In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
In The Shop: Absolutely No Breakdowns
Mar 23, 2011
A previous blog mentioned a former air force pilot who rehabilitated a combine to minimize breakdowns. I probably should have explained his efforts were based on his experience in the Air Force, where all the parts on airplanes have designated lifespans. They keep close track of how many hours are on each component, and when that component's lifespan is reached, the component is replaced, whether it is worn out or not.
I was reminded of that policy while reading a magazine for spray plane applicators. One of the stories casually mentioned that, "the life of a typical starter generator is 1,000 hours..." Meaning that every 1,000 hours the starter/generator on that particular spray plane gets replaced whether it needs it or not. Other airframe and engine/drive components have their own designated lifespans, some longer, many shorter.
Imagine what it would cost if you had to replace the starter on your tractor--whether it needed it or not--every time the hourmeter turned over another 1,000 hours. On the other hand, that policy would nearly eliminate breakdowns...
Not to say airplanes don't have mechanical problems. The first time I flew on a commercial jet, my wife thought she was doing a good thing by booking us seats just behind the wing. I spent the entire flight watching the wing flex, watching the flappy gizmos move up and down, allowing me to see the intricate network of hydraulic lines and wiring that kept us 30,000 feet higher than I wanted to be. The longer I sat and looked at all those mechanical gizmos, the more nervous I got. My thinking was that, as a mechanic I spend my days trying my best to keep farm equipment operational. Despite my best efforts, machinery still breaks down. It's a fact of life. That's not a comforting thought, when you're 30,000 feet in the air.