"There he is…grab him"

topping_cessna_t-37A couple years after I had retired from the Air Force, I took a road trip from California back home to Louisiana. On the way I decided to take a detour in Texas to visit my buddies at my old airbase. I still had a base sticker on my car, so the guard at the gate just waved me through.

The second I set foot into the shop where I worked for 3 years, I saw someone point at me and yell “there he is…grab him!” I said ” hey, wait a minute, I didn’t do anything!” I looked around and the Master Sergeant approached me and explained.

It seems that about 2 years before, I had performed a periodic maintenance on one of the airplanes that was in for periodic maintenance again. As part of this maintenance procedure, the invertors (devices that change 36 VDC to 110 VAC for the instruments) are removed and rebuilt. The invertors are situated in the airplane, a Northrop T-37 jet trainer, in the right front nose compartment side by side, with the cannon plugs (connectors) toward the back.

To do this job, first you install the forward one, connecting the cannon plug then safety wiring it to the frame. Then you install the rear one, connecting the cannon plug, then safety wire that one. There is just enough room to get your hand back there to reach the cannon plugs. All this has to be done blind, because you can’t see back there.

Well, apparently when I tightened the cannon plugs with my left hand (I’m left-handed) I tightened them too tight for anyone else in the shop to loosen them. They were just looking back in the records to see who had put them in, when lo and behold, I show up.

Well, the sergeant took me down to the hanger and tells me to loosen them up. I reach in and loosen them up without a problem. While they were discussing the problem before my arrival, they were contemplating removing the upper skin of the aircraft to access the cannon plugs from the top. This particular panel consists of about 300 rivets.

Afterwards, I went back to the shop and had an enjoyable visit with my former coworkers.

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