Care And Feeding Of Mechanics
Airplane mechanics, and the other guys who assist them, are an important part of aviation, especially when you are dealing with unusual and sometimes rare or exotic airplanes like the ones many of us most enjoy flying, that often need more or at least different caring for.
I would like to suggest some ways for proper care and feeding of these guys and sometimes girls.
1. First of all, pay your bills promptly, and fully. Sometimes these guys are more into doing the work and don't really enjoy the paperwork and billing part. But in many cases, they may not have a lot of other income and our $300 for an oil change or $3000 for an annual is important to them. They have bills to pay also, like hangar rent and salaries in many cases.
Don't make them chase you for a back payment, and the time to debate about a bill is before they have done the work, not after it has already been charged in most cases. There may be ways to cut costs on parts or labor, but that should be done before they are charged.
2. Many a&p s and certainly other airport workers may not be pilots or even if they are, they may not own a plane. Offer them a flight. Especially if you have something better than and out of the ordinary, give them the choice of a ride, and of course if it is dual control, let them fly some. And don't take "no" for an answer when it comes to taking the controls. I let, actually insist, that all my riders fly some, whether Young Eagles or not, and I have never found anyone who did not enjoy it. I never had anyone say they wish they had not done it once back on the ground.
Of course, the added benefit is that the mechanic can see in flight exactly what that unusual control feel or strange noise or vibration is, better than you just telling them.
3. Most of these guys like to eat. So when I go to lunch I offer to bring back sandwiches for the shop. When I fly back from the front range, I often bring a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts for the line guys at my airport, not that most of them need the calories. But they sure are quick to respond when I need a tug to move my plane or to get fuel. And if it is donuts, don't get those awful ones from Kroger or Safeway, they are large and bland.
And if doesn't have to be junk food, maybe if you have access to it,bring them something good for a change, not just soft drinks or fatty pizza.
Last edited by Bill Greenwood; 06-28-2013 at 03:12 PM.
I give my mechanic each month's Sport Aviation after I read it. I encourage him to pass it on to his friends. I also invite him to dinner every so often.
The folks who go to the airport, fly, go home, and never learn the line guy's names or get their hands dirty miss at least half of the rewards of aviation.
Best of luck,
Am I the only person on the planet that hates greasy....I mean Krispy Kreme donuts? Other than that, great ideas, although, most mechanics I have experience with work best for beer.
If you think Krispy Kreme donuts are greasy, you may not have had a one. What makes them good is they are less bulky than others, less doughy, but still covered in a sweet coating. If you have a box or bag of them, it doesn't leave a grease stain. Now, I would never call them healthy, but they are good. The line guys at my airport love them. They might like beer also, but it is actually illegal to drink while doing a & p work according to my mechanic.
I recently purchased my first personal aircraft and Hangared it at the county owned field. There seems to be a game of hide and go seek between the FBO and local freelance Mechs. I'm not sure exactly what the rules are and who is in the right and wrong, but the situation does not seem positive.
If that airport has ever accepted federal funds they have grant assurances in effect. Grant assurance 22F covers the right of an owner to hire a mechanic for his own aircraft. Learn more at:
Originally Posted by Ted Klapka
i see where I could have my own employee (if I had an employee) service my aircraft, but I do not see a right to hire an independent Mech.
Originally Posted by email@example.com
When one hires another to perform work for pay on one's property at the location of one's choosing....well, I'm no expert on labor law but I'm under the impression that after the jack slips and the dead body cools, the cops, lawyers, and insurance agents just might consider the deceased to have been an employee. But hey, your mileage may vary.
Originally Posted by Ted Klapka
HOW TO OPERATE A MECHANIC
By William C. Dykes
A long, long time ago, back in the days of iron men and wooden planes, a ritual began. It takes place when a pilot approaches a mechanic to report some difficulty with his aircraft. All mechanics seem to be aware of it, which leads to the conclusion that it's included somewhere in their training, and most are diligent in practicing it.
New pilots are largely ignorant of the ritual because it's neither included in their training, nor handed down to them by older drivers. Older drivers feel that the pain of learning everything the hard way was so exquisite, that they shouldn't deny anyone the pleasure.
There are pilots who refuse to recognize it as a serious professional amenity, no matter how many times they perform it, and are driven to distraction by it. Some take it personally. They get red in the face, fume and boil, and do foolish dances. Some try to take it as a joke, but it's always dead serious. Most pilots find they can't change it, and so accept it and try to practice it with some grace.
The ritual is accomplished before any work is actually done on the aircraft. It has four parts, and goes something like this:
1. The pilot reports the problem. The mechanic says, There's nothing wrong with it."
2. The pilot repeats the complaint. The mechanic replies, "It's the gauge."
3. The pilot persists, plaintively. The mechanic Maintains, "They're all like that."
4.The pilot, heatedly now, explains the problem carefully, enunciating carefully. The mechanic states, "I can't fix it."
After the ritual has been played through in it's entirety, serious discussion begins, and the problem is usually solved forthwith.
Like most rituals, this one has it's roots in antiquity and a basis in experience and common sense. It started back when mechanics first learned to operate pilots, and still serves a number of purposes. It's most important function is that it is a good basic diagnostic technique. Causing the pilot to explain the symptoms of the problem several times in increasing detail not only saves troubleshooting time, but gives the mechanic insight into the pilot's knowledge of how the machine works, and his state of mind.
Every mechanic knows that if the if the last flight was performed at night or in bad weather, some of the problems reported are imagined, some exaggerated, and some are real. Likewise, a personal problem, especially romantic or financial, but including simple fatigue, affects a pilot's perception of every little rattle and thump. There are also chronic whiners complainers to be weeded out and dealt with. While performing the ritual, an unscrupulous mechanic can find out if the pilot can be easily intimidated. If the driver has an obvious personality disorder like prejudices, pet peeves, tender spots, or other manias, they will stick out like handles, with which he can be steered around.
There is a proper way to operate a mechanic as well. Don't confuse "operating" a mechanic with "putting one in his place." The worst and most often repeated mistake is to try to establish an "I'm the pilot and you're just the mechanic" hierarchy. Although a lot of mechanics can and do fly recreationally, they give a damn about doing it for a living. Their satisfaction comes from working on complex and expensive machinery. As a pilot, you are neither feared nor envied, but merely tolerated, for until they actually train monkeys to fly those things, he needs a pilot to put the parts in motion so he can tell if everything is working properly. The driver who tries to put a mech in his "place" is headed for a fall. Mechanics are indifferent to attempts at discipline or regimentation other than the discipline of their craft. It's accepted that a good mechanic's personality should contain unpredictable mixtures of irascibility and nonchalance, and should exhibit at least some bizarre behavior.
The basic operation of a mechanic involves four steps:
1. Clean an aircraft. Get out a hose or bucket, a broom, and some rags, and at some strange time of day, like early morning, or when you would normally take your afternoon nap) start cleaning that bird from top to bottom, inside and out. This is guaranteed to knock even the sourest old wrench off balance. He'll be suspicious, but he'll be attracted to this strange behavior like a passing motorist to a roadside accident. He may even join in to make sure you don't break anything. Before you know it , you'll be talking to each other about the aircraft while you're getting a more intimate knowledge of it. Maybe while you're mucking out the pilot's station, you'll see how rude it is to leave coffee cups, candy wrappers, cigarette butts, and other trash behind to be cleaned up.
2. Do a thorough pre-flight. Most mechanics are willing to admit to themselves that they might make a mistake, and since a lot of his work must be done at night or in a hurry, a good one likes to have his work checked. Of course he'd rather have another mech do the checking, but a driver is better than nothing. Although they cultivate a deadpan, don't-give-a-damn attitude, mechanics have nightmares about forgetting to torque a nut or leaving tools in inlets and drive shaft tunnels. A mech will let little gigs slide on a machine that is never pre-flighted, not because they won't be noticed, but because he figures the driver will overlook something big someday, and the whole thing will end up in a smoking pile of rubble anyway.
3. Don't abuse the machinery. Mechanics see drivers come and go, so you won't impress one in a thousand with what you can make the aircraft do. They all know she'll lift more than max gross, and will do a hammerhead with half roll. While the driver is confident that the blades and engine and massive frame members will take it, the mech knows that it's the seals and bearings and rivets deep in the guts of the machine that fail from abuse. In a driver mechanics aren't looking for fancy expensive clothes, flashy girlfriends, tricky maneuvers, and lots of juicy stories about Viet Nam. They're looking for one who'll fly the thing so that all the components make their full service life. They also know that high maintenance costs are a good excuse to keep salaries low.
4. Do a post-flight inspection. Nothing feels more deliciously dashing than to end the day by stepping down from the bird and walking off into the sunset while the blades slowly turns down. It's the stuff that beer commercials are made of. The trouble is, it leaves the pilot ignorant of how the aircraft has fared after a hard days work, and leaves the wrench doing a slow burn. The mechanic is an engineer, not a groom, and needs some fresh, first hand information on the aircraft's performance if he is to have it ready to go the next day. A little end-of-the-day conference also gives you one more chance to get him in the short ribs. Tell him the thing flew good. It's been known to make them faint dead away.
As you can see, operating a mechanic is simple, but it is not easy. What it boils down to is that if a pilot performs his pilot rituals religiously in no time at all he will find the mechanic operating smoothly. ( I have not attempted to explain how to make friends with a mechanic, for that is not known.) Pilots and mechanics have a strange relationship. It's a symbiotic partnership because one's job depends on the other, but it's an adversary situation too, since one's job is to provide the bird with loving care, and the other's is to provide wear and tear. Pilots will probably always regard mechanics as lazy, lecherous, intemperate swine who couldn't make it through flight school, and mechanics will always be convinced that pilots are petulant children with pathological ego problems, a big watch, and a little whatchamacallit. Both points of view are viciously slanderous, of course, and only partly true.
Remembering the Forgotten Mechanic
Through the history of world aviation
many names have come to fore
Great deeds of the past in our memory will last,
as they're joined by more and more
When a man first started his labor in his quest to
conquer the sky
he was designer, mechanic and pilot,
and he built a machine that would fly
But somehow the order got twisted,
and then in the public's eye
the only man that could be seen was the man who knew how to fly
The pilot was everyone's hero,
he was brave, he was bold, he was grand,
as he stood by his battered old biplane
with his goggles and helment in hand
To be sure, these pilots all earned it,
to fly you have to have guts
And they blazed their names in the hall of fame
on wings with bailing wire struts
But for each of these flying heros
there were thousands of little reknown,
and these were the men who worked on the planes
but kept their feet on the ground
We all know the name Lindburgh
and we've all read of his flight to fame
But can you think of his maintenance man,
can you remember his name?
As think of our wartime heros, Gabreski,
Jabara, and Scott
Can you tell me the names of their crew chiefs?
A thousand to one you cannot!
Now pilots are highly trained people,
and wings are not easily won
But without the work of the maintenance man
our pilots would march with a gun
So when you see a mighty jet aircraft as they mark
their way through the air,
the grease stained man with the wrnch in his hand
is the man who put them there...