Alex Sanchez http://upfromnothing.com 4m 907
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Charlie and I stared at the cold exposure chart that was conveniently placed on the hangar door.
“So how long should we be outside Charlie? You know I can’t tell what this Celsius stuff means”
“Well Sanchez, it says depending on the wind at -23 Celsius, either one hour or one minute. Thank GOD we don’t have to go outside tonight!”
“Charlie let’s go see what’s going on in the shop!” I energetically stated.
I would immediately regret ever saying that last sentence. As we walked into our Aircraft Engine Maintenance shop – or Powerline as it is referred to in the Marine Corps Aviation Community – I noticed that the shift supervisor was angry. My inner slacker told me to steer clear, but Charlie was much more social than I was and he couldn’t resist.
“Why are you angry Staff Sergeant? What’s going on?” Charlie emphatically asked.
“This Maintenance Action Form is missing a part number. There is a part on an aircraft and I can’t sign off the paperwork without clarifying what part was installed!” Staff Sergeant replied.
I slowly ambled over to the door, hoping that Charlie had foolishly laid his own trap. It was too late as I then heard:
“Well Charlie, you and Sanchez are going to have to go outside and get me that part number!”
I heard a loud organ playing ominous music somewhere as Vincent Price explained a story of two men stupid enough to venture out in low Celsius temperature!
I couldn’t stand idly by any longer. “Staff Sergeant all due respect, but can’t this be done some other time?”
I had broken a cardinal rule: never, ever question the order of a staff non-commissioned officer! I had already dug my trench and decided to go all in.
“I was explaining to Charlie a second ago that at 23 Celsius you can’t go outside. You will freeze!”
They both looked at me as if I were crazy. Charlie agreed with me and it gave me some confidence that maybe we could win this battle. Unfortunately, common sense did not prevail that evening.
“This plane will be leaving in three days! Get both your butts out there and give me my damn part number!”
The battle was lost.
“Okay, whatever, what part are we talking about?” I asked.
“The Valve –I forget the exact name- which is located in the Number 3 dry bay.” Staff Sergeant replied.
Charlie and I immediately raised concerns about vapor equipment being needed to work anywhere near a confined space: especially one that was out in the blistering cold. To which Staff Sergeant replied:
“Don’t climb into the space, once you take off the panel, use a long mirror and flashlight to read the part number.”
“Wait a minute Staff Sergeant that panel has almost 80 screws!” I blurted out.
“Get a power drill! We are done with this conversation. One more word Sanchez and I am going to write you up!”
Decision time: freeze to death or lose weekend/free time?
“You got it, Staff Sergeant. I’m going to put on an additional sweater” I meekly responded.
So we went to check out a Power Drill from Tool Control and were told that one did not work, but that Airframes was using the remaining two. Charlie and I looked at each other with frustration. It was always a crap shoot going to the Airframe shop. They were usually the ex-high school jocks who sat around complaining about all the work that they had to do. Sometimes they were hilarious, but often times, they liked to start beef with us Powerline folk over the most innocuous of things. It was going to be one of those nights.
“What are you two here for?” asked the surly Airframer.
“To see if you can lend us one of the drills. We will sign it back in for you.” Charlie inquired.
The Marine looked at both of us and then asked the one question that I hoped he would not ask.
“What are you going to be doing?”
There was no way that we were getting that drill, once he heard that we were planning to take off a panel, in the cold, with so many screws that could either break or strip. So we proceeded to the airplane with our equipment and climbed on top of the wing. It felt as if we were going to die that night. Our fingers were like sausages and what would normally have taken minutes felt like hours. Charlie and I, were able to get the panel off without stripping or damaging screws, which proved to be a miracle in my eyes. We then were able to read the part number after battling the flashlight, which was by this point turning on and off. We wrote the part number down and took turns with the speed handle putting the panel back on. We both triumphantly return to the shop with our part number in tow. Staff Sergeant then meekly replies:
“Sorry guys don’t need the part number after all. The part number was written down on this part sheet.”
Football Panel of Death!
Alex Sanchez is a veteran of the US Marines. He is also a teacher and coach, who enjoys writing and working on his website. You can read more of his work over at: http://upfromnothing.com