Help Your Mechanic


Recently, my mechanic showed me the list of squawks I’d told him about in recent texts, phone calls, and even e-mails. At the top of the list, he’d added one important item, “Fix Frank.”

In over 30 years of aircraft ownership, I’ve always tried to work with my mechanics to give them flexibility in the job and I try never to be seen as that demanding customer who just expects things fixed quickly. Apparently, I’d begun to fail miserably in that latter desire and, fortunately, my mechanic felt he could, um, educate me.

Most good mechanics are people pleasers. A customer calls with a need and the mechanic tries to accommodate that need. Add a hangar that’s only so large, a finite staff, current supply-chain challenges, and ultimately dozens or even hundreds of customers and you’ve got the potential for significant chaos that I’d unwittingly begun to increase.

I consider my airplane to be a “working airplane” in that I fly it often, and most missions are important and on a schedule that’s not easily adjusted. There often is less than a week between planned trips.

Of course, the nature of mechanical failures is that they can’t be planned. So, it wasn’t uncommon for me to return from a trip with a squawk, call my mechanic about it, and tell him I had to have it fixed before my next trip in a few days. Of course, being a people pleaser, he did his best to squeeze me into the shop, sometimes postponing other work that might have been in progress, and to try to rush my repair.

Rushed mechanical work is often inferior to work that is allowed to progress on a less stressful schedule. Thus, I’d return with the same gripe more than once, and that contributed to the stress and chaos. Then there was the “Fix Frank” discussion.

After a couple candid discussions with my mechanic, I have resolved to do a few things differently. First, I will try to separate the safety-critical items needing attention before the next flight, from the I’d-like-this-fixed items. I’ll accept a few inop stickers around the airplane for a while until the next gotta-fix-now item drives me to the shop to fix everything. I’ll also add those non-critical issues to a squawk list for the next visit, to prevent surprises.

This will actually help me some, too. The shop is not at my home airport. It’s less than 40 NM away, but that’s still a bother. I need to get picked up from the shop, 45 minutes’ drive away, and taken home. Then, reverse the process when the airplane is ready.

Now, when there’s a critical item, I won’t tell my mechanic my schedule, but ask his. He’s very good at getting me in as needed, and I’m sure he’ll continue to do so, but I’ll try to better define “as needed” so as to soften the impact on his schedule and hopefully contribute to reduced chaos.

Oh, and that squawk list that started with “Fix Frank” has the first item checked off as completed. I’ll try to keep it from recurring.


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