At work this week, Gary (my new roommate and co-worker) and I disassembled the glare shield and side consoles in the cockpit. Our supervisor ran us through some engineering drawings and modifications before we started. One eighth of the D-hangar is full of mobile boards which hold open task cards, drawings, and paperwork for the maintenance techs to complete. DA uses an intricate system of distributing work using these boards, but it hasn’t failed them so far. One thing I have learned is that the paperwork must weigh more than the plane. Our job today was to disassemble the cockpit and access the area under the windscreen frame where the two side windscreens meet the two fronts. After that, the instructions asked us to drill holes to allow standing water to drain. The modification also incorporates a hose that leads to the lowest part of the aircraft belly. Most of the Dash 8s at DA already have this modification because most of the planes are parked outside. Any rain water that seeps through the windscreen seal will eventually corrode the metal and become unsafe. Over all it was a really fun project.
Monday, I had gloves holding on the tips of both of my ring fingers. This was the result of an accident which occurred while working on construction over the weekend. Tim, my lead technician for the day, noticed right off the bat and didn’t hesitate to crack a smile as well as a few jokes. Tim is a contractor working in the D-hangar with me. He and I started working at DA the very same day. Oddly enough, we actually met and went through HR at the same time, but never knew we would be working together. Tim has worked just about everywhere in the US, and on just about every commercial plane there is. His true passion though, lies with antique aircraft. Tim used to work on military aircraft restoration projects and can easily ID any old school plane out there. Tim also worked on military bomber aircraft during some of the wars, which I never got sick of hearing about during lunch time. Today, Tim and I removed the main landing gear wheels and even split the wheel halves apart to switch out the tires. We did this so that the tires that are still airworthy don’t dry rot and make flat spots while the plane sits on the hangar floor. The project required a lot of attention to detain and a focus on safety for everyone in and around the plane. Jacking up an aircraft of this magnitude was amazing to watch. The power of hydraulics is astounding.
Friday of last week I helped install a windscreen on one of the unairworthy planes sitting in the hangar. The plane will most likely become just an organ donor later down the line. I am glad it was my task card though, because today I was pulled out of D-hangar to do it again, only this time it was for real. A Dash 8 sitting on the ramp was getting close to its deadline for recertification. The windscreen was sent out for repairs weeks ago and was back, ready for installation. Installing a windscreen correctly is extremely important. Not following proper torque order, or the improper use of the tools, and your left with starting over. Worst of all, if the improper installation never gets reported, you’re looking at a convertible. Another tech watched me work and gave me some helpful tips for hand torqueing with a screw driver. I used valve grinding compound to get a better grip on the screw head. By the way, why are we using triwings?! Every screw head strips right out. Everyone I talk to hates this fact about the Dash 8. The tech and I ended up staying well past 5pm and got some overtime. The install took a while but was absolutely worth it. Quality Control (QC) knows my name now, and for good reasons.
The same plane from yesterday needs to be out of the hangar today. The managers working on the plane were running around double checking task cards and verifying paperwork. You could say I earned my stripes today working on such a time sensitive project. Whenever the managers needed work to get done, they came to me first. It felt great knowing they trusted me to do the jobs right the first time. Reviewing the maintenance manuals every morning and my training from ERAU is really paying off!
Today’s job was a conformity check. Trickling down the ladder from upper management today was an unusual request. The senior staff wanted a list of all the serial and part numbers for the GCU’s as well as some other items. I spent the whole day climbing through planes on the ramp and in the hangar, looking for numbers. It sure was an easy day, but different than my normal routine.
With the boots removed from the composite leading edges, I couldn’t help but think of Professor Billette back at school. He would go nuts if he saw these leading edges and their defects. Some of the cracks and holes exposed Kevlar layers, composite materials that I got to work with in his class. This is just one more reason why the training at ERAU for my A&P was the right choice. I prepped the boots for repairs and sent them to the composite shop. That was cool to see.
I got to work on prop assemblies today! I disassembled the hubs and removed each individual prop so that the parts could be shipped overseas to the DA aircraft currently in operation. You know it’s a fun day when you need a forklift to access what you’re working on.
Karl, the president of DA, owns a DC-3 named “Miss Virginia”. This specific plane has been in his family for years and was one of their original aircraft his dad flew when he owned the company. Every year, Karl’s team of technicians get the plane ready for Oshkosh. For weeks all the interns except me, have been scraping nasty old insulation from the interior side of the aircraft skin. Something about it being a fire hazard was the reason for starting the whole project. After about day three, all the interns were complaining about their hurt fingers and how boring the plane was. I made sure to never say a word about the subject. After about a week, I was pulled in to the hangar with the DC-3 and was needed to help install a prestart oil pump for the massive radial engines it has. I pretty shocked I wasn’t scraping insulation that day. I calmly looked over the paperwork for the STC and some drawings an engineer for DA drew up. I knew right off the bat it wasn’t going to work. Before my current job, I used to install propane tanks and lines for my father’s company. I have climbed through some of the tightest and hottest attacks in Florida. Running hoses and lines through tight and irregular spaces quickly became my specialty. I knew this pump location in the wheel well wasn’t going to work. I was able to describe to my lead a better way to route the lines and a more feasible location of the pump. Keeping AC 43.13 general rules in mind, thank you Mr. Beckwith, The other techs loved the idea and it became “my” project. By the end of the week we had the lines and pumps installed, electrical wire routed, and the ops checked “OK”. I guess I owe my dad for this one.
My next project on the DC-3 was oxygen system removal. I removed all the oxygen lines running under the floor boards back to the servicing port at the trail edge wing root on the left hand side. This was especially difficult with everyone trying to restore the insulation and renovate the interior. I had finally pulled the last line of tubing through its rubber grommets when the line jerked and my back quickly bumped into something. That something happened to be a box full of assorted rivets. I can’t describe to you the sound of hundreds of rivets flying through the air and hitting the metal skin belly of the DC-3. The entire hangar, full of more than 80 technicians and everyone in the plane went silent! My body froze. It felt like 5 minutes had passed before the last ricocheting rivet lay to rest on the floor of the plane. Finally it was over. “Gravity ops check OK” shouted out the first technician willing to break the silence. ”Thank goodness someone said something” I thought to myself. Not to mention something quite hilarious. Most of the guys around me chuckled. I cleaned up the mess which took a while to do, and left the plane to take a short break and clear my head. 10 minutes later I was back to work, cracking a smile, and taking the beatings of jokes I surely deserved.
My last job on the DC-3 was yesterday. I was tasked with greasing all the control cables leading to the empennage. It was a fun job because no one else could do it. To grease the cables in the tail you have to bend around so many things, other cables being one of them. After that, I had to maneuver myself over the structural box containing the tail wheel. I wish I had a photo of how tight the area was. This whole week working on the DC-3 has been amazing. I will never forget the 200+ fasteners and work it took to install those two fuel tank belly panels. So many great stories were made this week.
It’s my last week! The parts department of the D-hangar has employed me these last couple of days to help track and fill out parts tags for everything inside the parts cage and conex. My writing hand is about to fall off it’s so tired. Looking back at this summer, I have done some really interesting projects and learned a ton about aircraft maintenance, so much more than if I had stayed in Daytona for the summer. If I had to choose my favorite part of it all, I would hands down choose the people I worked with and met. Without the guys from work like Tim, Aaron, Ricky, the entire sheet metal and interiors department, including my roommate Gary, this internship wouldn’t have been anywhere near as enjoyable or informational. I learned so much this summer and it’s mostly because of these guys I now call friends. If I don’t come back to Virginia to work, I hope I find an employer with as many motivated and down-to-earth employees as I found here at DA. This internship has truly been an amazing life and career experience and I would absolutely do it again.