Pirates of the Maintainer world

One of my favorite quotes from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies when Captain Barbossa says  “The code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.”.

I feel like this is how maintenance operates sometimes. Our code is made up of AFI’s, technical orders (T.O’s) , MSDS (Material safety data sheets), and the 3 Air Force core values (Excellence in all we do, Service before self and Integrity first).

I get the impression that some members of our team that attempts to get the rest of the herd to ignore certain aspects of this treasured code. Our code has a lot of “notes, cautions and warnings” involved, primarily in the T.O’s and MSDS sheets. A few example of these “notes, cautions and warnings” is like proper ventilation while using certain hazardous material or waiting until a certain amount of time has passed before resuming maintenance actions in that area.

I feel like they are using these “notes, cautions and warnings” in our “code” as a guideline.

Well, it smells fine to me, so start working, yah…yah…yah…(more stripes on me sleeve than you).. yah..yah..yah..

Well, this task has to be completed… and this is a flier… and we can’t perform any other jobs on the line….sooooo… meeehhh… do it, and shut the doors. (forget about ventilation)…. maaahhhh…”

Nobody actually said things exactly like that. Some of these events make me so angry that I just make them more comical in my mind. It’s a new technique I’ve learned so I don’t actually tell higher ranking people that they are stupid to their face.

I do have to give some credit though. The culture in my unit is changing and for once, it’s for the better. I almost wish I was staying here to see the final product. Almost. It’s been shitty for so long that I’ve just given up hope. Anyways, the culture is changing. It used to be all about the flying schedule and we were chasing MC (mission capable) rates. [MC rates means how flyable are the shitty jets.] Weekend duty was called in to fix birds that weren’t going to be flying anytime soon. Taking leave was damn near impossible because of the work load we had, because we were flying so much and these jets love to break. Ten to twelve hour shifts were almost a guarantee when the jets broke hard. OOO and CTO days were a legend that the old timers would tell the new kids.

A lot of that has changed. We don’t chase that MC rate anymore. The flying has slowed down. I don’t know why. I know that we are ahead of where we have to be. That probably looks good on someone’s EPR/OPR. You don’t have to perform an impromptu circus act to get leave approved. I haven’t had to work a 10-12 hour shift since I came back from Guam. I’ve learned that CTO days are real because I got one the day before I tested for staff. Weekend duty only comes in to fix the next day fliers. It’s a huge step in the right direction for this unit.

Unfortunately, we have a couple stubborn folks that are not fully on-board. It happens and hopefully it will get stamped out.

I don’t know every maintenance section in the Air Force is like this. I’ve been pretty limited to my exposure of the maintainer world. I am hopeful that Nellis honors the code and doesn’t treat it like a list of guidelines.

I’m not a fan of authority and I often feel like it is misplaced in the wrong people. (but that topic is for another post to be written in the future)

The disregard for the seriousness of the code is one of the reasons I tend to lose respect and trust in my higher ups. My job is dangerous. The content that makes up the code was written for a reason and I feel like that idea is forgotten frequently.

Maintainer world is slowly changing but it’s fighting an uphill battle.

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