::[ kampungkai ]::

Sunday, June 5

Triumph On The Ground - Aircraft Engineers

I'm a LAME in 2 years' time, and now I'm still a TAME! haha.... this acronym sounds so stupid, but actually, there's a very glamourous name behind it. For your info, it stands for :

LAME - Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer
TAME - Trainee Aircraft Maintenance Engineer


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Airbus 330-300

The reason for me to post this is because I feel that there's a lack of knowledge of us to you all - the public. I'm sure most of you, especially the chinese, have watched the cantonese drama series "triumph in the sky" on ASTRO, haven't u? Try recalling back... there were smart-looking Pilots(except for brader Sam), there were beautiful stewardesses, there were ground crews, there were security guards, and there were even cleaners! BUT! were there any Engineers? no?

Hmmm... was indeed saddening watching the 40 episods as a TAME myself. We are not known to ppl. We won't be on photographs. We won't be seen in in coats nor caps... But it's ok, i'm not complaining. Deep inside us TAMEs & LAMEs, we know that we are the backstage supporters, or to sound better - the silent heroes.

Let's start from our outlook. Like all aviation crews, we have our uniform too. White short-sleeve shirt(with 2 pockets in front), black trousers, and black safety shoes. For your better understanding, imagine a Pilot, get it? But of course we go without the tie, coat, and cap. The BARs on the shoulder? we have that too, but with purple stripes on each side of a Gold Stripe, that would differentiate us from Pilots. In contrary to Pilots whose BARs represent their seniority (4 BARs max-Captain), we enginers graduate with 4 BARs until the day we retire. But i've not graduated yet, so no BARs for me haha!

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The all new outlook of our Boeing 747-400, pretty?

Basically, our job is to certify the aircraft for the fitness for flight. Means that b4 u board an aircraft, or even b4 the Pilot gets into the cockpit, the Aircraft Engineer has signed the papers, certifying that this plane IS SAFE to fly. So what if the plane crashes, u ask? Well, if I was the 1 who signed off the plane, I would be brought to court, sued as 2nd degree murder, and sit behind bars, and maybe out from the aviation industry for the rest of my life? That, of course is after thorough investigation. That's why all the plane crashes investigation goes on for 4-5 years, so that they won't blame on the wrong person. Hehe.. sounds scary eh? High responsibility job.

Besides signing off the aircraft, maintenance work also falls under us. Let's say there's a fault, the engineer will identify the problem, then the mechanics/technicians under him will fix the problem under his orders or supervision. When the problem is fixed, the engineer will inspect again and certify, then sign the papers - SAFE. Though the engineer doesn't need to get his hands black and oily with grease and stuff, he has to know how to fix the it in his brain, prior to ordering ppl. So the aircraft engineer is kinda like a walking aircraft dictionary, being able to explain the causes, the procedures, the ways to overcome, and also the amount of time needed to fix a problem.

Why the amount of time is needed? Cos if a problem is identified an hour b4 take-off, and the problem needs more than an hour to fix, the engineer has to inform the management who then informs their passenger on how long their flight would be delayed. If the engineer says that it's gonna take them 2 hours, but in the end it took them 3 hours, the passengers would be pissed and lots of arguments would be going on. (u know la, how fussy all of us can be when boarding planes) However, you may say "then tell them delayed 4 hours la", then everything can be done. Think of it, if u were a passenger flying to Heathrow, London, how would u feel if your flight is delayed for 4 hours? Pissed? Therefore, engineers need to fix a problem a.s.a.p, and know how long it takes.

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An older analog Cockpit of a Boeing 737-400, old rite?

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An all new digital Cockpit of a Boeing 777-200, cool huh?

Refuelling is also under Engineer's job scope. It's not as simple as u think, driving to Petronas and "angkat, cucuk, picit". The engineer has to make sure the aircraft is grounded, the hose connecting from the truck is grounded, and the truck itself is grounded. Why? to neutralise the elctrostatic charge on these different bodies. Or else, the potential difference of charges may cause a SPARK, and chhhhiiiiibbbbaaaaaaabbbboooommmmmmmm! I know that any truck driver can do this themselves without an engineer, but the management does not take any compromises, but only to trust the engineer. Think of it, the truck driver doesn't understand the problem and doesn't know the consequences. Dun worry, the engineer knows what to do. There are strict procedures to follow and he knows his job well.

U wanna know anything related to the aircraft? ask the Engineer. He will answer your problem from the simplest to hardest. ie: why the window is this shape? what is inside the LCD screen in front of u? How does LCD work? How an aircraft flies? How does aeroplane get power supply? How the aircraft starts the engine? What is the aircraft made from? U ask it, he'll answer it. That's why our course takes us 3 years to complete, just to learn about aeroplanes.

3 years sounds fast rite? Actually, when i graduate after 3 years, I've only got a basic licence called - Licence Without Type Rating(LWTR), and i cannot touch any plane models yet until i major in a specific model. Let's say a Boeing 737, I've to take courses on that particular model only, and sit for the exam. If i pass, then only i'm considered fit to maintain the Boeing 737, so now i'll have a type rating. The 1st plane that I'll major in wil take me 1 1/2 - 2 years, so the real length of time to graduate is around 5 years. However, the oncoming models that u wanna major in will only take u 6 months, maybe because the basics is almost the same.

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This is when The LAEs come into action haha!

Each Aircraft Engineer is only allowed a limit of 4 Type Rating, which means 4 types of aeroplane model. U must understand that an aeroplane is very, very BIG, it looks simple from the outside, but the inside will drive u NUTS. So i think they are worried that u might apply the theory of this plane onto another plane.

Hmmm... I hope I managed to let u know more about Aircraft Engineers, withdrawing the curtains covering us up all this while. I do understand that some girls feel so excited looking at Pilots walking out from the arrival hall in the coat and cap, haha! but please do not forget the contribution from the backstage guys that are in the same uniform. We do not parade around the arrival and departure hall, but under your aeroplane, making sure that u have a safe and comfortable flight to pursue your studies abroad, to sign a multi-million contract, or to see your love ones anywhere in the world. Your life is in our hands. Dun worry, enjoy the flight while we do our job.

I'll not be blogging until the end of this week, as I'm having my finals for the next 5 days straight. Wish me Luck! For your safety, i'll do my best!

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My dream. April 2007.

*For parents who are concerned for their children's future, the aviation industry is a good choice. Give your children a chance to try. Whether it's Aircraft Engineering or Piloting, never restrict them with an excuse of "very dangerous". Life and death is not to our control.

*Visit Malaysia Airlines website for more info.

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