By Tony Nunes, FBO Manager and Director of Maintenance
You might think running a maintenance shop involves a lot of time in the hangar swinging a wrench. Actually, there’s a lot more adventure in our work than you’d imagine.
I was visiting the other day with one of our long-time customers. He reminded me of a time our work took us out of the shop – way out of the shop.
One of the customer’s pilots had dinged the prop on a Baron while landing on a grass strip out of town. The plane wasn’t going anywhere with that prop, so the customer called us for help. John Holland, one of our mechanics, grabbed some tools and hopped in the car. The props were close to overhaul, so they decided to bring both of them back and leave the plane.
A few days later, after a prop shop had completed the overhaul, John drove back out, installed the props and the Baron was back in the air.
We do a lot of off-site repairs, and even more off-site consultations. When a customer encounters a mechanical problem on the road, we’re just a phone call away. We know the airplane, so we can help diagnose the problem and either send one of our mechanics or advise a local shop. We’ll often have the needed parts in stock, and we can ship or bring them.
In fact, we’re probably one of the few shops anywhere – and the only one locally – that routinely repairs off-site breakdowns. With two Cirrus and two Baron airplanes at our mechanics’ disposal, we can often have a customer flying again in a matter of hours. We’ll tell you more about this later.
A few years ago, I had a particularly exciting consultation. One of our customers is Delta Airport Consultants, an engineering firm that operates several airplanes here on the field. One day Charles Lamb, the owner, called me and said N21DA, a Baron, has a landing gear problem. A bigger problem was the plane was then in the air over West Virginia.
I asked why are you calling me? He said I told the pilot to fly to you. The gear wouldn’t come down electrically and the pilot couldn’t crank it down.
If a disabled airplane was headed our way, I wasn’t going to take chances, so I called 911. That brought the fire department, but it also brought every TV station and newspaper in town.
We have a Baron of the same vintage, so I bought it into the hangar and put it up on jacks to simulate the situation. Then I took a radio to a quiet place away from the crowd. I talked the pilot through the process and gave him confidence. Slow your airspeed and calm down, I told him.
I gave him the proper way to work the crank, to make sure it’s properly engaged. He said it’s hard to turn. I told him, turn it until it breaks. You have nothing to lose. Next thing he said it’s moving. Then he had three greens. Happy ending.
The Fire Department asked me to please talk to the news people. We’re normally reluctant to make public statements, but that was an exception. That was my “radio rescue.”
It was all in a day’s work – but I’m glad it’s not every day!
(To read Charles Lamb’s letter thanking the Fire Department, the airport management and Dominion Aviation for their help resolving the situation, click here.)