It was my experience that the further a field base was from the main hangar, the more likely our company procedures weren’t being followed. Geography can be a huge challenge. As managers, we had a tendency to spend more time at the nearby facilities because they were easy to get to. Those bases that took more than a day to get to were often overlooked.
When you get to the base and talk to the mechanics over lunch, or on a break, you will get an earfull. And you need to listen. But your visit should not be limited to a cup of joe or a trip to the pizza buffet. You need to visit with the stores and parts folks. If you don’t think that their job is critical, try keeping your fleet up without them. You need to find out if the trucks are being maintained, if the tools are being calibrated, and replaced when needed.
All of these people are crucial to your success, and you need to know how they’re doing. If there is something that prevents them from doing their job, maybe it’s something that you can fix. There are dozens of opportunities for you to learn, teach, network, and socialize. And here’s one of the big bonuses: If people know your face, they’re more likely to call you when there’s a problem.
If you haven’t been to your field bases or down to the shops or to the hangar floor in a while, don’t feel alone. It’s easy to find yourself in this position. Many managers are hands-on until someone puts them behind a desk. Suddenly you’re dealing with budgets, capital expenditures, manning levels, and all sorts of important issues.
Meanwhile, despite your best efforts, there’s a whole world of maintenance happening out there that can slip away from you. There are also a lot of good ideas, clever innovations, and alternate procedures that can help you and your company perform better. But if you don’t go to them, they probably won’t come to you. So walk to the hangar or grab the keys to the company Chevrolet and hit the road. AMT
Wayne Fry joined the FAA in 1997. His current position is Assistant Manager for the office that has oversight of American Eagle Airlines. Fry has worked in Washington, D.C., at FAA Headquarters, at the Southwest Region Flight Standards Division, and in several field offices. He is an Airframe and Powerplant mechanic and private pilot.
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