Shoot the trouble.

Trouble is a part of life. People made tons of money by solving troubles/problems. But what I will touch on is not how to solve your life’s troubles although some of the principles that I will suggest might be applicable to our everyday routine.

What I will write about is how engineers usually attack a problem if it’s part of their job requirements.I will speak from my point of view as an aircraft maintenance engineer. Mostly will be related to the avionics side.

1) Knowledge

You gotta know the aircraft that you are working on. The company that you are working for is responsible in making sure that you are well versed with the type of aircraft that the company owns. This can be achieved by sending you for the aircraft specific type course. Supposedly, when you finished the course, you’d be able to understand how the systems for that particular aircraft work. Assuming you got your basic, fundamentals all checked out ok, the rest of the practical skills, maintenance approach will improve over time.

2) Understand

Before the pilot(s) leave the aircraft, they would write down in the logbook of any defects, anomalies that they experienced during the flight. Read the description properly. If you could, converse with the pilot(s) of the defects that they have experienced. Verbal communication is much more effective than a written one.

3) History

If the defect is repetitive, check the past logs. You should be able to get an idea of what has been done by the previous signatories. You could have skipped a few steps if there were history of said defects and go ahead to attempt un-attempted solution (s).

4) Occam’s Razor

I love this idea so much. “The simplest explanation is most likely the correct one”. The concept behind this line is much much more complex. But let’s take it as it is.

Assuming you are well versed with the system, test the most simplest, easiest to reach component first. These components are usually placed in places where they are susceptible to elements such as heat, vibration, high voltage cables etc but usually easiest to reach. Sometimes a snag can be caused by an avionics equipment box which moved a few micro inches from their slot. A simple re-racking of said item could have easily solve the trouble. Only when the trouble doesn’t go away you proceed to the next component (s).

5) Refer to the manufacturer’s maintenance manual

This concept has been hammered into the mind of aircraft maintenance engineers since the day they enrolled as apprentice. No info is much more accurate than the ones published by the manufacturer(s). They even published troubleshooting manuals which are usually incorporated in the maintenance manual to facilitate the users. But the problem with troubleshooting manuals is they like to take you for a detour first. It’s part  and parcel of their marketing strategies, they want you to change everything before finding the real culprit. Initially, younger engineers will follow these manuals to the dot, but as years of experience build up, they should be able to spot the common cause although they will have to refer to the manufacturer’s manual from time to time as it is a dynamic document. The info will change, will be improved, will be altered due to a lot of factors, namely modification, introduction of new regulations and so on.

6) No stupid question in aviation

People who ridicule you for asking questions in aviation don’t deserve the honour to serve in this industry. To not be in the know is a risk you pose on the passengers of the aircraft that you are working on. If you don’t know, ask. Not knowing is a phase. You decide how long you want to be in that phase and how long you want to risk the lives of the passengers. Those-who-know were once not in the know. How do they know what they know? Magic? Go figure.

Ok, enough. Back to my books. I love questions related to troubleshooting when sitting for examination. They open up a world of possibilities.

Fun song.

Dexter Holland, the vocalist for The Offspring is one of the figures that I look up to in life. He got a bachelor’s degree in Biology, Master’s Degree in Molecular Biology, dumped his Phd when he wanted to concentrate on the band, is a licensed airlines transport pilot, and a certified flight instructor. In other words, he is a genius in his own way.

Edit: Bah, damn you piracy. Up to you if you wanna hear the song. Not everyone’s cup of tea me thinks.

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