Go back to basics in aircraft maintenance

  • Published
  • By Col. Terry Parsons
  • 55th Wing Maintenance Group commander
A high operations tempo is having a negative impact throughout our Air Force, causing a need to get B2B (back to basics) for doing our jobs. 

It is very common to make mistakes when under pressure in a demanding environment. In aircraft maintenance small mistakes can have huge impacts on the mission and endanger the lives of our Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines involved in the global war against terrorism. So how do we avoid this common pitfall that comes with a high-ops tempo? The answer is to focus on B2B. 

In aircraft maintenance, the need for B2B requires that we focus on the fundamentals of doing maintenance "by the book" or maintenance 101. In aircraft maintenance, there are four fundamental principles we must follow to be successful: safety, training, technical data and attitude. 

Safety. It's very easy to make mistakes when you're put into a high-pressure environment. Alternatively, complacency can cloud our judgment and lead to a practice of taking shortcuts. Shortcuts can be very costly and even deadly. According to Air Force Safety Center statistics covering the last 10 years, the Air Force lost an aircraft every 22 days. Safety-related mishaps cost the Air Force over $3.4 million each day and most importantly the Air Force has lost one airman every five days. As you can see, safety is a force multiplier and we must put safety first in everything we do - on and off-duty! 

Training. You aren't ready to do your job until you have been trained. Unfortunately in today's high-ops tempo environment, sometimes training falls short of what is required. Without the proper training, you won't know all the rules to follow. As a mechanic working on low density and high demand, multi-million dollar aircraft, you must be properly trained. If you don't feel qualified or comfortable with the task you're given or you're feeling rushed, don't allow yourself to get in over your head before asking for help. We can't cut corners when it comes to safety, nor can you cut corners when it comes to training. Training is expensive but ignorance is far more costly. 

Technical Data. Everything we ask you to do as a mechanic is governed by an Air Force Instruction or written technical data. We need you to study AFI 21-101 and Air Force Safety and Occupational Health guidance so you will be prepared when faced with a job assignment. 

When conducting aircraft maintenance in accordance with technical data, you need to have the book open and follow step by step. No matter how many times you may have done the task or how well you think you know the job, if it says IAW you need to have the book open at the job site. Why? Because the book can change and people will make mistakes without technical data to guide them step by step. If we allow ourselves to skip steps and create shortcuts for minor things, we set ourselves up for failure. If we don't follow the small rules, it becomes easier to ignore the big ones. 

Attitude. Attitude sets the tone for everything we do. No one likes to be around people who are negative. More importantly, we can't achieve "excellence in all we do" if we walk with someone who has a less than positive attitude. A bad attitude is like a cancer to our Air Force core values. 

Someone with a poor attitude is a warning sign that something is out of balance in that individual's life and he or she needs help. To be a good wingman, we owe it to our fellow Airmen to identify and correct bad attitudes. If personal feedback doesn't have the desired impact, then talk with his or her supervisor.
n today's high-ops tempo environment, we must focus on B2B. If you practice B2B, you will have a positive impact on your wingmen. If you practice B2B, the Air Force won't need to implement new programs. Remember the four fundamental principles for successful aircraft maintenance: safety, training, technical data and attitude!