"I'm an >Job/Title/Etc< I know what I'm doing!" Stories

RanulfC

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Mods: Remove, move or whatever if required but... :)

Over in the "737 Max, New Only" thread Steelpillow and I were getting a bit off-topic so Starviking suggested I put a thread up on the Bar.

I'd originally called it "Engineer Stories" but as steelpillow's story concerned his "Boss" and let's face it the REAL topic is people who believe they are so 'smart' they often do 'dumb' things to prove it :)

So in context we'd gotten on the subject of birds in hangers and I'd pointed out that during my time as a radar electronics maintainer for the E3 Sentry AWACS that we had a rather disturbing trend of someone, (on average about once a month or so) during the "depot" (break it down to almost the frame, inspect it, put it back together and let someone fly it :) ) maintenance cycle on an airframe would forget to turn a certain lever from 'radiate' to 'load' with predictiable and annoying results. (The switch is on the main waveguide so 'radiate' as one would assume sends the energy up to the rotodome and out into space while 'load' sends the energy into a dead-end absorber block. (Which as steelpillow notes is a water-cooled 50 ohm rather tough block of material that absorbes microwaves)

This 'oops' would result in several blown lights in the cealing of the hanger, if we were lucky only one or two fried loudspeakers and hundreds of 'fried' pigeons that depending on how far they were from the dome were hard as rocks or mushy bags. You'd also find rats, bats and the occasional squirrel as well and I know this because we'd have to stop what we were doing and clean up all the bodies before we could continue work. And lord-n-lady help you if there had been any panels on the aircraft OPEN when this happened :)

But see, that's not really a story for this thread, but...

First: TLDR: "Expert" who swears he knows more than us lowly 'techs' proceeds to almost eletrocute himself AND destroy a mutli-million dollar radar system.

One of the things that was rather unique at Tinker was that the AWACS being a rather 'new' system at the time involved, (I was there from 1987 to early 1992) there was a dedicated "engineers/planners/designers" office with both civil and military people who'd worked with the contractors and manufacturers to design and build the radar system and fit it into the airframe.
(Note: They got it INTO the airframe but there's more 'stories' about what tortures you had to endure to actually work on the system. Maybe someday)

Anyway these folks were supposed to be 'experts' on the system and we were supposed to go to them any time we had a serious problem with the system. And we were having one. There is a phenomonon that can happen in large high power transformers, (ours was about 4ft in diameter and about 5 and half feet tall) where you get an arc inside the transformer during power up. We called them 'crowbars' mostly because reporting that sounded way better than "sounded like something blew up"...

And we'd been having constant crowbars since we'd installed a new transformer three days ealier. And we were on our third new transformer by this time. (we'd replace the original once it began to crowbar as a 'shotgun-maintenance' procedure and had to replace the second when it showed damage from the constant arcing) and so we sought the help of the engineering office.

Most of these guys are nice and friendly but a few...

Our lucky draw was one of them who was VERY aware that most of the "techs" had only a high school or low-level collage education. Whereas HE had a engineering degree with (IIRC) a minor in physics and even though he had only graduated about two years ago and only worked here a few months he was SURE he knew the system better than anyone else. (I'm rather sure you all know the type :) )

Anyway we get back out to the plane and begin a power up sequence. Crowbar a the same point. Get out of the operators seat because we're obviously doing it wrong and he takes over. Crowbar. It's an input power problem, so we get new generators and set them up. (I understand Tinker now has central power and cables, what wimps :) ) Crowbar. It's a temperature regulation problem, so new AC unit, setup and a 6 hour 'soak' of the system. (He went home, I and everyone else were pulling 12 hours shifts due to this being a priority. But we couldn't power up the system till he came back and so we had to wait till he came in the next day) Crowbar.

Finally we convince him that we need to actually troubleshoot the power input and output system and we all move 'downstairs' to the aft-lower lobe. (This is normally a cargo/luggage bay for the 707, on the AWACS it's stuffed with the radar power and conditioning systems as well as the tubes) That is two people, (him and our supervisor) work on the transformer cables, two of us are 'nearby' passing and controlling tools and two are heads-down in the 'floor' hatch holding flood lights because the overhead lights are blocked by all the equipment and bodies.

The 'expert' proceeds to cut the safety wire on the main power cable, there are two of these, both about 4 inches across, one input and one output, can you guess which one he disconneced and laid on the metal framework of the airplane? Our supervisor told him when he cut the safety wire he had the wrong one, he ignored him. One of the techs holding the lights told him he had the wrong one when he began to unscrew the cable, he snorted and dismissed that claim. He sets the cable down on the metal ribs of the airframe and begins to set up a test set to measure 'input' power flow and my supervisor who has come along, (and btw has a couple of collage degrees and working on his third at the time) tells him that he has the wrong cable, he turns and with a serious look proclaims his education, knowledge and "obvious" superior capabilities over a "bunch of high school grads who had to join the military rather than get a real job."

I will always be proud of the folks have worked with in the military, none moreso than the group in that compartment at that moment as we all, to a one simply smiled and nodded as he proceeded to tell us to 'fire it up' and he'd monitor the test set. There were several things we COULD have done that would have ended VERY badly for this guy but instead we move the tool boxes and locked them to the airframe, (tool control don't you know) and re-arranged the other parts we'd removed so we could all move upstairs to perform the power up sequence. This left him squatting, (you have three positions in the lower lobe: on your back/belly, squatting or kneeling there's no room for anything else) on the most insulated and 'safest' spot for what we knew was coming.

Power up, power steady, enter execute command and as my supervisor hit the 'commit' key we were all looking at the floor hatch to the lower lobe as it lit up with flashes and bangs and a single faint scream of "Turn it off! Turn it off!, Oh my God Turn it OFF!" which we did. See he hadn't removed the input power cable which has a specialized 'holder' that can be used to do what he was planning on doing, instead he'd removed the output cable, which does not have such a holder and can't be used to measure the input power, but will DAMN sure arc to any conductive surface around it with the power levels we're working with.

He proceeded to exit the aircraft and we proceeded to begin the process of removing this transformer, (too many crowbars) and inspect the input/output cables, (they were actually fine though there was one rib on the floor that had some arcing damage so we called for a repair crew for that, it was fine) and waited for the new transformer to arrive. It did and once installed and soaked we powered it up and got another crowbar, but only one. So we ran the system for 12 hours off and on, in all modes and it ran fine. Never DID figure out why it happened so often with every other transformer we put into that aircraft, but that one transformer never gave us any problems for over two years before a coolent line replacment job manged to damage the control box and we had to replace it.

Don't know if it was that experiance or the fact my bosses-boss went to his bosses-boss and reminded them who they really worked for and with but after that this guy was a lot easier to work around :)

Randy
 

GARGEAN

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Indeed. Tho sometimes it was opposite to absurd. Like where you've been told by some internet warrior that you have absolutely no idea about work of specific type of aircraft weaponry right in the moment you were sitting in cafeteria of facility which main aim is development of that exact type of weaponry...
 

RanulfC

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Indeed. Tho sometimes it was opposite to absurd. Like where you've been told by some internet warrior that you have absolutely no idea about work of specific type of aircraft weaponry right in the moment you were sitting in cafeteria of facility which main aim is development of that exact type of weaponry...

Really? I would think that would NEVER happen, I mean it's like being told you know nothing about munitions, (despite it being your prior career field or did you not notice all the "AMMO!" displays around the room?) because you're 'just' a radar tech :)

I very much agree that it can go either way... And it usually does and they are both usually JUST as funny :)

Hmmm, which way would we classify having a microwave oven repair person who told me and my friend that there was no possible way to repair the non-working "Amana Radar Range" oven we had? Being 'radar techs' we of course did just that in short order :) Here's to 'old' technology I guess :)

Randy
 

RanulfC

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Hello!
Sorry for off-topic. Couldn't resists to place it here :cool:
SLEDGE HAMMER Trust me I know what I'm doing

Hmmm, not really that far 'off-topic' as noted above :)

Knowing 'too much' can be fun too. For example I was at the time a conventional weapons technician, but one of our 'duties' being on a base with, er... "non-conventional weapons" shall we say, was to move them around, escort them and some other more mundane tasks. One of which is maintaining a system that ensures if 'we' can't have them no one can. So I happened to be in an igloo with some higher ups and got curious and asked:

"Well since these work like "this" and this does "this" why doesn't "this" happen?

Several officers and higher NCO's turn to me with rather surprised looks as they are well aware that the Air Force had not taught me that so the obvious questions were asked...

The answer? My grades school had been in a less effluant part of my county and couldn't afford modern encyclopedias. In fact the set they had dated from the mid-50s, including a really detailed section on how atomic weapons worked. Thus was instigated my THIRD security check in less than four years, which oddly enough resulted in my clearance going up... Again.

Randy
 

DWG

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A friend used to work in the IT department of a major insurer. One summer one of the senior managers arranged for their teenage son to do a few weeks as an intern.

Sonny arrives on the Monday morning and it's immediately obvious that 1) he really, really doesn't want to be there, and 2) he's an ungrateful, entitled pain in the backside. But they're stuck with him. So they start with the tour, including the server room.

Tour guide points out the big red push switch on the wall. "That's the emergency fire extinguishing system, push that and it floods the entire room with a fire retardant*. It takes days to clean up the mess afterwards, so be very careful not to accidentally brush against it."

Sonny doesn't brush against it. He quite deliberately leans over and pushes the button.

Possibly the shortest internship ever.

* I presume it wasn't a Halon system given the description of the mess (though it was long enough ago it could have been).
 

RanulfC

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* I presume it wasn't a Halon system given the description of the mess (though it was long enough ago it could have been).

Likely foam rather than Halon which would 'fill' the room with gas which is pretty easy to clean up... The bodies if you don't get out fast enough not so much but ... :)

Randy
 

RanulfC

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When experts argue!

During my technical training for my 'second' Air Force career, (first was Munitions Systems Tech or how to build bombs and missiles for fun and ... well it's a government job so we'll just go with fun) as an Airborne Warning and Control Systems Radar Maintenance Technician after our first six weeks of 'basic electronics' we were sent to another section of the base for our advanced (AWACS specific) training. Whereas my early class had been all USAF personnel in this class I was the only US 'tech' in the class. The only two other American's were airborne operators who were going to forget all this stuff the second they got out of class. The rest of the class consisted of a German "Lt" (they're so cute when they're that young and squeaky :) ) and a 30+ year Dutch "Chief-Master-Sgt" equivalent who had worked radar all his career.

Our instructor was actually a retired radar engineer who'd had a hand in designing the AWACS radar and had been enticed out of retirement to do this job.

For those who don't know how the setup is it goes somewhat like this:
You have sections of instruction, usually a week or so per section with what is known as a "block" test at the end where you are tested on the information you were taught in that block. Daily your class is about 6 hours with an hour lunch and a 10 minute 'break' between one hour long classes. Well that's the way it is SUPPOSED to work at any rate.

But since the instructor is 'teaching' only the very basics of the system, (in the US military you get more 'advanced' training by correspondence course and on-the-job training once you are in the field) he tended to try and 'simplify' the process' and operations. This did NOT sit well with our 30+ year man at all...

Hence my typical "hour" was spent getting 15 minutes of 'basic' education then 15 minutes of in-depth and often VERY advanced information as the instructor and the Dutch NCO argued specifics of how and why radar operates and how and why the signal is processed before, in desperation/frustration the instructor would point to the rest of the class, (specifically me and the other two American's) and say "But THEY don't need to know that!" And we'd go back to learning the official stuff for another 15 minutes before the NEXT point of contention cropped up.

While this all made the 'block' tests more difficult that they likely should have been, (the last day of each 'block' was spent essentially teaching us the 'test' itself with lots of dirty looks and shushing motions towards the NCO in question :) ) I have to say I learned a heck of a lot more about the system and radar in general than I likely would have otherwise.

Randy
 

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