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It's all in the details.


One hot, mid-summer morning, I was feeling lucky. The prior shift had finished a plane wash by the time I got to work. Things were going my way.

The morning maintenance meeting covered everything from the plan of the day. Work began without a hiccup. After the shop passdown, I was told to check out tools and report to bay 1, which was buzzing with active Sailors when I arrived. My job was to help the shop tech reps change out an electrical contactor. We went to work around 0730.

Problems arose when I missed a step in procedures. To swap the electrical contactors, power had to be brought up on the aircraft. Should have been a simple task, but it turned into a fiasco.

As an E-6B maintainer and qualified plane captain, I've applied external electrical power thousands of times. I got external power up and running on the aircraft, using our bay power source. I then started helping the tech reps.

Shortly after we began removing the old contactor, a PO2 confronted me in the aft section of the aircraft. He asked if I was going to pull the plugs out of the draw-through cooling fan. I didn't know the plugs still were installed. The fan cools electrical equipment inside the aircraft. It can't move air if the plugs are installed. Equipment will heat up, and components will start to fail.

As I quickly removed the plugs from the aircraft, I felt warm air come out the ducts of the draw-through cooling fan. I didn't think the air was too warm, though. I thought I had dodged a bullet, but maintenance control later told me my mistake had caused some of the AE's equipment to fail.


Attention to detail is paramount. Procedures exist for a reason. They were put there because some engineer somewhere had figured out how to do it. Then he had written it down, so everyone could do it right every time. So if you think you know how to do it without the procedures staring back at you, think again. I learned the hard way that it is easy to miss something.

Petty Officer Backhaus is a plane captain at VQ-3.

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Title Annotation:aircraft maintenance
Author:Backhaus, Todd
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2009
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