In the early days of aviation, one of the major technical struggles for achieving flight was finding the sweet spot between the center of balance and the center of lift. Otto Lilienthal steered his gliders by shifting his body. The Wrights developed wing warping, whereby simple metal cables twisted the wings to produce roll. As aircraft complexity increased, the relationship between engine torque and prop wash (known as the P-factor) was taken into account to maintain balanced flight.
One of the challenges of aviation's so-called Golden Age was the installation of radios. After all, how would you connect to the circuit to ground? The answer turned out to be using the metal airframe as a substitute for good old terra firma. Still, early radios were plagued with interference and noise issues. One solution was to add braided wire shielding to prevent stray electric fields from interfering with the radio transmission.
No one knows its true origins, but ever since aviation's early days there has been an artificial divide between maintenance technicians and pilots. Perhaps it's rooted in the mili–tary, where pilots were mostly officers and mechanics were enlisted men. Maybe it has to do with pilots putting life and limb at risk while the maintainers remain safely on the ground.
Becoming a professional aircraft maintenance technician is a long and difficult process. The price is also very high. Many of us struggled for years to save enough money to afford A&P School, or gave years of our lives serving in the military. Many did both. But earning that license was just the price of admission, an opportunity to get your foot in the door. Finding that all-important first job was the next hurdle.
Looking for help with your next hangar project? The NBAA 2012 Buyers Guide has a search function to point you to Hangar Sales, Design and Construction suppliers. Visit the NBAA website (www.nbaa.org), enter “Hangar Design” in the search bar and click. Check out suppliers that have experience with hangar designs that are similar to what you are looking for. Be sure to thoroughly check out all references. Hangars are a big investment and you want to find the most-qualified team to ensure that you get the best barn for your buck.
The FAA has created a one-stop source for your fatigue resource needs. The site has a comprehensive tool box with training programs, including the award-winning film “Grounded,” and tools such as the Return on Investment calculator, Fatigue Risk Assessment Tool, and newsletters with articles authored by industry leading scientists in the subject of fatigue. You can visit the site at: www.mxfatigue.com
In the past few years, communications and electronics technologies have made tremendous advances. As soon as a new system hits the market, its replacement is already in the works. For business aviation, we have been at the forefront of incorporating new systems at an equally aggressive pace. We are way ahead of the airlines and even the military in many respects. Our customers are very demanding and expect the latest technology to be available as soon as they see it on the Internet.
Most maintenance managers long for the days when they were technicians on the hangar floor. Sure, there were blazing hot summers, freezing cold winters, cramped compartments and impossible tasks; but the thing we miss the most is ability to concentrate on one task at a time. As soon as you step into a management role, you instantly become a multitasker. There never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done, with the same attention to detail of the most basic maintenance task.
Screening for drug or alcohol use is a common pre-employment check that has been around for decades. Typically this is something expected and planned for in advance. If a job applicant fails this test you can withdraw your offer of employment. For many of us in aviation, we also face the possibility of random testing due to the passage of the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act.
Every year, the NBAA's week-long Maintenance Management Conference (MMC) provides resources for learning both new technology and updating each attendee's personal knowledge toolbox. In addition, the event provides an excellent opportunity to network with fellow managers and provides insight for those interested in professional development or creating new career goals within the business aviation community.
There is one thing all maintenance managers never have enough of — time. Not enough hours in the day to address all of the necessary tasks involved with running a maintenance operation. Your world revolves around the aircraft and the flight schedule. Break an aircraft and your workday becomes a chaotic vortex of activity. The only consistency comes in the form of perpetual change. But you handle it like you do, every day with competence and flexibility.
As aircraft become even more complex, the need for precise and accurate maintenance instructions increases. Back in the early days of aviation, a good mechanic could tell what was wrong with an aircraft engine by putting a long-handled screwdriver up to the cylinder and listening. Today, even the most-advanced diagnostic tools sometimes fall short. Having correct maintenance and troubleshooting guidance is essential for maintaining a safe aircraft and keeping it operational.
It seems that over the past year the world has experienced every type of major disaster — and many small ones as well. From floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, wildfires, hurricanes and tornados, there is no telling what Mother Nature will throw at us next. I predict locusts or frogs. If you cannot fly away before a natural disaster strikes, riding out the storm can be a nerve-racking experience. While the wind and rain howls is not the time to wonder if your insurance policy has you covered.
Balancing workload with available manpower is a never-ending struggle for maintenance managers. Even so-called “normal” operations can be highly unpredictable, and aircraft always seem to break at the worst possible time. Having extra help on call for unplanned maintenance work is a great way to cushion the impact.