Carpet, Continued

I pass on the free food vibe by bringing chocolate for the engineer and apprentices. It looks like technicians are just as fond of free food as pilots. Not too surprising, that. Is there anyone who doesn't like it when you bring them food?

I like doing new things, and laying flooring in an airplane is a new thing for me, but I know if do this poorly in any way I'm going to have to look at it every working day, so the pressure is on. I have the old carpet to use as a template, but the carpet is more flexible, and if I assemble it at a slight wrong angle on the linoleum before I cut it, then my linoleum will be crooked. I measure everything so I can double-check my template. I reassure myself that no matter how bad it is, it won't look worse than the old carpet, so I should just go for it.

Meanwhile the engineer is preparing to install the new electronic tach gauges in the panel. The old panel has a two-in-one gauge: one gauge, two needles. The new system has slightly smaller gauges, but there is one for each engine, so the old hole in the panel has to be covered and new ones made. The engineer has the piece of the panel in a vise and in order to make the right sized opening, he drills small holes all around the perimeter of the big hole required to fit the gauge. It's not an easy job.

For a pilot, it's much easier to confirm that a needle is at the right angle or that two needles are at the same angle than it is to read, interpret and compare digital numbers. Our chief pilot had expressed that concern about digital tachometers, so they show me the new gauges. In addition to the big digital display in the centre of the unit, there is a ring of coloured LEDs around the outside, to simulate the position of the needle. I can see at a glance that the 'needles' match, and are in the green. I ask to confirm that the brightness can be dimmed for night, and they say yes, it will hook into the same control as I use to dim other engine instruments. I approve. Some illuminated aircraft equipment, like my fuel transfer light, doesn't dim at night and it's very annoying.

I find a big straight edge with which to guide my knife as I cut the flooring. There are a couple of places where it abraded the edges instead of making a clean cut, but fortunately those are in an area where there is flashing that screws down over the edges. So far, so good. I roll it up, transfer it to the airplane and roll it out again. Yes! It isn't crooked. It's a bit long in a couple of places, where the carpet could probably be compressed, so I take it out and trim those places, then put it back in. Works. Good. Now for the hard part.

There are a number of small, oddly shaped holes in the carpets for various equipment-attachment fittings to go through. I have to get these in exactly the right places and exactly the right size and shape, or I won't be able to put some of the seats in the plane. I spend a long time fussing about before I plunge the knife in and make the holes. The last part is to put holes in all the places where the carpet was screwed down to the floor. For carpet, you can just stick a screw through without pre-poking a hole, but for this I have to line the holes up with the holes in the floor where the screws go. I get it all rolled down with the holes lined up and it looks great.

Getting all the screws back in is harder than you might think. While I'm sure they were originally all the same size screws in all the same sized holes, something has happened in the intervening years to make them individualistic. I share my theory with the apprentice. "Every screw has its own unique personality. You have to find some place that it wants to go, because if it's not motivated, it won't doa good job. She agrees heartily, but the engineer overhears and opines that he finds a big screwdriver to be a powerful motivational tool. "But maybe that says something about my management style," he adds, glancing around the shop at the apprentices.

Once I tighten the screws on all the fittings, I'm not quite as happy with it. The floor creases a little from the distortion of the fasteners, where the carpet just gave. The PRM says the creases will settle out after it's been in place for a while. He says it looks great, and that he'll have to get me to redo the flooring in another airplane. The maintenance guys and gal laugh at me and tell me that's the peril of doing a good job, but I don't mind. I'm prouder of this than I would have been of two days spent lounging around at the hotel.