Tooling Up

Posted on August 19, 2011

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After the morning meeting dissolves, I give a few hurried instructions to the other maintenance supervisors, grab my notes and safety glasses and make my way toward the machine shop.  Inside a small crowd of students is clustered around a lathe.  I scan their faces. Most have a mingled look of interest and confusion as they stare at all the controls.  I smile. One of my favorite things is to teach new skills. I love the look of understanding coming to a student’s face, the excitement that comes when they create their first tool.

This type of equipment is found all over the world in mission aviation hangers. You are not likely to make an aircraft part from scrap metal (regulations tend to frown on this), but it is very possible you might need to make a specialized tool. When we were in Nairobi last summer a new floor was being installed in one of the aircraft. However, the job had come to a stand still for lack of a special tool. AIM had the needed machine shop equipment to make the tool, but no one working there knew how to use it. In less than a day I was able to fashion the needed tool from two cast off pistons, and the job was moving again.

I begin my demonstration in Moody’s machine shop with a long list of vocabulary, familiarizing the students with the names of the parts and controls. The conversation moves fluidly into how the lathe works. A standard maintenance school does not teach students how to use the machines in the shop to create their own tools. Moody Aviation does. If I had not had that training AIM would have had to contract the job out, losing valuable time and money.

I have been talking myself horse the last couple of weeks over the whirring of the shop equipment communicating how and when to use the functions of scary looking machines, so that when this new crop of students show up in Africa, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, or a thousand other places that need aviation, they can do what I was able to do. I wrap up my talk around the Lathe and give the students their assignment: make a simple tool from an old bolt.

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Posted in: Aviation, John