Most maintenance on PHI's offshore fleet is done at night. Makes sense, because the helicopters are flown mainly during the daytime. But, like anything mechanical, sometimes helicopters break. That's why most of our Gulf Coast bases have a couple of day mechanics. Often, the fix is simple, and in an hour or two, our heroes in charcoal uniforms can have an aircraft up and running again, producing revenue.
If you're going to be a day mechanic with an offshore helicopter company, it helps to be patient. It helps to be really patient. Look, I like most of the pilots I work with; we have a lot of great folks in our ranks. But sheesh, some pilots can be awfully opinionated, even when discussing aircraft problems with guys who hold a federal license for working on them.
Add to that dynamic the fact that so many of our pilots come from a military background, where the pilots are officers and the maintenance folks are enlisted. There are guys who just can't seem to dispense with that condescending "listen to the officer speak" bearing.
Yep, for the most part, I like my fellow aviators, but there are times when I wonder if Will Rogers ever met a helicopter pilot.
One of our day mechanics in Boothville is a Louisiana native by the name of B.B. Smith. Before he became a licensed helicopter mechanic, B.B. was, of all things, a jockey. I have a lot of respect for B.B., who epitomizes the qualities needed by a good day mechanic: He has a great talent for troubleshooting, he works well under pressure, and yes, he deals adeptly with the Big Bad Pilot Ego. He's also funny as heck. Folks tend to gather around B.B. just to hear one of his stories. He’s like a one-man “Redneck Comedy Hour.”
Boothville is a busy base, but problems with helicopters seem to run in spurts. Sheesh, sometimes we'll cruise along for days with very few maintenance problems. But then, a day will come along when you might think that one helicopter got the flu and gave it to several others.
Our day mechanics had a really busy week the last time I was at work, but one day in particular was just the day from hell. Our day guys were juggling multiple aircraft problems, and I remember thinking how awful it would be to be in their shoes. I spotted B.B. in the afternoon, after my second flight, and the look on his face spoke volumes. He’s always seemed perpetually cheerful, and I've never seen him go so long without a smile on his face. But, he managed to get through the day with his sanity, and without clobbering an obstreperous pilot with a large wrench, so thankfully, I'll see him again come my next hitch.
B.B and family.
B.B. posted this on Facebook. He wrote that it pretty much explained the way he felt his last week at work.