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A Day In The Life
Of An Aviation Maintenance Director: Keeping an eye in the sky can help propel your sales.
by Peter Schroeder, Director of Maintenance, Wisconsin Aviation Maintenance Inc., Watertown, WI
By the time I start my day, the Flight Line Department has been in for three hours, getting the day‘s charter aircraft ready for early morning departures. The early shift technicians start at 6 a.m. They have already arranged an aircraft in the hangar and started on a required annual inspection for a new customer‘s aircraft. They‘ve detached the inspection panels, removed the engine cowling, put the aircraft on jacks and begun to inspect the engines.
I start to review the work completed yesterday for a customer who‘s scheduled to pick the plane up today. Elbows deep, I receive a call from Jeff Baum, the owner of Wisconsin Aviation, with a request to find a pilot to perform a test flight on an aircraft we are considering to buy for our rental and training fleet. He informs me the plane may be late due to this morning‘s lingering fog. I arrange a pilot and notify Kevin Fenske, the shop manager, of the delay so he can advise the crew to work on a different project until this one arrives.
I meet with Jean Madsen, the administrative assistant; Scott Yeager, the airworthiness inspector; and Fenske for our morning meeting. We touch bases on the projects of the day and set an itinerary for the completion of outgoing invoices, aircraft log books on departing planes, outside vendors rework schedules, and projects that need parts ordered today. It’s a five-minute meeting, but it‘s important to keep the lines of communication open.
After the meeting I finish reviewing yesterday‘s work and today’s pick-ups. I answer e-mails, phone messages and sift through mail. In the midst of this, I get a call from our Avionics Department about an issue they can’t clear up for a pending trip. Testing concluded one of the four navigation receivers has a weak signal output. After assessing the situation, we determine the equipment isn‘t required for this flight, and the repair can wait until parts arrive the next day. I issue an authorization for the repair deferral and return to the mail.
Fenske advises me of trouble in completing a dynamic propeller balance. It turns out our equipment is at fault. We sent this equipment back to the manufacturer two weeks ago, and the company tested and recertified it. When I contact them again, they tell me they intend to send loaner test equipment and promise to look at ours again. Our customer doesn‘t receive the news well; the project’s already been delayed due to a vendor hold-up in overhauling an N1 tach generator. I spend a few minutes on the phone to explain the delay to restore the ever-critical working relationship.
I check the weather and see it’s finally starting to clear. We establish the aircraft for pre-purchase inspection should be here in about half an hour. In the meanwhile, a customer arrives to pick up his aircraft. I go over the invoice and work performed with him. He’s been having problems receiving his XM weather maps on the multi-functional display, so we installed an attenuator in the antenna lead, which should improve his reception. The real fix isn’t available from the manufacturer for two more weeks, but this should work till then.
The aircraft we‘re looking to buy finally arrives. I introduce the pilot to one of our flight instructors, and soon they’re on a test flight. They return without complication, and we immediately launch into an aircraft inspection. The engine cylinder differential compression checks out, and the oil filter is cut open and clean of metal debris. The plane previously flew in Florida‘s salty air, so we thoroughly examine for corroded aluminum. We only discover some minor surface corrosion that we can treat and repaint. Then we investigate cable tensions as well as flight controls. We accept the aircraft and schedule the work. The plane not only needs repairs, but also an engine pre-heater installation for winter operations in Wisconsin.
I check on the progress of an interior refurbishment. This customer bought an aftermarket interior trim panel kit for his aircraft. After he attempted the installation himself, he decided it was more than he could handle. We sorted through all 38 pieces, and the installation is progressing fine. Despite a lot of cutting, trimming and reformation of the pieces, the fit is good. Some of the pieces vary in color, so I drop an e-mail to inform the customer of the color discrepancies and quote him a price to repaint the pieces.
I return from lunch and check the momentum of the annual inspection. The guys found a crack in the windshield. The crack runs from the retainer to the edge of the windshield, so it‘s an acceptable crack, but the recurring inspection interval may need to be shortened. We can still wrap up the inspection by midday tomorrow. I can create an estimate and contact the owner tomorrow.
For the next couple hours I find time in the office to complete paperwork, return phone calls and jot down more scheduling. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector is scheduled to be in tomorrow, too, and I need to execute a conformity check on an aircraft we intend to add to our charter fleet. The FAA has an on-line program to manage our Charter Certificate. It’s been a long time since I was trained, so it takes me longer than I anticipated.
It’s time for my afternoon meeting with the Charter and Line departments. We rehash tonight and tomorrow’s hangar storage needs, aircraft arrival and departure, and any changes that may have otherwise popped up during the day. In the middle of the meeting, I learn an air ambulance flight has just been confirmed. The Line Department is in the process of removing the aircraft from storage, and the flight is scheduled to depart as soon as it‘s reconfigured from passenger seating to an air ambulance setting.
I instruct Fenske to round up some guys for the installation of the stretcher. We service the stretcher with medical oxygen and install it within 30 minutes. The team revises the aircraft‘s weight and balance, and the flight forges ahead.
A returning charter claims there‘s a problem involving the cabin heater. We get it into the hangar and find the unit without a power source, so we troubleshoot the circuit and find a failed switch. Luckily, we happen to have the switch in stock and schedule the evening shift to repair it. This requires shuffling some scheduled work for tomorrow.
I finish up the scheduling and answer just one more e-mail. It’s time to call it a day, so I check on the late-shift guys before I head on home. All this is in a day‘s work for an aviation maintenance director like me.