Another Week in Sunny California

2 WEEKS LEFT! I can’t believe my first internship is already coming to an end. It feels like it was short and long at the same time. The projects I worked on were iterative, and therefore, required me to work on them continuously throughout my time at SPAWAR. At the same time, each day went by very quickly. I keep looking at the clock around 3 and find myself wondering what I did in the past 8 hours. Time goes by even more quickly on the weekends, unfortunately. On Monday I was working on something called a quad chart that shows everything I have been working on and what I have accomplished during my internship. It is amazing how much I managed to work on in the past 12 weeks. I was lucky enough to get recruited in some shape or form on half a dozen projects at my branch!

In one of my projects, I worked with a team of individuals whose work was based close to home in Florida. It’s always comforting to work with people from your neck of the woods, even if you’ve lived so many places that your neck of the woods is the entire forest. So we collaborated on the initial design of a system used to stop the trafficking of illegal drugs, weapons, and people. Working on something like this was very rewarding and is a great way to close out my internship. It is fulfilling to work on something that will help keep people safe, but also design a program more efficiently to keep the warfighter out of harm’s way on the job. Even if you end up doing something like data input, look at the bigger picture and take pride in your contributions that will help keep someone safe.

On Wednesday I met with a very inspiring individual at my job. Chris is a division head, in other words, my boss’ boss’ boss. I know what you’re thinking, big deal… someone’s got to have that job. Well the other thing is that he’s in his VERY early thirties. He started out as an intern, then was hired as a normal employee, moved up once or twice more, and is now overseeing 150 people and millions of dollars in projects. My advisor here arranged for another intern and I to meet with him for an hour and talk about anything we were curious about. For someone at this level with this limited amount of time to dedicate an hour to a few interns is unheard of! I felt comfortable asking him the questions I had, and he genuinely cared about our concerns and how to make our internship a better experience in the future. I adore the people I work with!

I was a little nervous for our get together because I did not want to make a bad impression, but I also did not want to present to him. As part of the meeting, the other intern and I pulled up our poster on the display screen so he could see what projects we would be talking about in our poster session next week. I was so nervous, but when it came time to talk I felt relaxed and on the level of an expert in what I would be talking about. Thankfully, my advisor had practiced the poster with me at least three times. She also said she would like to practice the poster with me a little bit everyday until the session next Friday. By then I won’t be so nervous…. and sweaty.

By the end of this week, I needed to create a quad chart showcasing everything I have done during my 13 weeks as an intern. I basically used my essay as an outline, and was done in 30 minutes. Internships are easy! …when you only have a week left. Since we had a fairly dead week, my boss took the interns out to lunch. It was to my favorite place in town! We ate at Slater’s 50/50 where they have 5 different kinds of macaroni and cheese crusted in bits of Cheez-its! Hold on, let me clean up my drool. Ok, I’m good. Of course you know what I got, and when we went back to work I fell asleep at my desk in a stuffed stupor.

On the weekend I met up with my roommate, Laura, and her brother, Robert. We went up the coast to Robert’s neighborhood and had brunch. We walked around his neighborhood until our giant stomachs shrunk back down to normal. He lives in a great neighborhood! Behind his apartment is a giant bay filled with sailboats and people on paddleboards. Across the bay is a little peninsula covered in beach shops, and wonderfully unhealthy restaurants. Past that is the Pacific! I would tell you what’s in there, but I’m not too sure about it.

Robert's view

Robert’s view

Laura and I went on to a market. Robert met us there later with a friend and an adorable Basset Hound. I wanted to steal it. The market celebrated the culture of Mexico, so I was blinded by every shade of every color… and loved it all! There were different types of pottery, jewelry, food, and artwork. It felt like the first 10 minutes of Aladdin. I used this awesomely cheap market to buy a bunch of gifts for my family and friends I made in San Diego. It’s ok, I don’t think they read this blog.

Some Mexican Artwork

Some Mexican Artwork

The adorable doggie, Ladybird

The adorable doggie, Ladybird

On Thursday, the other intern and I were taken out to a wine pub by the welcoming people at our workplace. We were given a few small gifts to remind us of San Diego. I was surprised we had not done this earlier in the summer. After a few hours my co-worker, Christian, and I walked down the street to a pub and played trivia. Because the questions covered sports and pop culture, I did not even understand what they were referring to in the questions. So we left and I fell asleep early enough to get up early enough the next morning for a swap meet. It kind of reminded me of a flea market, so I assume it was the same idea only under a different name. I saw antiques, cheap jewelry, and video tapes. They still exist.

The co-worker get together

The co-worker get together

The end of the week was the best, though. My roommates and a few of their friends met up with us at my friend, Robert’s house. He has an apartment with a full view of the bay just north of where I live. You just need to walk downstairs and you will be on the beach. He also has a pool which I used to force people to play childish games with me. I told them to play “swim like  mermaid” with me to which they responded with confused looks. But I know they were anxious to play. We walked around the bay and played football and volleyball. I hate volleyball. I always have red, sore wrists afterward. But I wanted to reenact the scene from Top Gun, so I manned up and put myself through pain. At the end of the night, we built a small fire (it was contained) and roasted some marshmallows for s’mores. It was Robert and Laura’s first time having a s’more. Can you believe that?! Those poor souls have not fully lived yet. I loved creepily staring at them as they ate it, though. The addiction has begun.

The BBQ with roommates & friends

The BBQ with roommates & friends

The pool <3

The pool <3

Campfire on the bay

Campfire on the bay

Stay tuned next week for my last post!

Working the D-Hangar

Today was my first day at work for Dynamic Aviation (DA). I ended up filling out loads of Human Resources paperwork, watching two movies on sexual harassment and safety, and taking a drug test. By the end of the work day, I was able to meet some of my co-workers and get started on cleaning de-icer boots. I left work today more confused about what the company “does” than when I started. The topics of “TOP SECRET CLEARANCE” and, “absolutely under no circumstances will you take photos” have a little something to do with my confusion. Because of that, you won’t be seeing photos of my workplace.

I am slowly learning names. At least the ones I remember to write down that is. I bring a note book to work every day. I write down employee names and maintenance notes. If they are a senior employee I also add something we talked about in our conversations together. I do this just in case I decide to write him an email later down the line. For two days now I have been shadowing an A&P mechanic named Ricky. He has been working for Dynamic Aviation for 3 months now in their Dash-8 modifications hangar. So far, all we have done is de-wax de-icer boots that go on the leading edges of the Bombardier Dash-8. We still have a couple days of stripping wax ahead of us. A great thing about this internship so far is the HUGE lunch break! Every day at noon the entire company practically sits outside for an hour to eat lunch. Two ladies from HR walk the parking lot for exercise. One mechanic I work with even walks the entire airport facility.

Three days and I am still cleaning de-icer boots. I am starting to learn more about how DA distributes its maintenance work. Who are the sheet metal guys, who are the avionics guys, etc. DA actually contracts a lot of things out which was surprising to me. I met some electricians who don’t even have their A&P because they fall under their contractor’s certificate to just do that one job. All day they make wire bundles that will be used on the new avionics packages that DA and its customers determined the planes need. DA has contracts with the government to recon and surveillance as well as contracts with the agricultural industry. After work I was so tired I practically went straight to bed. In the dorm room I am staying in, I have one roommate. He’s nice, respectful, and an aspiring pilot/mechanic like me. DA is paying me to work as well as covering the dorm room costs to live at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU). So I guess I really should not complain about cleaning the de-icer boots of an about to be modified military contracted aircraft.

Friday! Ricky and I finally finished working on the boots and started taking off an engine exhaust fingernail panel (think about a 2 foot wide by 5 foot long plane exhaust tip). I have learned this week that the Dash-8 planes we are working on have come from Africa. An airline in Africa sold the planes to DA for extremely cheap because they were in a seriously rough condition. As of now we are recording all problems with the planes we find and cleaning the corrosion off so that DA can determine which -8 out of the five that they bought will be the cheapest to restore. Finally! I know a little about this maintenance program!!!

After work I drove to Maryland to see my cousin and help renovate their house. Saturday and Sunday my cousin’s husband and I replaced ceiling, laid rock board which will eventually see tile, and installed a water outlet for a washing machine. Back home to EMU in Harrisonburg by 6pm. At 11pm our new roommate Gary arrived from California.
I don’t know if I was tired from this past weekend, or am just not use to having steel toed boots on, because I felt like I was dragging my feet all morning. After lunch I started to work a little faster. Ricky and I have been put on a job installing the baggage compartment flooring inside a -8/100. First we had to clean and paint some corroded spots and inspect the entire area for damage. Other interns, like my roommate, are working in the paint shop, hose/upholstery shop, or working for facilities. I consider myself pretty lucky to land a position in the modification department in the D-hangar with the big planes. I spoke to Matt, our HR rep who handles all the interns, and talked about possibly working for the flight department for two weeks just to meet people and get some face time. He said it was a possibility, but it will take a week or so to set up.

Today I started work in “fast mode.” As soon as I could, I jumped into the -8 and started installing floor panels. One of the older mechanics needed some help so I jumped in a scissor lift and helped him attach a de-icer boot to the vertical stabilizer. Thirty feet high strapped to a lift screwing in boots absolutely made my day. This goes to show you how well DA treats their interns, especially if you’re motivated. Some “higher ups” in the company stopped by the hangar today and asked a question to the other gentlemen beside him. I overheard the question and knew the answer so I immediately jumped in. They were really impressed and it led to more talking. I told them about my ambitions and schooling. The men remembered my name and even talked about me working for DA in the future. Great contact for later. I wrote down their names, titles and what we talked about in my notebook for future references. Man I wish I could have taken photos of what I did today.

The D-Hangar crew was out for the day completing training to become a Part 145 repair station. That’s good news because being a 145 will open more contract deals with the government. So while they studied, I was given the job of installing all the floor panels and composite flooring in the -8. Some pretty fun stuff especially since I was doing it solo. Gary, my roommate, is now working in the D hangar. Hopefully I will still be given some personal projects like I had today. After work I went to the gym with Gary and since he has arrived the three of us haven’t stopped talking about flight, maintenance, and future jobs we would like to have. Good times.