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One pilot skill that should be taught is dealing with the mechanic. This is some how neglected in the basic flight skillsHelicopter Mechanic textbook. There was a great text going around a while back on “How to operate a helicopter mechanic”, [VIEW ARTICLE] but I feel that information was for the advanced pilot. Therefore I shall remedy the situation and write a basic piece that I feel should be inserted in your Pilot Operating Handbook.

Mechanic: Worker skilled in using tools, repairing machines, etc, Source - Webster.

Mechanic: Worker skilled in using tools, text, voodoo, threats, intimidation, profanity, pagers, cell phones, and determination, Source - Klank.

More specifically:
Hangar Mechanic: One generally happy with a normal workday and content to perform repetitive tasks. (Inspections and such)

Field Mechanic: One generally not happy with other life on the planet. Thrives on unusual problems in rural areas in the middle of the night.

Although there is no single definition for “a mechanic”, and they come in all shapes and sizes. The one that I have spent many years trying to figure out is the “Field Mechanic”. This breed of person is far different from any society norm, and truly walks their own path. (Definitely an Alpha) They are easily identified and cannot be imitated (at least not for long). They generally travel alone but sometimes are assisted by another hangar mechanic forced to go and help with task that might require another set of hands. (Field mechanics have no problem getting a pilot dirty either).

I have met and worked with many field mechanics over the years, and there are some differences, but only minor ones. Some are generally happy even at two in the morning, while others are pissed all the time, although they all have core beliefs and ideas of how the world actually works. A field mechanic generally believes that pilots are there for them to train, and to screw up their aircraft. We (pilots) are also owned by the field mechanic; we are referred to in their circle as, “my pilot”, and “my helicopter”, or “my crew”. This quickly changes when we actually do something wrong, “that pilot screwed up my ship”. We are usually reclaimed later after the appropriate time of groveling and self-deprecation has passed.

I made the mistake early in my career and told a mechanic that I also had an A&P….. Big mistake! He was not impressed and also considered me a bigger nuisance than a pilot without one. Later in life I compared this with people coming up to me and telling me that they are also pilots, (80 hour weekend wonders) I have never mentioned this again.

I’ve dealt with mechanics who would argue for an hour just o get out of a ten-minute job.  I have also met younger ones that would be so eager that when they came over they just had to find some little thing to impress you to show how smart they are. Some, I feel hate every pilot on the face of the earth, and some are good friends that I’ve stayed in touch with for many years.

There is one type of mechanic that just pisses me off to no end. I hate even having to call them over because the results are almost always the same. They’re generally always nice, very experienced, and most helpful. They also never seem to complain, and are truly concerned with my problem. I despise each and every one of them (luckily there are only a few). I call them Healers. No matter the squawk, hang start, gauge stuck, bulb out, and on and on, they show up and with a simple “laying of the hands” and miraculously it works fine every time. I think the aircraft has certain pressure points that allow the healing to take place. I watch very carefully every time but have yet been able to duplicate these phenomena.

On one such occasion my aircraft would not start right to save my ass and after several attempts I had no choice but to call. With a pit in my stomach, I call and explain the entire sequence. “Ok, I’m on my way” and that was that. After the appropriate amount of time, in he walks. “How long are we down? Do we have time to go eat?” my med crew inquires. “I’ll let you know in about ten minutes,” replies the mechanic. I approach the aircraft and see the mechanic leaning on the nose waiting for me to get in. I wonder if this is one of those miracle moments or if this thing will still hang when I hit the button. As I strap in, I notice the mechanic has opened the other door and has his right arm in the seat and has carefully placed his left hand on the instrument panel. He taps his fingers a few times as I go through my checklist. I holler “Clear” and mash the starter button. It was about the closest thing to a perfect start that I have ever seen in all my years….DAMN HIM!

Walking back into the crew house, my flight nurse asks, “Were do you want to go eat?” I think the look in my eyes said it all. “He did it again, didn’t he?”

I’m not trying to be too hard on the healers, but damn, it happens far too often to just be a coincidence. Generally, field mechanics are a special breed that has kept my ass alive for many years. I found that treating them with respect, food, and the occasional 18 pack will go a long way in establishing a good working relationship with this nomadic type.

Posted in: Humor & Poetry


Wednesday, October 27, 2010 9:01 AM
This article was interesting and so I thought that I would figure out at what percentage I actually spent my time in the last 48 years, since I hold an ATP, A&P, IA and Rigger license. I allotted 10 years to the flying part, figured the maintenance and management time at 40 hrs. / week, although maintenance was probably 60-70 per week. The results were that for every hour of flying I have, I have 6 hours of maintenance, and 5 hours of management. No wonder that as a mechanic, I understand the aircraft or helicopter better than most pilots. To cover all the left over hours, I was telling jokes and war stories.
I really do appreciate the article.
Jose Estrada
# Jose Estrada
Wednesday, October 27, 2010 9:37 AM
This was a very good article I liked it and by the way I will print it out I can look at it from both points of view since I am a mechanic ( too bad not an AP )by profesion and inclination ( (that means I work with machinery all the time and also like to work in any new kind) but at the same time I also understand A pilot views since I flew a schweizer and a bell helicoper for very few hrs. but I have a great admiration and respect for you guys and at the same time I want to tell you HOW LUCKY YOU guys are, since for a lot of us is hard to get our dream come true I ( that is flying at lease as a private ) the few hrs. I flew were unforgetable. Maybe some day I will be able to afford more flying time in the. mean time I will keep reading articles like this just to keep up with you guys and wish you a safe flight each and every time you guys take that ( MACHINE ) to the skies. *ps Even my one year old grandson likes you already guys

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