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Oops, I did it again.

During a cold, winter afternoon aboard NAS Fallon, my supervisor told me to take a tractor and tow a mobile electric-power plant (NC-10) from the hangar to Eagle 603 on the flight line. I parked both the tractor and the NC-10 parallel to the aircraft because the power-plant mechanics needed to do a 7-day inspection. The NC-10 remained hooked up to the tractor since the inspection wasn't supposed to take long. I secured the tractor, applied its parking brake, and chocked the rear tire. I then told the mechs that I would be in the hangar and would return the support equipment (SE) later.

After the inspection, I received a phone call to retrieve the SE because the mechs were done. Arriving at Eagle 603, I found the tractor and the NC-10 exactly where I had left them. I removed the chocks, released the brakes, and drove off. Halfway to the line shack, one of the mechs stopped me and pointed at the long skid mark behind me.

A quick inspection revealed a flat spot on one of NC-10 tires. The brakes were on! Apparently, someone had applied the brakes on the NC-10 while it was parked and hooked up to the tractor. I had assumed it was in the same status as when I left it earlier. After QA conducted an investigation and determined there was no intentional abuse of the SE, I trained all the shops to prevent the same mistake from happening again.

Two days later, during an even colder night-check period, more than 2 inches of snow had accumulated on the ground. While studying for the upcoming advancement exam, I got a call to take the NC-10 from Eagle 600 to 602. After doing a pre-operational inspection on the tractor, I proceeded to Eagle 600 to hook up the NC-10. As I pulled up, I asked a nearby airframes technician to assist. After he hooked the NC-10 to the tractor, he gave me the "thumbs up."

I arrived at 602, and the plane captain said he no longer needed the NC-10. I then returned the SE to the staging area. As I was about to unhook the NC-10, I smelled a burning odor, and saw that it was leaning on the right side. I noticed that the right rear tire was flat. Further inspection revealed that the brake still was engaged! Not again...

QA immediately started an investigation. Although I had provided training to all shops, I had neglected to train the night-check personnel. They weren't even aware of my previous incident. The training was supposed to ensure that everyone in the maintenance department would learn from my mistake, but instead, we repeated it.


The weather was also a factor. We normally operate in the warm weather of NAS Point Mugu, Calif. The desire to get out of the cold as fast as possible caused us to rush, neglecting our responsibilities. In these circumstances, it is easy to start making simple mistakes. We were lucky this time; it was only a blown tire. We could have damaged an aircraft, or worse, someone could have been injured.

Airman Cockran works in the line division at VAW-113.

AN Austin Cockran
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Author:Cockran, Austin
Date:Sep 22, 2008
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