Aviation professionals of all sorts are almost without exception human beings.

 As such they are inclined to make the occasional mistake. Something in our nature requires us to judge people more harshly when the consequences of an error are amazing and serious than if an honest mistake results no harm.

The news reported today that a “young lady aircraft cleaner” pushed the wrong button and caused an airplane to zip around the airport wrecking three jets. The news story contains some glaring errors, so even though all I know about the entire thing is what I have read let me set some of the record straight.

  • It probably is not worthy of mention that the individual in the story was female. If it was worthy of mention then there is another story to be reported.
  • Although some “cleaning” was being done this person is not a “cleaning lady” as reported. She is most likely a certified Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic.
  • The procedure for cleaning the compressor section of a jet engine is (obviously) dangerous and requires at lease two mechanics to perform.  Probably three.
  • It probably is not worth mentioning that the individual involved is young. Who cares? An old guy can make mistakes equally as dramatic as a young woman.  
  • ASA has too many airplanes anyway and is probably glad to have a good reason for writing three of them off.

The compressor section of a jet engine periodically needs to be cleaned of residue from dirty air, dust, bug guts, and gadnoswhatall.  This is done by spinning the engine up and tossing a mixture of water, soap, and ground walnut shells through it.  The results are impressive and kind of fun, but this isn’t performed by the cleaning lady.

Mechanics operate engines on the ground for a wide variety of reasons. An airplane engine of any sort is dangerous to work around and safety precautions are commonly taken.  Sometimes this doesn’t work out very well and then only good training can overcome bad mistakes made at an unfortunate time.

The unexpected and accidental application of High Thrust could only take place for a few reasons, all of which require something else to be “ON” or “ARMED” which shouldn’t have been. In any event, effective training is the only thing that will prevent this sort of accident.

Mechanics are not required  by the FAA to have any simulator training and, as this event demonstrates, probably should be.  Airlines rarely, if ever, spend a minute, or a penny, on anything that is not specifically required. Typically the FAA only acts in response to a body count, or really cool explosion.

As for firing the young lady, I certainly would advise against it.  After writing off a 100,000,000 dollar loss to poor training they should keep her. Besides, she won’t ever do that again. 

As far as I could tell by reading the article no one was injured, I certainly hope this is accurate.

Happy Landings


3 Responses to “Mech-aniacs”

  1. I’m not sure if you saw that a Qantas plane had a huge hole blown out the side of it, probably by an exploding O2 tank, some weeks ago. Now all we seem to hear on the news is that yet another Qantas flight was returned or cancelled or something because of some issue or other. Are they (justifiably) spooked or is this a case of the media picking up on something that happens all the time (the cancellations, early landings etc not the exploding O2 cylinder) and beating it up? (They do this all the time with diseases like “The Flesh Eating Bacteria” which is just happening at a normal rate but sounds like a pandemic).

  2. luckyjet1 Says:

    There are always things going on that are almost media worthy. After something blows out of the side of an airplane, or one lands a little hard they will become the darlings of the media foir a while.

  3. ahh. i thought so. I’m flying qantas’ cheap airline tomorrow (jetstar) so I was just a litlle, teensy bit worried. Thanks.

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