060403-N-0499M-151

MILITARY: Comfortable or complacent?

c130 dvm

Working as a sailor in the Military aviation business you get comfortable in some pretty crazy places. Being 20 feet from a thousand pound propeller spinning at 13 thousand rpm. Or wedged in a microwave sized area three feet deep with electrical wires all around you. Hell, with the military in general you work in some less than favorable conditions. Problem is you get too comfortable. Eventually you get complacent and shit turns into a shitstorm. You work those lines near death, and you start to lose the fear. That fear can be double edged. Too much or too little and bad decisions get made.

Complacency is part of our everyday lives. You want proof? Look at your daily drive to work. How much goes into auto pilot? Are there moments where you cannot remember going from one stoplight to the next? You get so wrapped up in your head all else blurs by. My favorite example of complacency is cell phone zombies. I have witnessed the zombie horde bang, crash, and fall in the streets because of facebook. These are great examples of shit that kills people. The reports of the driver never saw the person in the street he ran over, but was answering a text. The person who swears their attacker came out of nowhere but was nose deep in snapchat.

Work and complacency have no place together, in my line of work and many others complacency kills. I have spent the better part of seven years in the aviation maintenance industry. Few things cause an airplane to go down. Most think pilot error or terrorism for a crash cause. Truth is maintenance malpractice is #1 in bringing a plane down. Changing a part but not doing everything in the manual because you have done this hundreds of times. You just fucked away some tolerance or torque value. Now the engine falls off or the flight controls snap off. Boom you just smoked some good people. Or leaving a tool on the aircraft.

You did that flight control job or engine, but forgot to make sure you had your screwdriver when you left. The plane is on approach and they need to pull up, but that screwdriver got wedged in the works. Now you are digging bodies out of a pile of flaming wreckage. Both are insanely simple to avoid. Follow the steps to the T, check your tool box and make sure everything is there. Our boxes have clips and paint to show every tool belongs, and makes it easy to identify if the tool is in the box. Easy, easy to fuck up. If you fuck up, people can die

People think of fear as a weakness. Truth is, a little fear is a strength. You keep that small ‘what if’ in the back of your mind and it acts as a reminder. Did I torque that right? Is that pair of pliers in the box? Did I check my blind spot before I started to change lanes? Has that motherfucker walking behind me been there for a while? Does this asshole on his or her phone see my blinker? But don’t overdo it, because too much can cause hesitation in crucial times.

Really all we have to do is slow down. Take a second to think about what is going on around us. Keep a small amount of the fear in the back of your dome. Do not get caught up in the moment, or facebook.

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~Easy C.
Military Aeronautics Correspondent
Easy M. is a sailor in the US Navy who busts his knuckles on airplanes. When not chasing wires, he is often found soaked in rum chasing tall tattooed women. (Easy is active duty military, for his personal security he is using a pen name)

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8 thoughts on “MILITARY: Comfortable or complacent?”

  1. Great article!

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  2. Great points, but I will damn sure not agree with your statement that “maintenance malpractice is #1 in bringing a plane down.” That statement is flat wrong.

    We have multiple layers of eyes on any major task that is done, be they done by CDIs, QA/QC, 7-levels, or RII/ETOPS. We do this to ensure that the constant negative human factors are mitigated prior to launching an aircraft. Yes, it is an inherently dangerous and unforgiving environment and we deal with those who are not “switched on”. That is why we have quality systems.

    I say this with around 30 years as an AMT/AME spent as a maintainer, in Quality, and in leadership positions. Are there problems? Absolutely. Humans are involved in executing complex tasks using documents that are often difficult to understand. Do maintenance errors contribute to incidents? On occasion. I recommend a careful read of the NTSB stats before making those kind of comments.

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    1. “Military”

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      1. Started my career on those. At one time, I would have argued that equipment was actually better maintained than commercial aircraft. I have heard from some AD friends that it has really gone downhill lately. Sad to hear that FOD control and attention-to-detail is lacking. You made some great, and accurate, observations about the working conditions and the line between complacency and getting used to the environment. We need observant maintainers like you in the business. Good luck.

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    2. Sigh…

      His statement was referring to the Military – not a civilian aircraft job back in New Jersey dude – I recommend a careful re-read of this article before making those kind of comments

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  3. Thank you.

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  4. I must agree that when I see a statistical reference it is nice to have the source linkage.

    Not a big fan of the “VICE writing style guidelines”, however it is better than the article which I did not write for DVM this month.
    Just constructive criticism, which is much simpler than writing.

    Good show Easy, I look forward to reading more articles.

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  5. Excellent article. Easy to stay in cond yellow or greater when we are doing something “dangerous”. Hard to stay in cond yellow when we are just walking to the car, driving to work, etc. 40k people/yr die in auto accidents but we blissfully blaze down the road at 75 mph in a 6k pound vehicle in cond white without a second thought

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