Aircraft Accidents and Pride in Workmanship

To begin with, just let me say: I have full confidence in Repair Stations; I believe that they do their job – in most cases – with integrity and safety. They prospered – and continue to prosper – at a time when the industry needed them most.
But there is one thing that I miss about the old days; the days when the aircraft were maintained by that airline’s mechanics. I worked for a cargo airline in Omaha, NE, with two flights departing within ten minutes of each other. I can remember pushing the aircraft back, for instance, knowing they had received the best of care during the day long layover. On the nights the wind was out of the north – mostly every night in Omaha – I would stand outside while the ramp crew put the equipment ‘to bed’. With passenger service being all but done for the day, I anticipate the distant roar of my airliners throttling up their engines. Within moments there would be the first jet banking into the turn followed minutes later by the second. Without trying to be corny, there was a swell of pride there watching the plane … my plane … flying off.
Every night, when I walked into the mechanic’s office after the launch, I would research the inbound aircraft tail numbers for the morning arrivals. Once verified, I looked up the maintenance history, noting necessary troubleshooting, time sensitive repairs or drop dead deferrals for what aircraft were coming in. I next called up the parts people in the hub base and ordered parts that would fix the jet(s) or help the troubleshooting along. Only then did I go home.
There was a matter of pride in what I did; I had a stake in those aircraft. They provided job security, a means to care for my family, and gave me purpose. I was proud to work them, even looking forward to the next day’s repairs.
And that’s the one thing about working in a repair station that isn’t captured. During my accident investigation career, I’d seen it over and over again, a lack of pride. What were my airplanes became just another airplane to an outside mechanic. There didn’t seem to be any urgency; the aircraft was repaired when it got repaired – not a moment sooner. And that lack of pride translated into missed timeframes; a lack of resolve interpreted into a shortage of confidence in the flight crews.
It’s been years since I turned a wrench on the line. I’m convinced that those issues have had time to work themselves out. But the days of pride in workmanship will never be the same.

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