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Maintenance Minute - June 2024 | Skinning Grizz

Posted 21 days ago ago by Admin

The year was 1972. At 12 years old, I spent most of my time playing baseball, fishing, and riding my dirt bike. I was living the dream, and I didn’t even know it. That was also the year the great movie Jeremiah Johnson was released. Robert Redford played the lead. If you haven’t watched it: stop right now and put it on your “to do” list. 

Jeremiah Johnson was a mountain man in the Rockies. As a young trapper he was being taught the ways of bear trapping by an old-timer named Bear Claw. In the scene I’m remembering, Bear Claw asked Jeremiah if he could skin “grizz.” Jeremiah responded, “I can skin most anything.” Just a few minutes later Bear Claw asked again, “Are you sure that you can skin grizz?” Jeremiah responded again, “I can skin them as fast as you can find them.” Bear Claw replied, “You’re mighty cocky for a starving pilgrim.” It’s not long before Bear Claw comes running towards the cabin with a big grizzly bear chasing him. As he runs through the cabin with the bear on his tail, Bear Claw yells, “Skin that one pilgrim and I will get you another!”

Pete, my friend, and fellow A&P mechanic, calls me from time to time to chat and catch up. The usual conversation is “Hey, what ya doing?” 

“Oh Pete, I’m covered up.” It’s not unusual to have a hangar full of helicopters and only a few mechanics. 

Pete responded, “Oh, you’re skinning grizz.”  

I knew exactly what he was referencing.  “Yes, that’s exactly what we’re doing…skinning grizz.” 

At that moment, I realized that helicopter maintenance was a lot like skinning a grizzly bear…you must do it one at a time. When we’re young we feel like we can do anything. We are cocky, but there is a difference between cocky and confident. Confidence and wisdom come with experience and experience comes from the work that keeps coming in the door. As mechanics, we are trained to complete the mission. In our shop, we also find it difficult to say no to our valued customers, so the work just keeps coming. That’s a good problem to have. However, it also brings stress to those who are responsible for doing the work. When mechanics get overwhelmed, most of the time it’s because they are thinking: How are we going to get all of this work done? Often, focus is lost and mistakes can be made during these times. 

At this point, we have become a victim of our success. Success has created a distraction, and distractions must be dealt with immediately because distractions can cause mistakes. In life we often learn from our mistakes, but as helicopter mechanics, a mistake is a luxury we can’t afford. 

In our shop, we’ve found that taking just a few minutes to look at the schedule and get a clear plan for the work makes all the difference. The feeling of being overwhelmed is overcome, mistakes are prevented and morale is improved.

It is such a pleasure to have less distracted and more confident helicopter mechanics on your team. So, at our shop, we are “skinning grizz”—but only one at a time.

READ MORE ROTOR PRO: https://justhelicopters.com/Magazine


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