Legacy

Posted on November 28, 2013

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I want to introduce you to someone. Her name is 5Y-BLG, or BLG for short. She is an airplane, a Cessna 210 to be specific. She has been part of the AIM AIR family for 18 years and there is a lot of history together.

Her story is written in a book with many contributing authors (i.e mechanics). It is called The Aircraft Logbook.

I know the title could use some creative work, but government authorities are rarely very creative. Her story though is fascinating. Of course, there are mundane parts, like “completed inspection X,” or  “changed oil…” but in there as well are clues to more dramatic events if you know what you are looking for. For Example, “Completed 50hr inspection(a small 6 hour procedure done after every 50 hours of flight), completed service bulletin for landing gear actuator inspection.”

I know that some of you just fell asleep during that sentence. You can wake up now, and I will explain why that is a big deal. That landing gear inspection requires you to take the guts out of the belly of the airplane, take apart these $20,000 each “actuators” that move the gear up and down, do a special inspection, and then put it all back together! A really invasive inspection to need to do under any circumstances, but on a mere 50hour inspection, it is clearly unexpected, and time consuming.

Along with those clues are a bit of history of people, too. Every logbook entry is finished with the flourish of a signature. You get to know the people behind these lines of ink. One person’s logs are short, listing barely the required information, as if they are scared they will be prosecuted if they write too much. Another is overly verbose, writing almost a narrative of troubleshooting a system, as if to justify the bill they charged the owner. You see some names feature more prominently and get a taste for how the machine has been maintained and used both from the man writing and the actual work done. Some of the names in BLG’s Logbook are special for me, and part of her story intersects with my own.

When I came to Kenya in 2006 I was fresh from school and not really sure if I could do this whole maintenance thing. My boss was Ryan. I remember one night distinctly. Ryan and I were at the hanger until 11pm or so as we were pushing hard to complete that “landing gear actuator inspection” on a 50 hr inspection, trying to get it done so it could fly the next day. The schedule was tight and we were really pushing our limits. It was also the first time that I felt I could actually do maintenance, that I did not need to hang up my tools and get a job flipping burgers or something. The log book only hints at what that inspection meant in time and can never carry the meaning of it for me as a person.

Ryan joined our Father due to an accident a few years after that, and when we visited Kenya in 2010, BLG was sitting there. It needed to have an inspection finished, one that Ryan had gotten half way through before he died. I was able to complete that inspection. When I saw the work order with his initials all over it, it felt like closure to be able to have one last job that we worked on together, sort of. It had been his investment in me on that first trip in 2006 that encouraged me to continue on this journey that led me to now be at AIM AIR. And actually, I’m in the same position he was in— supervising the maintenance shop.

Ethan recently came out for a 6 month short term trip to AIM AIR earlier this year. He wrote the other day to say that he had started a job recently as an airplane mechanic, but the guy who was supposed to be training him quit not long after he began, and now he is the only mechanic! He was writing to say thanks for me teaching him while he was with us, to help prepare him to take this challenge.

I definitely did not do everything perfect, and in fact, as Ethan was leaving I was thinking I wish I had gotten to know him better, and invest more in him. What a gift, though, to work with Ethan on an engine change for BLG and have 4 lives seem to come together, to be a continuation of investing in someone and seeing in part the fruit of that. I feel honored to in some way pass on Ryan’s legacy.

This week we said goodbye to BLG.  As the fleet is  going to increasingly remote places and our airstrips are more rugged, our concern for the comparatively fragile landing gear, and lower useful load lead to us just not using BLG as much. God provided a buyer, so we sold BLG and will be re-investing the money into the purchase of a Cessna Caravan, a much larger and more useful aircraft for our operations.

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