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Mechanics Andy O'Dwyer and Yuspiter Yambung work on the rotor

Watching the Paint Dry

What it Takes to Keep Them Flying

When you get on a plane, do you have the jitters, wondering if the aircraft is totally safe and airworthy?  if the mechanics were careful?  whether they overlooked any problems? 

You want to feel safe.  So do the missionaries.  And the NTM Aviation mechanics do everything they can to make sure that every plane and helicopter is in tip top shape at all times.  

Last November pilot/mechanic Steffan Pyle found that a helicopter rotor blade had started to de-bond.  “In other words, there is material on the surface of the tip that is starting to come up,” wrote Steffan.  “Granted, it’s not a lot, but enough to ground the helicopter until it can be repaired.”  

Steffan could take no chances on rotor failure — and though he hated to inconvenience the missionaries, he had to cancel flights until further notice.  

This was not going to be a quick fix.  Chief mechanic specialist Andy O’Dwyer had to hire a highly-trained repair technician  — whom he finally located in the country of Dubai.  Then he needed to order a specific type of paint and sealant — hazardous substances that could not be shipped by air cargo.  They would take a month — by boat!  Then add in more delay — for the technician’s vacation! 

Eventually, the technician finished the tedious work.  But then the NTM Aviation mechanics needed to paint the rotor.  Not just for looks, either. “The paint protects the blade and the repair from weather as well as wear and tear,”  says Andy.  

Once painted, the rotor needed seven days to dry.  “Ordinarily, ‘watching the paint dry’ is not a positive thing,” said Andy.  But in this case, it was very necessary.  “If we don’t allow enough time for that to happen, then the paint will peel off when we try to fly the helicopter.”  

Well, the paint did dry.  Then came the exacting work of balancing the rotor.  Finally on March 7, the helicopter was back in service, supplying missionary teams in out-of-the-way corners of Asia Pacific, making up for many missed flights.

Tags: Asia-Pacific region, Aviation, Helicopter
POSTED ON Apr 07, 2016