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Monday, April 14, 2014

Aviation Maintenance Frame of Mind

The responsibility is daunting
So we choose not to think about it

Millions of parts
From the smallest rivet pin or length of safety wire
To the heavy castings that would take several people to lift
All assembled in precision
All to spec
All just right

Then it flies away
All one million seven hundred thousand forty two parts
Syncing in their assigned tasks
And by doing so
Wearing out little by little
Flaking away
Attracting corrosion

Flawed by design

Until the assemblage returns one day
Looking dirtier and more tired than when it left
To be disassembled and cleaned
Inspected repaired reassembled
Mostly by the book
Somewhat not

It's like a game of telephone put to solid form
Where parts leave the factory in a just so kind of way
But every time they are used taken apart reassembled
The outline blurs just the tiniest bit
Mostly through human error
Sometimes by intent and design

That's when everything goes right
But sometimes things get missed
Cracks or corrosion looked past
An intermittent wiring short that happened to be working right when it was tested
A flashlight shining at just the right angle to mask a flaw to the eye

And the aircraft flies away again
This massive collection of parts
With the knowledge that it isn't perfect
And it never will be
It's just as perfect as humans can make it
Which is mostly but not very

Balancing lives upon it's wings
Supported by expertise and a single Airworthiness Release signature
Work to be done
Acceptable level of risk
As always

The responsibility is daunting
So we choose not to think about it