Posts Tagged ‘ Aircraft Maintenance ’

This Life So Far


I’m on the right, grey shirt, pink lettering. Don’t hate!

This one’s for any fellow riders out there.

I’ve thought a lot about my Bucket List lately, for some reason, and it occurs to me just how many things I’ve managed to do already.   

This picture was taken in September 2009, at Windy Point–halfway up Mount Lemmon–just east of Tucson, AZ.  The guy I’m standing next to–Luc Peterson–is one of the two or three people I really consider to be a best friend from my time in Tucson.  We still talk regularly (well, regularly for us, anyway), and I’m proud to have met him.  I had a ’96 Kawasaki Vulcan 1500; he and Judy (the beautiful lady next to him) rode a Harley Softail variant.  We had a combination of cruisers and crotch-rockets in this crowd.  We were all coworkers at Bombardier’s facility at Tucson International Airport, specializing in the maintenance of corporate and commercial jets.  A lot of talent, in this photo.  Luc was the lead-man on the crew I was moved to, but eventually we became friends outside of (actually, despite) work.  


My bike (Victoria the Vulcan) was the red girl in front.

The ride up Mt. Lemmon was one of sheer beauty…Windy Point was a little scenic stop along the 25-mile, uber-winding trail up to the top.  It was (is) a common trip for many in the Tucson area to make during the summer; at nearly 9,200 feet, it’s usually at least 25 degrees cooler up there.  At the top of Mount Lemmon, there’s even a town–appropriately called Summerhaven–which has a couple of small shops where you can get pizza, chili, hot chocolate, or enormous cookies while you enjoy the scenery.


That’s me in the grey shirt again…notice the “Relay For Life” moniker.   See?  “I Love Boobies!” had a perfectly wonderful cause!

I rode several solid, eight-hour rides with a handful of this crew, and I’ll tell you what:  I don’t miss living there (the desert isn’t really my thing, being from the midwest), but the riding is unbelievable–sunshine 300 days a year was letting us do great rides in January.  I really do pine after another motorcycle, even though here in DC the riding is great maybe a few months a year.


This is a pretty accurate photo. Stunning scenery.

I learned when I started riding that I genuinely love it.  I love the feelings of freedom and (calculated) risk, all at once.  I love the wind in my face (until it starts to rain), and I love the intimate control you have over the machine, via the manual transmission.  That bike doesn’t do anything unless you tell it to.  It becomes an extension of you.  It also takes a pretty enormous amount of trust to ride 2X2 next to someone else, but it also cements a friendship further when you learn that you can.  It’s an unspoken thing, but it’s there, and both of you know it.

Anyway, I’m glad you took the time to read some of my stories here.  If you ever get out to Tucson, the trip up to Mount Lemmon is worth it.  I bet Luc would be happy to show you the tour!

Tell me about some of your greatest rides.  I know they’re out there!


A Day In The Life Of A Private Jet Doctor

It was a Tuesday, just shy of 5 pm.  I had arrived at the office around four o’clock for my ten hour shift to find the aircraft organizer—the file rack on which we kept work orders for each aircraft—virtually empty.  This was no surprise; when you work at an international airport outside of Washington, D.C. and Congress is not yet back in session, the workload lightens considerably.  Oh yes, Congress uses private jets.  Plenty of them.

            While we were assessing the work we had and organizing ourselves for the evening, our shift supervisor—who fields all calls and emails for new work–received three calls in rapid succession.  All of them were road trips.  One was a Learjet 31 that needed a horizontal stabilizer trim actuator (or “stab actuator”, for short) removed and replaced, one a Cessna Citation XLS with weak emergency power supplies and a failing inverter, and the final one was a Falcon 2000 with a landing light out, and requiring a Flight Management System (or, FMS) update—due monthly. 

            After investigating each case, we found that the Falcon was the prize pony, in this case—we keep updated sets of FMS databases handy, and we had a spare landing light bulb in stock. 

I volunteered to go, since I like the variety that road trips have to offer.  Typically, there are pros and cons to a road trip:  On the “Con” side, you’re working out of a box of your own tools, which typically in no way represents the actual amount of tools you have. It can become frustrating to get stalled during a job because you didn’t bring a tool that you already own, but did not know you would need.  If you should ever wonder why an aircraft mechanic has duplicates of some tools, this is surely part of the answer.  Another con is that you’re away from home, and typically on somebody’s ramp out in the middle of nowhere.  This is not a problem on a sunny, 70-degree day, but my shift has us working at night.  Out on the ramp when it’s pitch black and 25 degrees, the wind is gusting to fifty miles an hour, and you can’t complete your job without taking your fingers out of their gloves, it’s pretty much as close to hell as anything at one o’clock in the morning.

In my opinion, the pros of a road trip are simple:  I see places I likely would never have seen otherwise, and I have absolutely no problem getting paid time-and-a-half to sit in rush hour traffic—which invariably happens on an overnight road trip, since I’m usually heading back into the DC area around sun-up. 

I dispatched to Richmond, VA just as the sun was going down, and just in time to sit in evening rush-hour traffic, as I made my way down I-495 to I-95.  Three hours later, I pulled up to the airport, and fired up the aircraft’s Auxiliary Power Unit (or APU).  If it weren’t for the APU, this trip would be far more miserable.  The APU is an extra turbine engine on the aircraft whose only purpose in life is to provide electricity and warm or cool air for the aircraft when the engines aren’t running.

I made quick time of replacing the light bulb—it wasn’t getting any warmer, after all–and began loading the FMS update, one 3.5 inch floppy-that-isn’t-really-floppy at a time.  (The FMS disks update the system’s “knowledge” of every departure, approach, and GPS location of every airport on the planet.)  It took nearly an hour and a half, but as I sat in the pilot’s seat, monitoring the system’s progress, I couldn’t help but reaffirm my belief that the pilots have the best view in the house.  I imagined myself at 36,000 feet, over a landscape that is completely dark except for the lights of whatever city I can see from my perch…I imagined that I’d be monitoring exactly the same computer-screened instrument displays that I had to monitor at that moment…

And all at once, the aircraft finished reading and declared itself smart enough to fly for one more month. 

I systematically shut-down the avionics, the APU, and the aircraft’s batteries.  I took the aircraft’s logbook inside the airport terminal to finish up the paperwork and fax it off to Maintenance Control, and loaded the truck for the trip home.  I normally get off at 2 a.m., but I didn’t walk in the front door of my house until 8:30.  Rush hour was pretty bad that morning…just the way I like it.

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