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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