Gripe Sheet

About a month ago I was on the way to Tulsa on a pretty small plane – only about 17 rows of three seats each.

The cabin attendant was courteous and professional – she acted just a bit goofy, but I could tell she was there on a mission far more important than just getting each of us a can of pop.

When the plane was landing, a thin molding where the overhead luggage rack joined the bulkhead on the left popped loose. You know, these little Regional Jets might be 2 or 3 years old or they might be 6-7 years old, and I’ve been flying constantly for more than a year, and this is the first time I ever saw a loose part on one of these planes.

As I was getting off, it was clear they were emptying the plane as quickly as possible to load 40 more people on it to go somewhere else. At first when I hesitated in front of an airline employee on the jetway she almost scolded me, telling me I should keep moving because they had to get the plane back in the air. But, when I said I saw a loose part and wanted to know who to speak to, she directed me to the cockpit.

I spoke to the captain and he said three words. “Show me please”. I walked him back to my seat and showed where the molding had popped loose. I guess I thought it would go on his “Gripe Sheet”. . . someone told me that’s what they call it when a pilot lists maintenance concerns with his craft.

But he said he was going to delay loading until a mechanic could address the problem.

He quickly explained “It probably won’t hurt anything, but there is a remote chance someone could cut themselves on the sharp edge of this plastic. The real reason we won’t load the plane though, is that it LOOKS as if something is amiss.”

Then I spoke to my wife (to let her know I landed safely yet again). She was reading the newspaper in Elgin IL where a youngster had made the news by shoving his sibling into a gun safe in a store.  

So picture this; two kids between 8 and 12 rough housing in a giant 2-story sporting goods store when one of them shoves the other in a gun safe and pushes it shut. No problem, the store guy knows the combination; he’ll get him out in a jiffy. But wait, there’s more.

The combination lock malfunctioned. So the youngster was stuck in the gun safe for a quarter of an hour. It was really small. The reason for the gun safe is, in case the store catches fire, there are guns And ammo in there and it is imperative the safe is airtight.

So why didn’t the boy suffocate?
Well, there is a little-known safety device built into the safe. . . it is NOT airtight until there is a fire. This is so in case someone gets locked in by mistake they don’t suffocate. Sure is a good thing that invisible mechanism worked.

Now, I will finally get to the point.

I liked the attitude of the airline. Why would anyone do anything different? Even if the molding is not really important, if you let it hang down it gives the IMPRESSION the plane is not properly maintained.

If the airlock on the safe didn’t work a child WOULD be dead.

The preventive maintenance program on a fleet should incorporate the same concepts. If it LOOKS broken, or if it doesn’t work the way it was made, it must be fixed. If it is not a safety-related issue, it is OK to let it hang down until the truck comes in for the next regularly-scheduled maintenance event (LOF, PMCS, whatever you want to call it.).  But it has to be fixed at that point.

There are too many reasons to fix everything that is part of the truck, and there are no GOOD reasons to let things fall off our trucks. If we allow minor maintenance violations to NOT be fixed, it seems as if our trucks are not well-maintained, which is harmful to drivers morale. If you take good care of the equipment and make it clear to the driver you expect him to do the same, maintenance costs and OOS Rates will both drop.

Mike England
DOT Compliance Help, Inc

About DOT Compliance Help Inc
Phone: 847-836-6063 web: e-mail DOT Compliance Help, Inc. is a full-service consulting firm specializing in the interpretation and execution of the regulations and guidelines set forth by the US Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. •Mission Statement• To assist our clients in establishing proper safety management controls in order to minimize accidents, injuries, and fatalities. The ultimate goals are safer roadways for the public and increased profits for our clients. Our core consulting competencies include FMCSA Assessments (mock audits), DOT compliance training (on-site and via webinar) and custom safety plans and policies. We also hold DOT compliance workshops and conferences all across the country. Utilizing a proprietary curriculum developed by our President, Mike England, our classes cover everything you need to know about the FMCSRs, how to survive your next DOT Compliance Review, and how Comprehensive safety Analysis (CSA 2010) will affect you.

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