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Maintenance Minute - November 2020

Posted 3 years 191 days ago ago by Admin

My favorite part of the aircraft maintenance process is the post maintenance operational checks or commonly referred to as ground runs. During my early days working for the helicopter maintenance contractor at Fort Rucker, I was engine run qualified for the UH-1H and the OH58 and performing ground runs was something I did on a regular basis. This is the time we see the fruits of our labor, but it is also the most dangerous time. The maintenance event may have called for component overhaul, engine replacement or flight control rigging. The maintenance process calls for checking, rechecking, and verifying. It is always good to have a pre-runup discussion with the pilot and every mechanic that is involved with the runup. Communication is key to keeping everyone safe. When the pilot yells, “CLEAR” and the mechanic responds with, “CLEAR” the setting will get noisy in a hurry. Prior planning with everyone is a must. The person behind the controls should know where everyone is always located so ducking under the tail boom to change sides is not allowed.

During the pre runup meeting what should be discussed? I believe it always good to brief the pilot on outside of cockpit situational awareness. Talk to mechanics about hearing and eye protection. Is anyone wearing a hat or have any rags in their hands. What about hand placement around turning components? What will you do if the aircraft suddenly turns? Where are the ladders? Does everyone know where the fire extinguishers are located? As you can see there is a lot to think about and plan for and we have just skimmed the surface with the minimums.

In forty years working aircraft maintenance I have been to many OEM schools, participated in company training and attended too many to count IA seminars but I have never seen an Aircraft Ground Operational Safety course. I assume there available, but I have not seen one advertised. Without training available, I created a training class for our crew of mechanics and pilots. Before each operational check we thoroughly discuss the objective and everything that needs to get accomplished. We discuss everyone’s role and where we will be around the helicopter. We will also discuss the “What ifs” and possibly things that can go wrong. It is always better for everyone to be on the same sheet of music.

After shutting down, we usually have a debrief to verify completion and return to service. At the end of the day, we all go home safe having utilized the essential tool of communication.

About the author: Mark dedicated the majority of his career serving the helicopter EMS community from Base Mechanic to Director of Maintenance. As Vice President & General Manager of Precision Aircraft Services, Mark now serves helicopter operators from many sectors to include Air Ambulance, Law Enforcement, Private Owners, etc. When not at work, Mark can be found spending time with his family or sitting in a tree stand.