Celebrating all fathers…and remembering my own. How a gift from my father put me on the path towards Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM).
I think a lot of people would agree that fathers are special creatures. And many daughters would tell you that a father’s love is one of life’s greatest gifts.
I know my father was.
He taught me to drive. (My first lesson is depicted in the photo above).
He taught me not to hold a grudge.
And he introduced me to something that set the trajectory of my life.
My father was a blacksmith, but when I was eight years, he sold “the shop” and got a job with Eastern Airlines.
He was in maintenance. But he wasn’t a mechanic. He cleaned the airplanes.
He loved Eastern Airlines and he loved his job. I’ve never known anyone prouder of his work.
In the late seventies, airport security wasn’t what it is today. One of the “perks” of my father’s job was his access to the ramp.
As a treat, we’d get in the car and take the back roads to Boston Logan airport.
Once inside, we’d whiz past security and arrive at a gate where my father would introduce me to the gate agent. Within minutes we were bounding down the jet way and climbing down the steps to reach the ramp.
An airport ramp is a pretty amazing place ~ especially when you’re eight years old.
I held my father’s hand tightly as he steered me around the jets.
He didn’t teach me about Bernoulli’s theorem, ailerons, flaps, or rudders.
Instead, he pointed out the various aircraft areas he accessed during his shift – like the hookup he used to empty the lavatory waste tanks.
And then it was time to learn about the aviation ground support equipment – like tow tractors and the “lav truck” (although my father used a more *colorful* adjective).
I didn’t know it then, but synchronicity was at play.
Those trips to the airport opened up a new world to me. And thus, my (technical) love affair with aviation began.
When I was nine, my father had to choose between being laid off or taking a transfer to Atlanta, Georgia for one year.
We took the transfer.
And my “aviation lessons” continued.
Our apartment was really close to the airport, so we could easily see (and hear!) planes coming in on final approach.
Actual Polaroid of the view from our balcony, College Park, Georgia, 1979
After school (my father worked nights), we sat on the balcony and he quizzed me about the airplanes flying overhead.
“What’s that one?” he asked pointing. “A DC-9,” I replied, eager to impress him. “A ‘stretch nine’,” he corrected. “What’s a ‘stretch nine’ Daddy?” “It’s longer than a regular DC-9 so it can carry more people,” he gently counseled.
And thus my (technical) love affair with aviation began. Right there on an apartment balcony in College Park, Georgia, safe in the presence of my father.
Reliability Centered Maintenance
So what does all this have to do with Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM)?
Well, our lives unfold when we follow our heart.
My love of aviation led me to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where I earned a degree in Aerospace Engineering.
Fate stepped in and, upon graduation, I was recruited by the US Naval Air Systems Command. I started work immediately and soon after, found myself at the Naval Air Warfare Center, Aircraft Division, Lakehurst, New Jersey.
Maintenance costs in our department were way too high and “something had to be done about it.”
And that something was RCM.
And what did we start applying RCM to? (Here’s where the synchronicity comes in.) Aviation ground support equipment!
A Beautiful Ending
My father died in 1989, but I am forever grateful for our moments on the ramp at Logan airport and the lessons he gave me on our balcony.
At the time, I didn’t realize how significant those occasions were.
And I doubt he did either.
He was just a father who loved his daughter and who wanted to share the pride he had for his work.
That just may be one of the most important gifts a father can give his child.
To All Fathers
The next time you’re doing something (seemingly) benign with your daughter (or son for that matter), you may be in the midst of shaping her (or his) life.
You may not know it in the moment. But just wait a few decades. Time will certainly tell!
Happy Father’s Day!
In my 20+ years applying RCM, I have had the honor of working long-term with several clients.
Because we did it right, the RCM process produced extraordinary results.
For example, we reduced maintenance, spares usage, and HAZMAT disposal on NAVAIR common support equipment big-time (more than 50% in many cases) while equipment availability increased. And, I’m proud to say that that RCM program I started in 1998 is still going strong.
And only three years after we started implementing RCM on the US Army’s CH-47 Chinook helicopter, it achieved its readiness goal of 75% Fully Mission Capable (FMC) for the first time…EVER!
Take Control of Your Equipment
Are you ready for results like that?
The first step in taking control of your equipment is exploring the basics of Maintenance and Reliability. And it’s never been easier.
You can do so on your own time, without ever having to leave your home or office.
After all, what’s stopping you from writing your own happy ending? Your equipment will thank you for it!