In Which Our Heroine Gets To Be All Dieselpunky Wench-With-A-Wrench Mechanic Girl

This weekend I spent helping our volunteer AME (aircraft mechanical engineer), Jim Aitken work on the Cessna 150, C-FLUG that I wrote about previously. There’s a lot of work to be done on the plane, and They’ve already done tons of work so far. It’s not yet legal to take into Class C airspace – we need a mode C transponder (a transponder to make us display with a code on the radar for ATC, and an encoder to transmit our altitude for ATC on their screens).

But they’ve got a radio in there now. One that works properly, and where you can make out what people are saying.

Anyway, they’ve asked us girls to come out and help with the work that needs to be done. There’s tons of jobs that are simple to do, that require an AME to sign off on them, but that we can do the heavy lifting. And things like putting on weather stripping. And jobs that just take two people – one to hold things from one side and one to tighten the nuts.

So I helped with lots of things. Removing and re-installing the compass so it could be painted (bare metal parts reflect the sun in the pilot’s eyes.) Installed a block heater, and a new sensor for the fuel gauge.

The volt meter I did the better part of the hands on installation because it required getting behind the instrument panel, and I’m small and flexible. Jim gave me instructions and I attached things where he told me. There were here-touch-this-wire-to-this-copper-bit-*sparks-fly* moments, but I managed to succeed in not electrocuting myself. It made me think of work, where I walk people through connecting cables in the right ports, and as I looked at all the wires back there going every which way, though my head went the thousand times I’ve had a customer tell me “I don’t know anything about any of these wires.” Only with customers, all the wires mostly only fit in one port, and the ports are labeled, usually with specific colours.

These wires were not colour coded. The ends didn’t fit in ports. The ends didn’t even have terminations…Jim was crimping the terminations on them as we went along connecting them. I have a sense of how data signals work, but I don’t know electricity. I know only enough to not want to mess around with it. I don’t know enough to know what’s safe and what’s not, so I don’t touch it. I will plug in a power cord, and I stop there.

The weird thing was with all of that, I didn’t feel out of my element. It was nice that Jim doesn’t coddle us – he assumes we’re smart people and competent. I’ve always been handy around the house – I grew up with my Dad after all. My Dad built the house I grew up in. He likes inventing machinery to use with his beekeeping, or modifying things made for something else to work for him with the bees. I grew up with him building things, welding new pieces on things according to what he needed, fixing things. I guess I just grew up with him doing so many of the sort of things people hire someone to do, and not assuming one had to be something special to do that. Grew up thinking everybody’s dad could build a house. Just normal stuff for me.

I think that’s why I gravitate toward the dieselpunk subgenre. Not because of any nostalgia for the architecture or fascination with design. It’s just a setting I can imagine clearly. It’s familiar and comfortable for me.

Anyway, I’ve enjoyed it, and look forward to doing it again – I want to see the transponder installed, if I get the chance.

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6 responses to “In Which Our Heroine Gets To Be All Dieselpunky Wench-With-A-Wrench Mechanic Girl

  1. Interesting post and link and pics, Lindsay! We’ve hardly had frost yet in Ireland.

    Your father sounds a bit like mine, who was a builder in the USA and later a farmer here in Ireland, and built us several houses in succession in each country. My Dieselpunk interest was also partly fired by his ‘hands-on’ approach to things. No bees, though he loved New Zealand Manuka honey.

    Best of luck with your wrenching!

    • It’s kind of weird living in Winnipeg now, where everybody seems to be such city slickers (comparatively – I mean, it is still Winnipeg, not NY). Dieselpunk though, seems to not be as trendy as steampunk, and you don’t so much get as many “just glue some gears on it” people, who are into it, and more people who are actually innovative or skilled, which is a lot of fun.

  2. What’s really interesting here is this link between an instinctive ‘builder/engineer’ and a liking for diesel punk. I think Lindasy, at heart you are a builder – maker – inventor kind of person and that gives us an insight in to your writing.

    So when you say

    “The weird thing was with all of that, I didn’t feel out of my element ”

    I’m thinking – what’s weird about that? You’re not out of your element doing this stuff. I think it’s a natural environment for you. Sure. it’s possible that if you had had to do all this mechanic girl stuif say, three years ago, you’d not have enjoyed it so much, but that’s not because you are inherently ill suited to it (because you are) it’s because you might not have had the confidence in yourself then to just get stuck in to the work.

    It’s the justifiable confidence that you have in yourself now that allows the practical person that you are to flourish – which is good news for you and all the female piots who want to get in that Cessna and get in to the skies.

    • I don’t think I’m so much a builder – that always seems like such a lot of work. Like – I could probably build an aeroplane if I wanted to. I know people who have built their own, and who to go to for help. But what I really want to do is fly it, not build it, so it’s a lot of work that might be enjoyable, but at the same time, I wouldn’t be doing what I really want to do.

      I do like to be competent in being able to maintain the plane though, and identify what’s wrong. There’s very strict rules on what qualifies as “elementary work”, that a pilot is allowed to do without it needing to be signed off on by a licenced AME, so the usefulness of that knowledge is a little bit limited, but the understanding is still useful.

      I think the reason it feels weird is because I still feel the pressure from society to conform. When I posted the link to the pictures on facebook, my mother left a comment: “Im glad i dressed you in pink and lace when i had the chance!” It irked me, and I wanted to reply with sarcasm “What’s the matter, am I not the daughter you wanted?”

      • I guess I see you only through the prism of your written work, and your blog posts – so I think:

        “Lindsay? Conform? Nah!!! This person knows her own mind.”

        But I appreciate the pressures are there, they’re on all of us. And then as well – what is society saying these days? I think people much more need to work out who they are themselves and stick with that because there’s such a deluge of strient and coflicting persuasion and pressure and advice and dogma flying around.

        I’m speaking from the other side of the gender divide here as well but if I was female I’m guessing I’d be doing all I could to resist all the crap about: “you’ve got be this size, and your body has to have this shape, and you must buy that, and you must wear this, otherwise you won’t get the job / get the boy / be a success.” All that b****ks.

        As for your mother’s comment; I’m a parent as well, and we parents get helplessly sentimental about our kids, and when we do we say things that don’t come out right, I know I have, so I have some sympathy for your her. Maybe she didn’t say the best thing, but as a parent you don’t sometimes, and all you can do is hope your child can understand, and feels forgiving.

        • Well, I may know my own mind, but that doesn’t stop society from pressuring me. When I say society makes me feel like I should be something I’m not, it’s not all in my head. My mother’s comment wasn’t unique. It was one of thousands, and another example that it’s not just men that do it. Far from it – women are often feel far more free to make those sort of comments because they’re women, and they think they can’t be sexist.

          Which is why it was nice to be around Jim and be treated, as far as I could tell, just the same as he would have treated a guy. It was never awkward or anything. And it’s good to have men like that to show others how it’s done.

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