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Strive to be a Wise Base Mechanic

Posted 1 years 40 days ago ago by Admin

Photo by Grant Duncan-Smith

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have worked on many diverse types of airframes and engines in many different flight operations. One of my favorites and most rewarding has been helicopter air ambulance (HAA). As a helicopter mechanic in the emergency medical service field, I had the understanding that my work contributed to the wellbeing of others. Motivational speaker/author, Zig Ziglar, once said that “ability is important in our quest for success, but dependability is critical.” This is especially true for the HAA mechanic. The base mechanic position is usually filled by a single mechanic who operates multiple roles with numerous responsibilities.  This one-man (or woman) setup makes dependability critical.

The wise base mechanic must see himself as his many roles dictate. The situation at any given moment can require him to perform as the director of maintenance for that base. And in the next hour, if not the next minute, he may be the maintenance planner, logistics director, accounts receivable, accounts payable, fuel farm manager, inventory specialist, logbook and records keeper, data entry clerk, aircraft detailer, facilities manager and let’s not forget helicopter mechanic and inspector. One of the most important roles is to master communications between maintenance, operations and medical. 

It is vital that the mechanic be able to see himself as successful in all these varied positions.  Perspective is an essential key that allows mechanics to grow into their full potential. Perspective is how we choose to see things. We own our perspective, so as a base mechanic we get to choose how we see ourselves and the role we play. As an example, playing catch up will work you in the ground whereas anticipating problems and staying in front of required duties will give you fewer surprises and less downtime. The wise base mechanic will see himself as proactive and choose to stay in front of his base operations.

So how do we get there?  My short answer is training and experience. Most EMS companies require two or three years of experience as a helicopter mechanic then provide a short company training class. I know what you’re thinking: each company has a Part 135 manual and a maintenance operations manual. While that’s true, how many actually train a base mechanic to a standard along with continuing education? Most companies have done a decent job with OEM training but unfortunately, most base mechanics must figure out on their own how to navigate day-to-day base operations.

The helicopter is absolutely essential at times in HAA and the people that utilize the helicopter perform heroic acts daily. But putting that ship in the air and completing every mission safely also requires a wrench-turner. 

In my daily work, I see many aircraft of many makes and models.  Recently I watched as a helicopter broke ground and departed after maintenance. An enormous satisfaction swelled within me and I said to myself ,”This never gets old.” 

Training, performance and time will equal the most valuable asset available—experience. Couple experience with excellence and you will have an unbeatable pair. But to have a top-tier base, the base mechanic must be committed and dependable in each and every situation and task.

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.

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