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Times Change

Posted 2 years 182 days ago ago by Admin

“Times change.” I’ve heard that saying all my life. “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome” is the unofficial mantra of the U.S. Marine Corps. When I maintained an S76C+ in a former position, our mantra was, “We’re fluid because flexible is too rigid”. The ability to adapt in any situation is crucial. A paradigm shift can sometimes be the only obstacle between success and failure. 

Today was such a time for me. I hired two mechanics, one just graduated from A&P school and the other will graduate in a few months. That’s right—no experience, but with the shortage of helicopter mechanics, I had to take a different approach,and make a paradigm shift.  So, the decision was made to train our own. At first, I wasn’t a fan, but after further consideration I began to see the benefits. It’s an opportunity to train the next generation and instill the essential tools necessary for success. Experience is the best teacher. One learns either by benefiting from the wisdom of an experienced mentor who has already been down the road or through the pain of experience itself.

When my two newbies arrive, it will be information overload. There is repair station training, FOD training and seemingly endless hours of training videos. Once the initial training has been completed, it’s then time to introduce them to the greatest machine ever built. First, we will go over some of the language of the machine.  As an example, we will talk about direction of rotation, tape colors of the rotating components, and of course the all-important “CLEAR '' warning.  This will only be the beginning of the jargon that will become their second language in the world of aircraft maintenance. 

If one can say anything about us old helicopter mechanics, it is that we have a lot of stories to tell and most all of us are happy to tell them— repeatedly. These stories can be teaching tools about what to do and what not to do. If you are in earshot of a mechanic, just stand by and listen! Trust me, the same holds true for pilots (sometimes to an even greater degree). I’ve heard it said, “Everyone loves a story, so listen closely and see what you learn.” 

I believe it’s a good idea to share with you rotorcraft pros how I plan to train new mechanics and monitor their progress. In articles to come I will share training tips and stories—new and old. I want you to get to know my new team as  they learn their place into our helicopter community. Yes, I agree that there is more to training than telling stories, but stories are generated by experience, thus creating training opportunities. So, as University of Mississippi Coach Lane Kiffin said when taking the football field against rival Alabama, “Get your popcorn ready.” The next few months we are going to open the war chest and get dirty while keeping it real. 

The essential tool of communication is required to reveal mistakes as well as victories. The essential tool of integrity is required to be honest when we learn by mistakes. It should be fun to crack open the vault to our own humanity and maybe, just maybe, we can help train the next generation of mechanics who will one day share their own stories. Together we will grow and enhance our helicopter community by sharing our helicopter culture.

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.