Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Tired Flameholder

I've been weary and wore out lately. I've been working on bringing a jet engine flameholder back to serviceable status. It was in terrible shape. It was incredibly out of working limits but still reparable. That wasn't the really bad part. The really bad part was that in addition to the cracks there were older repairs that had cracked back out or that were still cracked because every single previous repair done on it was of such poor quality that the repair was worse than the damage.

This is bad. What was once simply a crack is now a lump of burnt and sugared metal, and what were once simply difficult to access areas are now impossible to access. Four days of work and the flameholder is now within serviceable limits. Aside from the horribly embarassing quality of my work neccesitated by the condition of the part when I got it, it is also horribly stressed. The prediliction that jet engine mechanics have towards getting every crack repaired, even when within serviceable limits, causes a decrease in usable part life, waste of man-hours for unnecessary repairs, and bad blood between the welder/heat treater/metalurgist who understands the part at its basic level and the jet engine mechanic who understands the part at its component level.

So we have two views. The lazy welder who wants to avoid any work possible and force the noble mechanic to install damaged parts on the one hand. On the other hand we have the idiot mechanic who is too stupid to understand that he wants to cause a critical failure in the parts by not listening to the noble welder who wants to save the government money by lengthening the life of the parts, reducing stress on the part and keeping chunks from falling out in flight.

Who is right on this? Well, the Air Force provides the answer. The USAF Technical Orders.


One other thing. I was in Grass Valley a few weeks back and saw a car with a bumper sticker that said something along the lines of "when food has an unlimited budget and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale for a bomber the world will be a better place." Aside from the anti-military sentiment, I realize that the person who put the sticker on and the person who invented the silly thing is incredibly ignorant and has no idea about what they're talking about. Their anti-American military bigotry is obvious but so is their ignorance. We can't get Solar flux (no money) and we can't get a couple of rivets for a needed repair (no money) can't get a little bracket (no money) and can't get the welding rod we're out of (no money) and all of the heat treating tools were old in 1986 and many of the tools in our tool crib were old in 1986 and some of the equipment (eg the hardness tester, brush electroplater, some of the heat treating furnaces, the sub-zero freezer, and even the kitchen sink) were old in 1986. I know this because that was the year I was stationed in that shop. It was my first duty station and that stuff was old back then. Now that I'm working in that same shop as a civil servant it's the exact same equipment, so it's at least a couple of decades old.

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