I am here today, fellow mechanics to sell you a Universal Tool. Yesss, Sir! This Universal Tool of mine will fit easily in every kind of toolbox. It will keep you out of trouble, ease your pain, serve as your guide, and be your guardian angel. It will keep the logbook police at bay, increase productivity, and might, I said might, even get you a promotion or a raise!
Too good to be true? Unbelievable, you say? Why, friends, I haven't even told you the best part. The Universal Tool is free! Intrigued, you say? Where can you get this do-all, cost-nothing tool? Why, it is free from the United States Government!
First of all, the Universal Tool's real name is the "Personal Minimums Checklist." Yes, it is true that it is free from the government, but it was designed by real, honest-to-goodness mechanics that the Feds kept in a locked room and fed only bread and water, until they came up with a method to ensure that the work mechanics performed was airworthy. Okay, I confess, I stretched the truth a bit about the bread and water thing.
The incarcerated mechanics' checklist solution, their Universal Tool to ensure airworthiness, is printed on a shiny cardboard card that resists oil and other mild solvents in the short term but will dissolve right in front of your eyes if you hit it with Skydrol™ or one of its chemical cousins. So, you've got to treat the card with a little respect. The card is designed to fit inside your toolbox's top lid, to serve as a visible reminder that here is a checklist designed to be used. The operative word here is used. The checklist should not be used for toolbox decorative purposes like a hood ornament on a 1948 Buick or as a "Look at me boss, I am a professional" management attention-getter.
The checklist is easy to use. On the front side of the checklist are 10 questions that you should ask yourself before you start the task, and on the back there are 10 more questions that you should ask after the task is completed. The questions are designed in a Yes/No format. If you answer any of the questions on either side with a NO, then you either should not start the task or sign it off until the NO on the appropriate side is changed into a YES.
Once you use it a couple times you will figure it out that on the Before the Task side of the checklist, six questions are pretty much based on the regulations. While it does dabble in some regulatory things, five of the questions on the After the Task side get uncomfortably close and personal to that one spot in our head where all mechanics live.
Let me explain what I mean by running you through the checklist questions using the example of changing a fuel cell bladder in a Cessna.
Before the task:
Do I Have the Knowledge to Perform the Task?
If you've never seen a Cessna before or have only a fuzzy notion of what a fuel bladder is, have the boss reassign you to another job or get someone who knows what to do to work with you.
Do I Have the Technical Data to Perform the Task?
No data, no work. You are not allowed to wing it. Uncle Sam takes a dim view of mechanics that use the "guessing" method of maintenance and, if caught installing a tank without reference data, you could be in violation of section 43.13 (a).
Have I Performed the Task Previously?
Okay, you can identify a Cessna, but if you've never put in a bladder tank before and attempt to make the repair, you would be in violation of section 65.81, Privileges and limitations. Even if you are the best mechanic there ever was, the old adage is still true: All self-taught mechanics have a fool for an instructor!
Have I the Proper Tools and Equipment to Perform the Task?
This requirement is right from section 43.13. It does not mean that you must individually own all the tools in the world, but you should have available to you the tools needed to complete the task, and those tools should be serviceable and calibrated as required.
In Part 2 of my tome on field approvals, we will cover current field approval policy found in Change 16 to FAA Order 8300.10.
AMT contributor Bill O'Brien gets the message out on ICA.
The power behind the certificate
I have been told that getting an FAA field approval is a lot like getting an elephant pregnant.