A Pound of Airplane Equals a Pound of Paper

A Pound of Airplane Equals a Pound of Paper By Fred Workley September 2000 How many times have you heard the phrase "When the paper work equals the weight of the airplane, we can go flying"? I have been doing a lot of thinking recently about...

Documentation pitfalls
Work documents that have been copied until they are the tenth generation are tough to read even in good light, let alone under the wing at three in the morning with weak batteries.
Package philosophy sometime doesn't offer enough sign-offs for individual sections or offers one sign-off for multiple shifts thus creating a problem in work/shift turn over. Sometimes the overall quality is poor, lacking proper sequencing. You might suspect that someone who never did the job himself or herself wrote them. Another problem is with the level of detail. Some work cards are self-contained, with references incorporated directly into the work card package. Other work tasks instructions are a statement to accomplish the task per a Maintenance Manual reference. You have to go and find the procedures or process yourself.

Write the right words
Wording is a concern. The same words mean different things to different people. We seem to have a problem having consistent meaning of words throughout our industry despite the implied standards like ATA-100. Finally, non-routine write-ups vary greatly in their formats. Computer-based formats differ widely among the different commercial programs that are available.
No matter what you are faced with, you have to read, understand and carry out the maintenance task instructions despite any of the above distractions. Never assume that it can be done this time just like the last time you did the job. This may be a different configuration. The software may make it operate differently during the operational check. You have to be constantly be aware of the correct 'revision status.'
Consistency is required for reliability. The report pointed out that when a technician changes between different "logics," errors increase. An example would be working on the same system of two airplanes built by different manufacturers.
Documentation improvement will clearly help us communicate better. If you need information on improving the readability and usefulness of documents you may be interested in the Documentation Design Aid (DDA). This is available at http:\\www.hfskyway.com web site or on the FAA 1998 Human Factors for Aviation Maintenance CD-ROM.
Let's Keep 'em Flying.

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