Ramp agent reprimanded for reporting MX issue

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by rpayne88, Feb 16, 2022.

  1. Larry in TN

    Larry in TN En-Route

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    The oil quantity is checked during our cockpit setup before each flight. It is also displayed while we start the engines and it must be at least 70% before we initiate each engine start.

    You need a ladder to reach it. The ramp workers would tell us it is open. We'd call to have the fueler return to close it. They'd also have to make sure that the panel's controls were properly configured after fueling was completed.

    On the 737, the fueling panel has a fuel gauge for each of the three tanks, a fill-valve switch for each tank, a fill-valve position light for each fill-valve, and a three-position indicator test switch. The fueler must understand the fuel loading schedule and manually direct the correct amount of fuel into each of the fuel tanks.

    Yes, but we'd shut down the engine. We start the Number 2 engine first, which is near where the fuel panel is located. We'd shut that engine down to allow the fueler to safely access the panel.

    Here's a picture of a 737 refueling panel.

    refuelpanel.jpg
     
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  2. PaulS

    PaulS Touchdown! Greaser!

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    This thread reminds me of the time I was a ramper, attending a 747. The plane was delayed, I had unloaded and reloaded all the luggage, by myself, after which I performed my usual walk around and systems check at the urging of the captain. As I was walking around, I noticed a flat tire. I reported it to the captain, he was clueless, he told me the only maintenance guy was rewiring the fly by wire system in a 320 for another flight that was late and that we would have unload the passengers AND luggage. I was having none of that, this was my 7th 747 of the day, I was getting tired. I told him to hold on. I ran to my lifted 1978 Mudder F-250. I grabbed the spare, a bottle jack and a lug wrench. The passengers on board saw me rolling the tire under the jet and started cheering. I jacked the wheel up, undid the lugs, there were like 15 of them, popped my mudder spare on, turns out it was an exact fit. I put the lug nuts back on, lowered the jet and reported to the captain he was all set. He told me he loves it when I'm the ramper, because he really wasn't sure what to do. He said we should keep this between us, because management are morons. I said "no problem", and they took off, only a half hour late. It was awesome.
     
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  3. donjohnston

    donjohnston Pattern Altitude

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    You might want to consider switching to decaf.

    ;)
     
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  4. Greg Bockelman

    Greg Bockelman Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Doubt he could reach it.
     
  5. dtuuri

    dtuuri En-Route

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    Fair enough. I wouldn't want "untrained" personnel opening and closing random panels in my operation either. SWA, though, isn't "my" operation and it sounds like they allow some panels to be opened and don't object when others are opened unless it might result in a delay. If they were silent about the OP's practice in the past, it implies consent. If that's an accurate picture and if they'd let him close a panel to avoid a delay then I don't see where the OP did much wrong given the culture. A "teachable moment", as the OP says, not a candidate for dismissal as some here seem loaded and locked to carry out.
     
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  6. dtuuri

    dtuuri En-Route

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    Maybe he could stand on some suitcases. :p
     
  7. SkyDog58

    SkyDog58 Ejection Handle Pulled

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    I bet Horizon Air didn’t prohibit employees from doing that. Well, they didn’t stop them at least.
     
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  8. SkyDog58

    SkyDog58 Ejection Handle Pulled

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    That’s pretty much it along with cargo pits and in some cases main entry door. But in my experience there were not any ramper tasks that required opening any other panel, cowling, or door. If you have no assigned task inside an area, you stay out of the area. Plain and simple.
     
  9. jayhawk74

    jayhawk74 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    At Southwest the Rampers aren't trained to open panels during their walkaround. in fact neither are the Pilots. What the Rampers are trained to do is check for leaks and any damage to the aircraft. They don't do it as detailed as the Pilots do but it is enough to satisfy the FAA so the Pilots don't have to do it every leg (a carryover from the 10-20 minute turn days). In any case they definitely aren't trained (nor is it expected) that they will open access panels for inspection.
     
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  10. dtuuri

    dtuuri En-Route

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    I'm so confused...:confused:

    So, if a Ramper leaves a water panel open, is a pilot qualified to close it?
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2022
  11. Larry in TN

    Larry in TN En-Route

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    All I know about the potable water fill panel is that, if the handle isn't properly stowed, water won't be available to the toilets, sinks, or coffee makers. My flight manual gives no information on the operation of that valve.

    No one person can do everything on these airplanes. The duties and responsibilities are divided and assigned and the personnel are trained accordingly.
     
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  12. dtuuri

    dtuuri En-Route

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    I know that as well as anybody, having been first a CFI, then a USAF ramp rat/aircraft mechanic, then an A&P mechanic, a B-727 flight engineer and a GA DPE. The OP seems to have been more qualified to open and close panels than the pilots here complaining about it, though. While I can understand the reasoning behind leaving the panels closed without an operational need to open them, extra wear & tear could cause a failure leading to a canceled flight for example, this isn't worthy of punishment in my opinion. Heck, according to the OP he found FOD damage that grounded the plane a few days earlier. Maybe he wasn't supposed to notice that either? That is, unless the fan blades fly apart and kill somebody—then he should have?
     
  13. neilki

    neilki Pre-takeoff checklist

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    It’s an excellent question; but I think the 121 folks are pretty consistent in their answers. It speaks to the airline safety culture as well as the unionized nature of the operations.
     
  14. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I haven seen anyone claiming that he shouldn't notice things, just that opening panels that the company doesn't know him to be trained on was going too far.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2022
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  15. jordane93

    jordane93 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Yea opening up panels that he has no business opening up. They’re trained to open panels like potable water, lav waste, etc but I’ve never heard of a ramper checking oil levels. I don’t even open up those panels. Maybe SWA does things differently:dunno:
     
  16. jayhawk74

    jayhawk74 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Southwest doesn't do anything different from what you said. The Rampers are trained to open panels for their job (lav, potable water, external power, and external air). They aren't trained. nor encouraged, to open engine cowling panels and check for oil levels, heck even the Pilots aren't trained for that.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2022
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  17. Ed Haywood

    Ed Haywood Cleared for Takeoff

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    :rofl::rofl::rofl:
     
  18. strangebird

    strangebird Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Sluggo63:
    Do not drink, type and brag so much, and who cares what you are drinking, and turn off the flame thrower please, as they say there is one in every crowd, it is obvious you do not like the GA crowd.

    "Yeah, I have a thought... stay in your lane. That is, if this story is even real, which I doubt (or at least parts of it are fabricated or embellished).

    It just doesn't make sense to me.

    First, you're a ramp agent. You're not typed in a 737, nor are you an A&P. You actually have no idea what you're doing or how to do it.

    You, as a GA pilot, were going to do a real walkaround of a 737? Do you know what a "real walkaround" entails. Do you know that when you get typed on an aircraft, you have to do walkaround training. And every 18 months, you have to do walkaround training as part of your periodic checkride?

    In the Air Force, we pilots were made to pass a "Aircraft Servicing" class annually just in case we had to divert to a base without maintenance and had to check and service the oil, or hydraulics, or fuel the aircraft. I've had to check the oil once or twice due to unscheduled landings, and even with that class, I would call back to maintenance if I ever had a question.

    I'm assuming since they are Southwest 737s, that we're talking about CFM-56 engines. It just so happened that I flew an airplane in the AF with 4-CFM-56s, so I'm somewhat familiar. It's been a while, so my numbers may be off, but I do remember that you had to check the oil in those engines pretty quickly after shutdown (within 10-15 minutes) for the sight gauges to be accurate. If you didn't check them within that time, you'd have to motor the engine, and then check it. It sounds like (if this is even true) you parked an airplane, offloaded pax and bags, topped off potable water, then eventually checked the oil. No way did you check it before the 15 minutes accuracy time limit was up. Especially since they probably shut one down on taxi in to save fuel.

    Also, it may vary from airline to airline, but the sight gauges may not even have to be checked every flight. The pilots have Oil Quantity, Oil Pressure and Oil Temperature gauges/annunciators up front which will tell them if they are low on oil, so the sight gauges may not even be looked at. And don't need to be.

    So, you went to the PIC and told him about the oil. I have many friends who are pilots for SWA, and I'll tell you this, none of them would be hanging around in the airplane if there was still hours to go. Maybe SWA does stuff differently now, but they pride themselves on the 25 minute turn. Most of their planes don't sit for hours. They land, offload, onload and depart. I'm not saying that a plane dosn't come into an airport and sit for hours, but that's very unusual for an airline, especially SWA. But I'm sure as I can be that the pilots (the ones I know) aren't hanging around in the cockpit during a two hour turn. They are running to get a burrito at Moe's and running to their next gate for their next flight. Also, I doubt the PIC was "clueless" to what an oil sight gauge is for. We know what that is (and when it can be read accurately).

    What the F does "looked down the static ports" mean?

    This whole things reminds me of the "hero GA pilot" story a buddy of mine told me. A good friend of mine flew A319/320/321s. I can't remember what model he was flying that leg, but whichever one it was, they were able to takeoff with slats extended, but trailing edge flaps retracted. Well, they were departing with slats out/flaps up. They gave the ding and "flight attendants be seated for departure" call. They then got a call from the back, with one of the FAs telling them they have a passenger standing up, making a commotion. Apparently this guy sitting over the wing was a pilot and he just knew that airliners needed flaps for takeoff, and therefore the pilots must have forgotten to extend the flaps and he was telling everyone around him that would listen that they were all going to die since the flaps weren't out. Up front they were debating about just extending the flaps, re-running the takeoff data with flaps extended and departing. But then this guys would forever be telling the story of how he "saved" the flight and all the passengers because of his "eagle eye" and the fact that he was a "pilot." In the end, I think the Captain told the FO (my buddy) to don his hat and go back there and set the passenger straight.

    I do appreciate the value of CRM and teamwork, but just realize that you may not know everything there is about every corner of aviation just because you know you own little corner.

    Shoot... that's why I'm on here. I realize that even though I started flying in GA when I was in high school and cut my teeth on GA flying, the majority of my career has been military and airline flying, and I came here because I think there are many things that the posters here who are much more well-versed in GA flying can teach me. I don't know what I don't know, but I'm willing to learn.

    Sorry if this post got sloppy toward the end... I'm already on my second whiskey and it's time for bed. And if you're curious, it's Michter's Small Batch American Whiskey, and it's delicious.

    P.S. I snapshotted your post and sent it to my SWA Captain buddies and get their take on it. I'll report back with their airline specific thoughts.[/QUOTE]
     
  19. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I have edited my post for accuracy.
     
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  20. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    As a member of the GA crowd who has been reading his posts for quite a while, and I don't get that impression.
     
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  21. dtuuri

    dtuuri En-Route

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    Like this panel is too far? I actually agree, but I'm responding to all the over-the-top criticism.

    737 oil door.JPG
     
  22. dtuuri

    dtuuri En-Route

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    strangebird was quoting Sluggo and didn't use quote brackets.
     
  23. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I know. That's why I only quoted the part that strangebird apparently wrote.
     
  24. dtuuri

    dtuuri En-Route

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    Sorry, carry on. :)
     
  25. Albany Tom

    Albany Tom Pattern Altitude

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    A friend I knew from high school used to work at a specialty steel company outside of Pittsburgh. It was a union shop. He told me a story of needing to move a small motor from one side of the shop to another. He needed to get the laborer to clean it, then the mechanic to disconnect it, then an electrician to disconnect it, then another laborer to move it, the reverse the process. He was an engineer, so he just did all that himself, and almost got fired over the fallout.

    But that's a steel mill, my friend was an engineer, and the entire shop was firmly on the ground with no members of the general public around.

    As a GA pilot and a fairly independent person I don't like paperwork, I like flexibility, and I'm not a fan of too much structure. But.... If you're running a f*&ng airline, doing the same thing the same way every time, with everyone staying in their swim lanes saves lives and keeps things running. Process and procedure is the very thing that makes things run smoothly. Yes, once in a while doing something weird and different can prevent something bad from happening. People focus on those exceptions. But most of the time, doing something weird is doing something wrong and it increases the chances of something bad happening. Weird and different aren't good things when you're flying an aluminum tube filled with kerosene at half the speed of a pistol bullet.

    I completely believe that there are a lot of goofy things happening every day in the airlines. But I also know that the safety record of part 121 in the US is incredibly good. Jumping into a system that works pretty well, arms waving, might make things better. But usually not.
     
  26. Busflyer

    Busflyer Pre-takeoff checklist

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    We had a pilot that noticed a latch was open on a panel. Simply closed the latch. FAA got involved because we are not “trained” as a pilot to close these latches. It’s a maintenance function. Can’t remember just how far the FAA took it but they were not happy, he may have been fined.

    Point is, a ramp guy, despite how much 172 time he may have, is not qualified to check the oil. Reading through the many replies about how open fuel panels affect other systems or how inaccurate the sight glass is after a specific amount of time makes me remember the saying “you don’t know what you don’t know”.
     
  27. bflynn

    bflynn Final Approach

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    Bu that isn't what the management was upset about. They were upset because an airplane was delayed. Their concern wasn't safety, it was a money. The mechanic was calm.

    I'm sure there are multiple sides to the story.
     
  28. Larry in TN

    Larry in TN En-Route

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    We only know what the OP told us.

    The site glass isn't how we determine if the airplane is safe for flight. That is done from the indication in the cockpit. The site glass is used by maintenance and is accurate only when specific conditions are met. If the oil was low, the pilots would have seen that in the cockpit during their setup and would have called maintenance to fix it. The delay came when the well-intentioned ramper went outside of his training and opened the door and reported what he thought was a low indication. At that point, maintenance had to be called to check and secure the access door and ensure that everything was alright. Management is upset about the unnecessary delay and the ramper going outside of his training, no matter how well-intentioned, which could have caused problems that may not be detected prior to flight.
     
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  29. unsafervguy

    unsafervguy Pattern Altitude

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    Exactly what panels a ramper is qualified to open and close varies by airline and station. Every aircraft gets a security check at certain intervals. That external check required opening certain panels and looking inside and closing them. Who does that varies by station. It may be maintenance, rampers, even ticket personnel. He bottom line is, they are trained to do it, qualified to do it and it’s documented. So at a smaller station a ramper may be qualified to open and close a fuel panel, but not qualified to touch anything in side it. So if it’s left open the fueler or a mechanic is called to make sure everything is set where it should be. At my former airline in the turbo prop days us pilots were trained to fuel the plane so we could oversee fuelers at foreign outstations. That went away when we went to regional jets.
     
  30. Rgbeard

    Rgbeard En-Route

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    I'm expecting @rpayne88 to take down his post almost any time now.

    I'm certain by now that the bosses at SWA know of this thread.
     
  31. SkyDog58

    SkyDog58 Ejection Handle Pulled

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    I wonder if glory boy ramp dude or many on here even know how many oil sight glasses are under the typical cowling on a transport jet such as the 737. I further wonder if they would know that due to the way the engines are mounted that what is full or empty on the RH engine is not the same as on the LH engine. I also wonder how many know that due to discoloration of the sight glass and the color of the oil that it can be difficult to see the level well. Such knowledge is why the unknowing should stay out of things they know nothing about.
     
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  32. SkyDog58

    SkyDog58 Ejection Handle Pulled

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    They do.
     
  33. Bob Noel

    Bob Noel Touchdown! Greaser!

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    and it will never stop...
     
  34. Mxfarm

    Mxfarm Line Up and Wait

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  35. Spacedoc

    Spacedoc Pre-Flight

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    C’mon people, give the guy a break. It’s not like he taped an envelope to a prop!
     
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  36. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Or stood on a pitot tube! ;)
     
  37. SkyDog58

    SkyDog58 Ejection Handle Pulled

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    To add some additional thoughts to the general concept of people such as ramp rats overreacting and overreaching, here are just a few examples from my time as a 121 mechanic and maintenance controller.

    I have had a bag tosser tell the pilots that they could not fly because of a dent by the cargo door. A dent that was previously documented, measured and found within limits, and placed on the scratch and dent program. The ramper not knowing the status of the dent is understandable but telling the pilots that they couldn’t go was over the top.

    I have had a ramp agent run into the line shack screaming about a missing part on a plane that was about to depart. The part was a flap fairing that had been removed and documented per the CDL. The mechanics, MOC, dispatch, and the flight crew were all already aware of this. Before coming to mx the agent had told the crew to hold departure because she needed mx to look at a broken part but did not provide details to the crew.

    On more than one occasion I’ve had rampers say that a tire was worn out when mx had already seen it and determined it was within limits per the AMM.

    I’ve also had reports of wing tank fuel leaks which were mere weeps that were way within limits and which mx had already seen.

    And don’t get me started on people including pax freaking out over speed tape.

    These and many more are the sort of headaches that “well meaning” but untrained, uneducated, uninformed people cause. And in my experience, most of the people behind these events were folks who felt they were underemployed or unappreciated.

    Very little gets past flight crew or mechanics only to be caught by the untrained eye, especially airworthiness issues and grounding items.
     
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  38. kgruber

    kgruber En-Route

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    When I was flying 135, every once in a while a passenger would walk around the airplane. I always walked around again. In fact, I ALWAYS did a quick walk around one more time just before boarding.
     
  39. Sluggo63

    Sluggo63 Pattern Altitude

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    Thanks for the critique. I mean that honestly. I'm sorry that it sounded like I was bragging.

    I'm also sorry I gave you that impression about the GA crowd, but you're incorrect. I'd say anyone on this board whether a professional pilot, a military pilot or something else is here because they embrace GA. If I just wanted to surround myself with airline guys and gals, I'd go over to APC. I've been flying GA since high school. In fact tomorrow marks the 36th anniversary of my first solo flight. I've flown GA through my entire military and 121 career and now continue to fly in my own (finally) airplane.

    I went back and read through the post you took exception to, and I stand by every word. Maybe the tone was too "flame throwing," but I was astonished at how many people were commending OP. Like the rest of the 121 guys on here (and most others), I think what the OP did was wrong, and probably should be brought to his attention. He came here looking for confirmation on what he did was right, and I'm sorry, but I can't support that, for many reasons.

    The bottom line is, the rampers at SWA are trained to walk around the aircraft and look for "big ticket" no-go items. What they're not trained to do is assess engine fluid levels, and (incorrectly) make "safety of flight" determinations based on their little/no knowledge of what they are look at or looking for.

    Like others on here, I applaud the OP for wanted to be involved and embracing aviation. Maybe next time he'll ask a mechanic or FO to allow him to shadow them while they do a walk around and he can learn. But even if he does that, he shouldn't be taking it upon himself to do things that he's not trained to do.
     
  40. Sluggo63

    Sluggo63 Pattern Altitude

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    Ok. I have three very good friends who fly for the OP's airline. All Captains (with one being a check airman). Here's their thoughts on the OP's post.

    Most of the times it’s good intentions, but I’ve had a few instances of guys causing me to call contract MX just to cover my ***.

    And a ramper should never be opening panels. Period

    Several holes in his story in my opinion. I don’t think the acft was in an unsafe condition with oil not in sight gauge. We have an oil quantity gauge on the engine instrument panel. It is only accurate within 30 min after shutdown so when did he look at the gauge. We also have a procedure to check the oil after engine shut down snd if acft is going to sit we have to write it in the logbook. So to say the PIC is clueless about opening the panel snd checking the oil makes him clueless is a little strong…it’s not procedurally required because that oil quantity is checked by mx on the overnight, logged by crews and checked after every flight using the gauge. We do have annunciations for low oil pressure snd high oil temp.

    Our min to depart a mx location is 70% and an out station is 65%. Those are low numbers. I don’t think the sight gauge is a valid way to check oil quantity once engine has cooled for a bit.

    And I doubt the engine and acft were unsafe. We also procedurally supposed to check oil quantity after eng start…so if it was truly low it would’ve been caught…but I doubt it was an unsafe condition!​

    Yeah, I met this guy! Or his twin in Midland. Caused me a four hour delay. First, in this case, when you shut down the engines and run your Parking Checklist, “Oil Quantity” is checked. Must be checked within 30 min of shut down. Nowhere in our manual does direct you to open any service panels, except the Ground Service Panel to ensure the wheel well light switch is in “normal”.
    It's funny you bring up this issue, because one of my buds used this personal example.

    Now to Midland... Most of these guys mean well and I treat them with respect and say thanks we are good. In Midland, as a new Captain, I ran into this situation at push time. “Capt, ramp, you have a fuel leak." "Ok bring back the jet bridge and I’ll check.” So I go down and check. On the right, fwd wing root fairing, there was moisture, not a drip or drop, but moisture, that upon examination, smelled like “bilge”, oil, water, fuel and whatever other **** accumulated there over 23 years. (B737-300).

    So I say, “good catch but we are good per our manual and because there is no leak as defined in our manual, it is like the bilge in a old boat”. He tells me it’s a leak and he will write it up. So I call chief and say, I’m calling Contract MX to be the tie breaker. 1 hour later Mx shows, looks at it and says you're good to go but per the manual he has a 2 hour checklist to run. After three hours, deplaning, pulling jet off gate, and Mx inspection. Mx signs off jet and we are good to go! Wooohoooo! Let’s push. “Ramp-Cockpit, Brakes released cleared to push" ... "Cockpit-Ground, you still have a fuel leak…” I push anyways, he calls it in. And the fun just started.

    My four hour delay caused a TX representative miss his connection to DCA and was raising hell. So I end up talking to HQ why I delayed the aircraft! It was fun!​
     
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