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Maintenance Minute - August 2023 | On Call

Posted 292 days ago ago by Admin

“The dreaded “on call”, and “the duty” were just a couple of terms of endearment that we used to describe being “on call” for aircraft maintenance. There were other names with more colorful adjectives that I will not mention here. For certain, in jobs like EMS, Fire/Rescue and Law Enforcement being “on call” is just part of the gig. “On call” could be most frustrating for the mechanic but it also could be very rewarding. Let’s take a quick look from both prospectives.

“On call” is without a doubt physically demanding. Pulling an “on-call” shift is in addition to your regular day’s work and rest is your responsibility. Everyone knows that rest is nearly impossible when we try to force it once we get home but being fit for work is critical for safety. Being awake after midnight interrupts our circadian rhythm and sometimes going back to sleep evades us. And yes, we are expected to be at work the next day depending on when we finished the night before. Also, don’t forget all the family time missed: dance recitals, ball games, or just leaving dinner on the table. This all adds up to frustration and sometimes begins a job search. Most companies will pay a weekend call fee to the mechanic, but others will not pay. Some will provide you with a cell phone or give you a phone allowance. Read your contract carefully and be sure of what you agree to accept.

“On call” can also be very rewarding. Remember that when an aircraft is out of service you are the person answering the 911 call and they are expecting you to rescue them. The aircraft could be in a cow pasture, a hospital rooftop or in the middle of an interstate highway. All eyes are on you and it is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your skill and dedication to the mission. Zig Ziglar once said,” Ability is important in our quest for success, but dependability is critical.” Everyone loves an employee that is dependable and can be counted on to perform in unusual circumstances.

The call out always adds an extra degree of risk to the job. Lack of rest, interrupted circadian rhythm, limited light, limited support, weather, miles driven and critical decision making all goes into the equation and should always equal safety whether or not the aircraft flies or remains grounded.

Looking back at the many years I was “on call,” I don’t remember the pain, frustration, and lost sleep. I do remember the time I changed an engine on a hospital rooftop, fixed a cyclic friction in the west bound lane of Interstate 20 and checked an engine chip light with a flashlight in a pasture swarmed by hundreds of mosquitoes while looking over my shoulder at a bull staring me down with only by a barb wire fence between us. These are just a few of my most remembered call out adventures, but the best remembrance was always watching the aircraft break ground, returning to the sky to fulfill its mission and return home safely. Then I could get some sleep.

About the author: Mark Tyler 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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