Being an Efficient Aircraft Mechanic
Learn to work Smarter not Harder
Being an efficient aircraft mechanic is something that we all strive to do. We want to complete tasks in a decent amount of time to keep aircraft downtime to a minimum. But how can we increase our efficiency at work and still conduct safe maintenance?
The maintenance instructions for a given task leave little room when it comes to cutting corners. They are what they are and we cannot change those instructions. Often times, it those darn instructions that don’t get followed and that leads to problems. Either proper maintenance procedures aren’t followed or proper follow maintenance tasks aren’t being completed when they should be.
Live and Learn
This habit should be avoided. Gaining efficiencies this way is not actually saving real time, since not only could it produce an unsafe result it can also create more work in the long run if the task is not completed properly and causes an unscheduled maintenance event to occur.
This particular thing has happened to me before. During an aircraft engine change, an oil line gets left slightly loose. The small oil leak goes undetected for the first few hours of flying then gets finally noticed and written up. Troubleshooting eventually finds the problem but not after spending a considerable amount of time out of service to find the culprit.
Doing a proper double-checking of all lines and hoses would have found the problem in the first place but I was in a hurry and I sure everything had gotten re-tightened. I learned my lesson and now do things differently. As a EMS helicopter mechanic, I hate getting call in during the middle of the night only to fix something that I should have done in the first place.
Instead of attempting to gain time by cutting corners by skipping steps in the maintenance manual, instead gain efficiency by being better organized. By the way, I am not saying that the deviations from the “approved data” are being done intentionally rather it is a byproduct of our natural methodology of trying to increase speed each time we do a task. The first time doing a task is normally much slower, instructions are probably followed much more closely. After the 3rd or 4th time, we find that we have become much more efficient at the task and have cut the time down considerably.
This is when important parts of the instructions can be missed because of over confidence.
By being a better organized aircraft mechanic, we can spend more time at the front end getting prepared in hopes of saving time on the back end by having less post maintenance discrepancies. Here are some ways to become more organized and save time completing maintenance tasks.
- Read the entire task the day before. Even if you are familiar with the task.
- Make sure you have all the required tools BEFORE you start. This includes special tools
- Make sure you have all the parts you need. This includes o-rings and cotter pins.
- Keep your tool box organized
- Keep your work area clean
- Take breaks while working
- Get a good nights rest before
- If possible, talk to the pilot to get a full report of the problem. Log book entries are normally short and sweet which does not always lend well to troubleshooting.
- If you are unfamiliar with the aircraft system, read the theory of ops
Law of Diminishing Returns of Aircraft Maintenance
In the perfect world, we would eventually achieve total efficiency and the task at hand could not be done any faster regardless of how much resources are thrown at it. There comes a time when the amount of time it takes to do a task creates an equilibrium. Attempting to move any faster only opens of the door to mistakes. Being an aircraft mechanic, you will always run into problems that cannot be foreseen such as stuck hardware or finding cracks in an area that you are working.
My point here is that we can only work so fast. We can plan ahead, we can be organized, but some things just take time. Accept it. Attempting to rush the job will only ADD time to the job in the long run.
Company policies in the GOM or GMM often times slow things down with never ending amounts of paperwork and nonsense. This is another area that should not be circumvented. In many companies, those policies are law when it comes to the Federal Aviation Administration. Breaking company policies in those cases are just as bad as breaking any other FAR. So if that means company paperwork adds 30 extra minutes to every task , by all means do it.
At the end of the day, it is your A&P certificates that you should be protecting.
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