This ain't rocket science

  • Published
  • By Col. Thomas Fitch
  • 28th Maintenance Group commander
I have a friend and mentor who retired a few years ago, and his favorite expression when facing a difficult aircraft maintenance problem was, "This ain't rocket science." Far from belittling the complex and, at times, frustrating job of maintaining modern jets, he was reminding people that when we run into a difficult problem, the best course of action is to go back to the basics.

For maintainers, that means getting into a technical order and painstakingly troubleshooting until we find the problem. We don't make things up as we go, or make things more complicated than they need to be. By taking a measured, disciplined approach to a seemingly daunting problem, we make steady progress and fix it right the first time.

In aircraft maintenance, there will seldom be a time we encounter a problem that has never been seen before. Our technical orders, job guides and instructions will almost always get us to a safe solution, as long as we have the patience and discipline to use them.

This simple approach applies off the flight line as well. Whether the issue is personal finances, relationships with family, peers, supervisors or just planning a vacation, if we take the time to think before we act and speak, we will succeed.

While I'm not suggesting life has a technical order library exactly like a B-1 does, I am saying there will seldom be a situation that someone hasn't seen or experienced before. I think the key is for each of us to have the self discipline to realize we may need some help to solve a problem and seek information which helps us make a good decision.

Where we go for help and advice will depend on the issue at hand and our individual makeups. Good advice and information can come from many sources; however, television talk shows, radio call-in shows and internet blogs are not the best place to start. You shouldn't seek business advice from someone who has never succeeded, or marriage counseling from someone who's been divorced multiple times. Instead seek out someone who may have successfully navigated the challenge you are facing and see what you can learn.

The importance of the decision you are making should help guide you in determining how many sources you should consider in the process. Where to get a good meal in a new town probably doesn't require a cross check, but where, how and when to buy a home probably is something worth asking from several sources.

Finally, most folks will seldom face a decision of significance that must be made immediately. If a life is at stake, make the call and live with it. Otherwise, take the time to think it through, get advice and sleep on it if you can. A decision made unnecessarily in the heat of the moment, or in the middle of the night, will almost never be a good one; the consequences can range from minor to catastrophic, so take the time to make a thoughtful decision that you won't have to revisit the next day.

We've all made decisions in our personal and professional lives we'd like to correct, but if it turns out you made the wrong call, step up, figure it out and press on. That's what men and women of integrity do.