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Visiting the Hangar Safely

There are many opportunities to become immersed in general aviation whether you are learning to fly, working with students or simply a dedicated enthusiast. The excitement around the airport first comes from seeing the aircraft up close then perhaps going for a ride or a flight lesson. Once you become familiar with the aircraft and its flight characteristics as a trained pilot, it seems only natural to become interested in the aircraft systems and design as the next step. The Brantford Flying Club is fortunate to have its own maintenance hangar operating as a certified aircraft shop known as an Approved Maintenance Organization (or AMO for short). This regulatory designation verifies that the shop is a controlled environment with an internal quality system to ensure good safety habits and continued compliance with the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs). This AMO designation also permits the Club to maintain commercially registered aircraft like those used here for flight training or charter.

As staff and visitors become more interested in the deeper aspects of the aircraft and its systems, the hangar becomes the ideal environment to find more detailed information. There are usually various types of aircraft parked in the hangar at any given time, and a new level of familiarization can be attained by simply looking at the engine with the cowls removed or learning about airframe parts and components being replaced or serviced. The maintenance staff are the experts on the aircraft structure, systems, engine and the many maintenance requirements. The staff are approachable and often willing to take the time to answer your questions or curiosities. Most visitors end up leaving the hangar with a little more aviation knowledge than they brought in with them. In some cases though, the hangar is mistakenly considered to be “off limits” to outsiders but the opposite is actually true provided that certain safety protocols are considered when planning your visit.

The AMO (and essentially the hangar building) is supervised under the authority of the Maintenance Manager, which is a term given to the regulatory designation of PRM (Person Responsible for Maintenance) when that person concurrently oversees the maintenance activities of the AMO and the maintenance scheduling of flight operations for the FTU and AOC. Basically, the Maintenance Manager is responsible for all AMO/hangar activity and should be the first point of contact for anyone wanting to visit the shop during work hours or otherwise.

It is always best to call or email ahead of time (like making an appointment) so that the Maintenance Manager can plan to set aside some time for you. Random visits can also work out as well but keep in mind that the maintenance technicians could be engaged in their work and may not have time for distractions. That’s not to say that you are a distraction, but there are always human factor implications with spontaneous visits depending on staff engagement with the work at hand. This is the same reason that we prefer to not have owner-assisted maintenance activity in the AMO as it takes more energy and focus to guide others on the work being done and sets the technicians up for frequent distractions. Maintenance people actually enjoy talking about their craft just as much as pilots enjoy talking about their flying experiences. It’s all about empowering each other with the knowledge to become better aviators and to appreciate our specific skills.

It is also in your best interest to mentally prepare yourself before entering the hangar so that you will be aware of the various obstacles not common to other work environments. Aircraft are often parked in close proximity to each other which presents a risk of accidentally bumping into wings and tail feathers in many different directions…and it does occasionally happen – especially if you are wearing a baseball style cap for some reason. The peak design tends to block some of your peripheral awareness. Aircraft may also be supported by jacks which makes their position even more precarious if bumped. There could be randomly placed extension cords and air hoses draped across the floor in various directions which may pose a tripping hazard. Maintenance people deal with these obstacles every day and are used to the way things are, but others may simply be less aware and more at-risk of incident or injury.

There are always aircraft and/or their components in various states of repair with parts and hardware laid out for organizing and/or assessment. Please do not touch any of these bits and pieces as all items must remain accounted for. Even if they can be easily replaced, each technician is always accountable for the whereabouts of each removed part. Some of these items may also be extremely difficult to replace depending on availability and then add any lost production time and so on. Tools are another concern when exploring an aircraft hangar. There are not only the typical technician hand tools in use, but also different types of heavy or specialized equipment costing thousands of dollars. These tools are never to be handled just for fun or to simply check them out. All tooling or equipment in the hangar are to be handled by trained personnel only. Even a calibrated torque wrench accidentally dropped onto the floor or bench must be withdrawn from service and sent out to a specialized facility for inspection and re-calibration. This all costs time and money.

Most functioning AMOs take pride in the upkeep and organization of their shop which requires daily attention to remain somewhat clean and tidy. The average working day still presents us with various risks causing us to remain vigilant until the day is done. It may be possible to randomly encounter an inconspicuous bit of oil or grease on the floor which could become the cause of a sudden slip resulting in serious injury. Now that’s no way to treat a guest so we all must be careful where we walk and always remember to proceed cautiously. Some other absolute no-no’s for the hangar include running around or chasing others, throwing things, climbing on ladders or aircraft, or reckless horseplay of any kind. The hangar is not only a place of business but the type of work being performed is critical to aviation safety at every stage.

All workplaces are bound to the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations which serve to protect both the employer and employees from harm within their specific work environment. Every person regularly working in that environment has been trained and has become increasingly aware of all the known hazards. Visitors have not necessarily had the same advantage of knowing the potential risks that they are walking into. For example, a worker may be performing a task which requires the use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) in the form safety glasses, chemical resistant gloves or even a proper respirator. Visitors must be sure to avoid casual contact with the work being done unless appropriately protected with PPE and given permission to closely observe any form of dangerous work. The workplace is required to provide the necessary controls for employees such as PPE, warning signs, verbal reminders and first aid measures. So there is a lot of responsibility on the workplace itself when visitors are merely present in this type of specialized work environment. So these are more good reasons that the work area is largely off-limits unless special permission is given beforehand.

Aircraft owners who have their aircraft being maintained in the shop are usually in contact with the Maintenance Manager and an appointment is usually made for them to come in and review the work being completed. So, the most ideal situation for hangar visitors is controlled through appointments and an acute awareness of the aforementioned safety concerns once on site. General aviation hangars have traditionally been fairly loose with people dropping in with questions or whatever, but times are changing as we all become more aware of the risks involved. Think of this controlled environment as being very similar to having your car serviced. It’s not too likely that you are permitted to just stroll into the repair shop at a dealership or Canadian Tire to chat and see what’s happening. You would instead be asking for the Service Manager in order to to get an update on the work. This is definitely the preferred way to operate – there are too many risks involved in a shop environment; compressed air, too many tools and hazardous products require that the technicians work most efficiently with less distractions. It’s as simple as that.

Guests and visitors are permitted to take photographs of aircraft and their components primarily for training purposes or personal use provided that those aircraft or components are not identified by the aircraft registration or similar identifying feature. This is simply to honor the confidentiality that we have established with aircraft owners concerning their personal property. The hangar is nevertheless a great place to learn more about the aircraft. Students in the BFC private ground school are provided the opportunity to get up close and personal with the aircraft in the hangar and relate the book theory (and some Q&A) with an AME (Aircraft Maintenance Engineer). This after-hours hangar experience often helps to answer some of the questions that students (and even Flight Instructors) have had about thee aircraft systems and maintenance schedules. This surely enhances the learning experience and conveniently dovetails a more complete understanding of the machine experience together with the flying experience.

We certainly hope that those interested in learning more about visiting the hangar (for whatever reason), would feel free to contact the Maintenance Manager, Steve Hume on the main phone line for Brantford Flying Club. General aviation tends to become a full experience for many who are passionate about small aircraft and the likeminded aviation community. This industry brings much fun and adventure but first and foremost, flying is a safety sensitive activity that must continually be respected.

See below for introductions to our hangar management team who strive to remain engaged with Club members, students and staff in all matters of aircraft maintenance and technical dispatch procedures. These guys are also available for consultation with members who are interested in purchasing aircraft, looking for regular maintenance and/or annual inspections, AD compliance, Bulletins or general aircraft information. The Club has a growing team of appropriately trained and dedicated technicians who have experience on various maintenance functions and aircraft types.

LEFT – Brantford Flying Club’s Maintenance Manager, Steve Hume has been interested in aviation since he was quite young by admiring anything that flew over wherever he happened to be. Steve’s background includes ramp and dispatch duties, pilot license and AME license (rated in both M1 and M2 categories). Steve has extensive experience in general aviation, flight training units, classic warbird restoration, corporate aviation, airlines and manufacturing. Steve joined the BFC team in April of this year and has impacted our operation through his proven technical and management experience.

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