The bond between pilots, airplanes, and mechanics
“Only fourteen starts left before she gets a hot section,” explained mechanic Russ Monroe, patting the scarlet engine housing of a Bell 407 helicopter. He spoke with gravity, as might a heart surgeon contemplating surgery.
Russ used to work on the Flying Carpet. I remember him excitedly regaling me at the maintenance hangar about a new and better method he’d found to set magneto timing for the engine. Another time, he delighted in discovering that the airplane had 500 hours on her vacuum pump, “and since this has been a light annual inspection, it might be a good time to preventatively replace it.”
Russ enjoyed other careers before earning his “A&P” (aircraft and powerplant) mechanic’s certificate, first in the US Navy and later as a radio broadcaster. He’s a wealth of knowledge on many topics, so we’ve always enjoyed talking airplanes or anything else. Then Russ left Flagstaff for a position as a roving helicopter mechanic. When I learned he was temporarily stationed in Kingman, I volunteered to visit him.
It’s “monsoon season” in Arizona, meaning a daily threat of afternoon thunderstorms. So I picked a day when Jean had an early commercial flight, and after dropping her at the airline terminal, took flight for Kingman. Departing at 6:30am, I figured I had until at least midday before thunderstorms threatened. That optimism faded when I noted rain showers over Las Vegas; then pilot reports directed my attention to an isolated but massive storm cell near Parker, southwest of Kingman. Neither was an immediate threat, but at this early hour they were harbingers of more to come…
Top photo: Mechanic Russ Monroe preflights the rotor assembly on a Guardian Air Bell 407 helicopter, operated by Air Methods.
Bottom photo: Mothballed airliners clog the ramp at Kingman Airport, Arizona. SEE MORE PHOTOS!
(This column first appeared in the October, 2014 issue of AOPA Flight Training magazine.)
©2014 Gregory N.Brown