Double your pride, professionalism, and safety when inspecting aircraft maintnenance work
By Wayne Fry
I hate quoting the FARs. Some of them are just plain tedious and many are written in a form of English that is more comfortable in a lawyer's brief then on the hangar floor. But, when someone asks me a question about a particular regulation, I open my book and read it, usually out loud, because I find saying the words aloud makes them clearer for me. I take this "go to the horse's mouth" approach because I, on occasion, remember the FARs the way I want them to be, not the way they're written.
Recently, in my cubicle at the Baton Rouge FSDO, I was reviewing a local Repair Station's revision to their manual. The Repair Station wanted to update their Required Inspection Items (RII) procedures, so I pulled out my well-thumbed copy of the FARs and reviewed the rules. Guess what? The RII requirement is not in FAR 145. The Part 145 rule does have a requirement for inspection of work before it's approved for return to service, but it does not mention RII items.
So I went to FAR 121 and FAR 135 and found what I was looking for. These regs are similar, so I'm only going to address one of them. The rule states that each FAR 121 operator's manual must include, in part, the requirements of 121.369(b)(2) which states: "A designation of the items of maintenance and alteration that must be inspected (required inspections), including at least those that could result in a failure, malfunction, or defect endangering the safe operation of the aircraft, if not performed properly or if improper parts or materials are used."
Like I said earlier, some of the rules are hard to understand, but Section 121. 369 (b)(2) seems like a pretty clear reg to me. I've always liked the idea of having a second set of eyes looking over the hypercritical work that I've done.
Long before I'd ever heard of RIIs and Part 121 rules on RII, we had an informal system to keep us out of trouble. I remember changing a tail rotor on a Bell 205 late one night, back in the early 1980s. The pitch change mechanism has a large, castellated nut on the shaft that is hidden once the work is completed. When we'd finished torquing and safetying the nut, we'd give a yell to another mechanic to come over and verify the installation of the cotter key. Only after someone else had given it a 20/20 eyeball check would we continue closing up the area. It was a simple C.Y.A. or "Cover your anatomy" system that we mechanics instituted. Even though there was no formal system, there was a belief and an attitude. Our belief was that although we were good, we weren't perfect. Our attitude was a dedication to safety.
It doesn't take a big sophisticated organization to have guardian angels. If you're changing the oil in your Cessna 140, you can walk to the next T-hangar and get someone to take a peek at your work. That second set of eyeballs could see something that you missed. This is especially true when it comes to long, complex jobs. You and I must realize that we make mistakes. Some mistakes don't amount to much and others can be deadly.
The wording in FAR 121 doesn't mention airworthiness; it is concerned with "the safe operation of the aircraft" Safety. It also doesn't mention professionalism or pride, but it's there. As A&Ps, we all take pride in what we do and how we do it. Section 121.369 is mainly intended to keep the air carriers and their passengers safe, but there are things in this FAR that we can all take home and use. Whether I'm out there on the hangar floor working on a Boeing 777 or out in the T- hangars fixing an Ercoupe, my goal is exactly the same - safety. When I get a second mechanic to review my work, I've just doubled my chances for returning a safe aircraft to service.
So, when I pull out the FARs to refresh my memory, sometimes I do find a few nuggets that I like - four eyes are better than two - every time.