Thursday, March 08, 2007

The "Wilson" Controller

I have been off this week. Away from the grind. It has been a welcomed break. February was a troublesome month. The last week of the month especially. Normally a Flight week is a great way to end the dark month of February, but as luck or as in this case "un luck" would have it, I would get little flying.
During an upgrade of equipment aboard an unfortunate occurrence caused an unrelated yet significant problem, involving toggle switches on the control laptop of the FLIR camera system. It in itself would not have been a major problem, but as maintenance protocol dictates, the unit must return to the manufacturer for repair. This would ground me for the week.
As this unfortunate development happened on the Monday, a decision was made to ship the unit on Tuesday via overnight courier to Portland Oregon, home of FLIR Systems. The idea was to have FLIR fast track the repair and ship it back via overnight on the Wednesday evening courier and we would receive and reinstall on Thursday. A plan that was although not perfect as I am pissed about being grounded, but given that there was no replacement unit that we could swap out, it was at least a working plan and could potentially have me back in the air before the end of the week.
I had offered to physically drive the unit to Portland myself and wait and then drive back, but that was quickly shot down by the higher ups.

I packed the unit for shipment and drove it over to the FedEx Terminal. It would make the flight out I was told and it would be in Portland the next morning. All good I thought.
Being grounded reassigned me to downtown ground operations for the next couple of days. I was to check on the progress of the courier and to touch base with our Engineering department as to it's status with FLIR.
We learned that the package didn't leave Vancouver on Tuesday. There had been some sort of issue with the plane. That delayed things for at least a day. Not a good development for me on a Wednesday. I reminded folks that if I had delivered it myself to FLIR, we would be getting the unit back that very afternoon.
I was assured that we would have the unit back on Friday and to be patient. Anyone who knows me knows patience in not exactly one of my strong points.
Thursday would bring more disappointing news. The package left Vancouver but had been held up in customs in Oakland Ca. and had missed the connection to Portland.
I couldn't believe it. It was like our FLIR controller had become "Wilson" in the movie "Castaway". Our simple little repair job was now lost on some uncharted island with Tom Hanks.

The "Wilson" Controller

Again I reminded folks if I had have driven it myself we would be flying.
At this rate we would be lucky to get the unit back by the middle of the next week. Then a master plan was hatched and you will all like this one,, We would DRIVE down and pick it up as soon as the repair was done. Geeze I wonder why nobody had thought of that.

The package had arrived on Friday AM to the folks at FLIR. Our people were supposed to be in contact with the FLIR folks to let them know I was on my way. The repair would take less than an hour. Going and picking it up would grantee that we would be flight operational upon my return.
I set off in the early hours of Friday. Crossed the border and headed south. My trusty GPS guiding me. After a minor delay at the US border I was agian on my way. I had recieved a phone call from Engineering telling me that the package had infact arrived and that FLIR did know that I was coming and that they would be expecting me around 2 PM.
Delays in Blaine WA (Snow storm) and in Seattle ( traffic) pushed that time back to more like 3, but undaunted I continued.
When I finally arrived at FLIR systems, who pulls up, you guessed it. A FedEx truck.
I expected to grab the controller, sign some papers and head north. Nope.
The folks at FLIR were surprised to see me at their door. I guess the FLIR contact and our Engineering dept had not relayed the message to those that actually do the work on the floor.
Here it was after 3 PM on a Friday and the repair work had not been done and they close at 4. God could this week get any worse I thought.
Now thankfully the maintenance gods were smiling on me and sent me this very helpful and friendly FLIR rep named Melinda. She told me the scoop. She would stickhandle the repair and suggested I go and get some lunch and return in 45 minutes. I did just that. Got gassed up had a bite and when I returned, she had the unit ready for me.
I thanked her for looking after me and then began my journey home, passing several FedEx trucks along the way.
One of the nice suprises along the way back was I saw the Seattle skyline for the first time on a clear night. My god, what a skyline.
I could not save my flight week, but the trip had saved Pete's so I took some solace in that and when I finally pulled the covers over my head that night, I was just glad that this freakin week was over.

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