Find us on Google+ November 2016 ~ Inventor Tales

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Three Things Safety Wire Taught Me About "How Hard Can it Be?"

My aircraft maintenance classes at Mt. San Antonio College, and yes, that does reduce my blogging time still!  

But it keeps me learning, and in this short post, I'm sharing a bit of my experience with a cocky phrase I think all of us have encountered at one point. 

How hard can that really be? 

For me, safety wire was one of those cases.  Deceivingly simple, there's a lot more that goes into it that what first meets the eye. 

An example of safety wire on a fuel totalizer.
It looks like twists of wire, but there's much more to that. 

So what is safety wire?

Also referred to as "lock wire", safety wire is what is called a positive locking device.  It serves the purpose of preventing a fastener from loosening or falling out, and also serves as a witness that the fastener has been properly torqued. 

That covers the "whys", but what about the "hows"?   It's the "hows" where the hidden challenges in the process begin to reveal themselves. 

From the Federal Aviation Administration's book AC43.13, here are the requirements for proper safety wire installation on an aircraft. 

  • Safety wire must be installed in such a way that the fastener cannot loosen. 
  • Safety wire must have 6-8 twists per inch.
  • Never overstress safety wire. It will break under vibration. 
  • Wire must not be nicked or kinked, that includes backing off twisted wire if you've twisted it too many times.
On top of that, there are diagrams upon diagrams of examples displaying the proper procedure for various types of applications.  

An example of some safe wire combinations
From AC43.13
For me, that meant making a lot of mistakes.  I've gotten the wire too loose, I've kinked the wire, I've even gotten the direction backward, loosing the fastener instead of tightening it. 

And all of that means grumbling in frustration, cutting it off, and doing it again. 

So what does that mean for those of you out there?  Many of you will never touch safety wire, and that's alright.  It may not be your thing.  

But one lesson from a few twists of wire can be summed in a few simple phrases.  

Just because it looks easy, doesn't mean it is.  And if someone makes it look simple, it may be that they've been honing that skill for years. 

And that can be true of an task, be it safety wire, welding, running a CAD program, or installing a data management system.  

So see the world with an eye for learning from those experts! 



Sunday, November 06, 2016

How the Cloud Saved my Butt - And my Homework Grade

I'm still taking my aircraft maintenance classes at Mt. San Antonio College.  And while it's rewarding, it's enormously time consuming.

Between work and class, it means days starting at 5:30 AM and ending at 11PM.  It makes me grateful for a supportive family, but something does have to give, and in this case, it's the blog that suffers.   

One of the instructional airframes, the Cessna 337 Skymaster.
But life is still teaching me lessons, and this is one where data in the cloud helped save my grade.

I store my homework in Google Drive.  Why?  I can access it anywhere, and it's always backed up.  It's always nice to be able to open the latest version on my phone, laptop, or work computer, without having to worry about uploading or emailing documents. 

And as a final bonus, I have semesters of homework available for my reference.

The infamous textbook.  My dinner companion many nights.

Perfect cloud application, right?  Of course!

But last week, I had an interesting experience that thankfully, the Cloud saved me from. 

In a rush at work, I hurriedly printed and stapled my homework to turn into class.  Once turned in, I went merrily on  my way, satisfied with a job I thought well done. 

But the next day, I got a surprise that made my stomach sink. 

The instructor returns my homework with a 43% on it.  I'm shocked!  How?

He tells me, "You're missing half your homework."  

Gobsmacked, I flip through the pages.  Sure enough, two of the four pages are blank.  

I kick myself for not checking.  It's a stupid mistake. 

The teacher breaks me out of my trance.  "I don't know how to rectify this with you.  The quality of work implies you did the homework, but if you can't get it to me tonight.... "  

My brain races, and suddenly a solution.  "Can I email it to you?"  

"I'll take that."  The instructor tells me, giving me a ray of hope.

I fumble with my mobile phone for a few minutes, and manage to send a *.docx file to the instructor.  Mercifully, my grade goes from a 43% to an 83%. (I made some bonehead mistakes technology can't solve). 

So that's my story, but what are the lessons?  

1) Technology is awesome!  But don't rely on it too much. - I didn't spend 10 seconds flipping through the pages of my homework to make sure it was all there.  I assumed it was, and that nearly cost me. 

2) When used properly, technology is  invaluable. - As contradictory as it seams, technology also saved me from... technology.  If I hadn't been using a cloud account, and instead had my homework stored on a document on a machine, I may have been stuck eating a failing grade.  By having the ability to send the instructor a word document, I salvaged a bad situation. 

3) Make Technology Work for You! - I think this is the biggest lesson of all.  We all have different needs, and technology has many ways of helping us out, not just one.  Just because I use it one way doesn't mean you have to use it in exactly that way.  Take my ideas, combine them with so many others, and come up with something that makes you're life easier! 

So take my lessons, make them your own.  From now on, I'll be double checking that homework with my good ol' "Mark 1 Eyeball.".