Bitty Parts Have Eyes

Bitty parts also have volition and control over their movements, at least after being inadvertently dropped.


It is a well-known fact, unrecognized by science it is true, but nonetheless accurate, that small bitty parts including screws, washers, nuts and bolts and miscellaneous parts have eyes. It is also recognized that these bitty parts also have volition and control over their movements, at least after being inadvertently dropped. As I said, science has not noticed this but every mechanic and technician knows that if you accidently drop a part when working on an engine or other equipment, that it will seek out a hole, crevice, or nook or cranny to hide itself. This is doubly true if working against a deadline or tight schedule or even better, a delayed flight.

How else to explain how these little parts vanish from the ken of man when desperately needed? Also, how do they find the exact place to net where they will jam some control or get caught in gearing or machinery if not found and removed? How do they know it is dark or better yet there is snow on the ground? I rest my case for their eyes and volition.

Missing Part
I was working a DC-6B of a long gone airline engaged in replacing a propeller synchronizer box. The box, after much study by the design engineers, had been mounted on the cockpit floor sandwiched between the radio rack and the fuselage skin and structure. With my long arms and, at that time, skinny frame, I was an ideal choice to worm my way into the gap aft of the radio rack and then reach around forward to get to the box. The sync box was an electronic marvel whose only moving part was a shaft sticking out which was turned by an arm.

This arm in turn was moved by an Ahren’s control (push-pull cable) which led to the prop control lever on the pilot’s pedestal.

This arm had to be adjusted to allow full travel and for this they used a vernier adapter that fit between shaft and arm. This was a small ferrule with teeth on its inside hole and outside diameter. It was a small but unique part that I had to repeatedly take off the box shaft, rotate it a tooth or two to put back on, then the arm, try it for proper rigging and repeat this until the arm and the control lever were synchronized and had full travel. Just as I nearly had it adjusted, I dropped it. It fell a few inches, hit the floor, bounced and looked around and saw a small gap between the floor structure and a fuselage frame and made a hole in one. Clink and clung, it disappeared from view under the floor.

What was under the floor? It was the forward baggage compartment, or at least the space behind the sidewall of the forward baggage. With a sinking heart, I informed the lead mechanic who, in turn, realized the forward bag pit was already loaded with the passengers' luggage. You cannot imagine the screams of rage and the level of profanity directed at the maintenance department when the bag smashers were informed they would have to unload the forward end of the front bag pit so we could remove the sidewall cover with its numerous screws and then search for the missing adapter. They thought they were finished except for last-minute bags and some had already drawn their cups of coffee.

Meanwhile, another mechanic researched the parts catalog in the hope of finding the part number of the adapter so they could try to get one from stock. It was very unlikely that we stocked it at all. It developed it was one of those parts that the airframe manufacturer considered as part of the box, hence, did not list it in the DC-6 illustrated parts catalog and one that only the box manufacturer listed in his overhaul manual for the box. You generally do not have component overhaul manuals out in line maintenance. So it was necessary to find that little bitty part.

This content continues onto the next page...

We Recommend

  • News

    Creatures I Have Met

    Ruminations from the Ramp Creatures I Have Met By Tony Vasko October 2000 My children are in their thirties, and they cannot remember the days when you bought a ticket, showed up at the...

  • Article

    Shop Talk

    Looking for the creature comforts and lightened workloads that usually come hand-in-hand with seniority, Tony reflects on a GSE industry where that simply is not the case.

  • Article
    Expanding Gases

    Expanding Gases

  • Article

    Soiled Hands

    Unless a company’s managers all have clean hands, they cannot control pilferage, outright theft and any other type of bad behavior.