Sicily from England. "Hey, (pilot) John what mountain range is that?" John was sitting in the right seat of the cockpit. He leaned forward in a very exaggerated way to look out the left window of the cockpit and says, "I don't know. I can't see the mountains for his nose!"


A Test Pilot a Mechanic and a Quality Assurance Inspector go up on a post maintenance test flight. The Q.A. Inspector falls asleep.

Test Pilot says to the Mech, "Hold my coffee and watch this!" He proceeds to nose the plane over. HARD nose down attitude AND deploys the oxygen masks in the cabin (where the Inspector is sleeping).

The Inspector wakes up to the plane in a nose dive and panics trying to get an O2 mask on. Pilot and Mech are up front laughing like school boys. They probably passed gas too.

Today I received an email saying a new comment had been added to a post from December.

Hello Rodolfo. If you happen to stop by for this post...

Prepare to have a nickname. Prepare to be handed a hard time. Prepare to keep studying and learning. (You don't want to be a Knuckle Dragger any longer than you have to.) Prepare to scrape sealer and do lubes and anything else nobody else wants to do.

There is no such thing as a 'gallon of prop wash' or ' a hundred feet of flight line' or 'a pad-eye wrench'.

There are grasshoppers, coon dicks and crows feet.

Above All Remember-

"Measure it with a tape. Mark it with chalk. Cut it with a torch. Beat it to fit and paint it to match!"

All kidding aside. I do wish you the best of luck in you life as an A&P.

And the beat goes on...

Today's acquisitions-

"B.B. King Live" A DVD recorded live at his club in Memphis. Go get it!
Taped over several nights B.B. and The B.B. King Blues Band are beyond description.
Lots of repartee' from The King.

"Traffic, The Definitive Collection" CD
There are a lot of songs by Traffic that I really like and have liked for a long time-
"You Can All Join In"
"John Barleycorn"
"Rock 'N' Roll Stew"
"Dear Mr. Fantasy"
"The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys"
"Feelin' Alright?"

Have you ever really listened to the lyrics of say, "Feelin' Alright?" or "Low Spark"?

Next up is another DVD. "In in depth look at the making of 'The Dark Side Of The Moon'."
I haven't watched it yet.

Also, you can never, well, I can NEVER have too much Joe Ely. "The Best Of Joe Ely" 20 songs most all of which I have on other discs. Thing is, he does a lot of different versions.
"Dallas" is on this disc but my fave version is live and kicks off with "Let's jump on a DC-9 and head down to Dallas..."

I know there are at least three other new CD's around here since my last confession. Oh well.

For now I'm switching back and forth and 'round and 'round from Joe to B.B. to Traffic and it's early yet!!!

Monday, April 7, 2008

All over again

I had a weird little recollection today.

It can't be called Deja Vu because I mostly remember it.


Today I noticed a neat little clothes pin magnet deal on one of the guys tool boxes. A memo clip I guess.

Now, you have to know that the oddest little thing can remind me of the oddest little thing.

It seems that at some point in my childhood I used a clothes pin in some sort of Boobie Trap.

But, the Boobie Trap that came to mind had nothing to do with a clothes pin (or a magnet for that matter). It wouldn't have worked.

It wasn't that complicated a device.

I remembered rigging an old wind up alarm clock, the kind with the little arch on top and two bells and a hammer. (I can't recall the name of the part of a bell that does the dinging.)

My Grandad, the Sargent Major had an old industrial strength lunch box.

Grandmother fixed him a lunch every morning.

I discovered that the alarm clock had a pretty large tolerance. Meaning, if the hour of the day was within, oh half an hour of the time it was set to go off... well my scheme would work.

See, if the pin was pushed in but the alarm was set for 5 a.m. and you pulled the pin at 5:15 the alarm would go off.


So here's my Grandmother trying to raise four grandsons. She was in her mid fifties. Back then, whoa! Back in those days Fifty Something WAS Ancient. She gets up in the morning to fix lunch for the SGT Major, like she did every morning.

She notices the box is a little heavy.

She opens it and...


Who was I kidding? She'd seen it all before. Already raised three boys.

I got might have gotten a grin out of her for my effort.

Still haven't figure out where the clothes pin fits in but it might explain why I couldn't get away with ANYTHING for the next six years!!!