When my husband David puts on his old glasses, I know what that means: aircraft maintenance. In a moment, he’s transformed: off goes the pressed, white pilot shirt with captain’s bars on the shoulders, on goes the plain, blue work shirt with a few holes and the rubbery red RTV stain I can’t get out. When he comes back into the office, there will be grease and oil and, most likely, he’ll smell like gasoline. In a commercial airline scenario, you’d never catch a pilot dirtying his hands like this, but most of our guys on the Haiti program serve as both mechanics and pilots. In fact, that’s true of all our programs.I never had a true appreciation for the intricacies of maintenance until my new role as flight scheduler required me to schedule inspections. To comply with our Aircraft Operations Manual (the “other” MAF bible), we have to make sure we don’t fly more than the prescribed fifty flight hours between inspections. Since I have the most contact with the schedule, that job naturally falls to me. But it’s not quite as easy as it looks.
“How many days does it take?” I’d ask. “Which inspection is it?” David would reply. He and our maintenance specialist, Todd, have served as my guides as I learn. “What do you mean, which inspection? There’s more than one kind?” It turns out there’s actually twenty different kinds, depending on which combination of elements are being inspected and how long it’s been since the last time it was inspected. Most take three days, but Inspections 6 and 13 take a week—as long as we have a full staff, longer if we don’t. And just for fun, Inspection 19 takes two weeks…try scheduling that two months in advance!
It’s all worth it, though: our maintenance habits are one of the greatest gifts we can give our passengers. Even in my own mind, I feel a lot better strapping my loved ones into a plane that’s been regularly cared for…after all, it’s not like our pilots can just “pull over” if it starts to smoke. Whether it’s changing an oil filter, a tire, or an engine, their training and attention to detail keep us flying safely to God’s glory. Now that’s “high” maintenance!