It isn't easy for someone to admit that they've made a mistake and I'm no exception. In naval aviation maintenance, tool control is paramount and it is one of the most visual and highly stressed maintenance programs. This story is about where, when and how my nightmare started.
On a typical day at sea aboard a U.S. Navy Frigate, my detachment's SH-60B was scheduled for an eight-hour routine flight. As the plane captain, I was tasked to do the final FOD inspection. This inspection routinely is completed before the aircraft is released "safe for flight." Following established procedure, I checked out a flashlight from toolbox-2 (DB-2) and began the inspection.
During this check, I came across a small piece of metal trapped between the mount feet for the hydraulic servos and was unable to dislodge it. I went to PPD-2, an unassigned power-plants toolbox and removed a flexible magnet--my first mistake. After successfully removing the FOD, I secured the hydraulics bay and signed off the inspection as complete. As a final check, my supervisor verified that all tools from DB-2 had been returned. Of course, he didn't know that I had touched PPD-2.
This work was the final check before releasing the aircraft to the flight crew. Not long after the crew had begun their preflight checks, I got an invitation to visit with one of the pilots. He asked me if I had performed the FOD inspection, and I hesitantly acknowledged that I had. I knew that something was amiss and was about to find out what and why.
Like a magician at a magic show, he pulled out the flexible magnet from the hydraulics bay. My heart started pounding so hard I thought it would jump out of my chest. The magnet was found where I inadvertently had left it: atop the flight-control pilot-assist module--my second mistake.
An hour later after my heart stopped pounding, the aircraft launched without further incident. When flight quarters secured, I had a one-way conversation with my maintenance senior...