How to fix an airplane?

What is the deal with minor maintenance issues taking forever to deal with lately? In the last two weeks the Home Warrior and I have been on two flights that were delayed significantly because of a simple fix. And I’m not talking, like, cracks in the fuselage. I’m talking about teeny-tiny stuff.

For example, the HW was flying home from Florida two weeks ago on a super early flight. The flight attendants noticed that an overhead bin near his seat wouldn’t close. They tried to fix it themselves, but weren’t able to. So they called maintenance. Which took forever. Once they arrived, they tried to fix the bin. Nothing they tried worked so they closed it with….. duct tape. Special airline duct tape, to be exact. Then, of course, they had to do the paperwork. So while the repair attempts took about five minutes, and the actual duct tape application took about one minute, his flight was delayed close to an hour.

Can you see the special duct tape?

Then last week, on a trip out to the East Coast, my flight was boarded and ready to go. And we sat. And sat. We ended up being delayed for over ninety minutes. What serious repair took this long, you ask? There were scratches on the outside of the plane. They weren’t fixing the scratches, mind you. They were applying stickers, to label where the scratches were. This meant we arrived after midnight. Argh.

So what is going on? I haven’t had to deal with maintenance issues in a long time, and especially not trivial ones that took an inordinate amount of time. Is it budget cuts? Getting rid of maintenance staff? Tons of paperwork that must be completed? Who knows. What I do know is that if this trend continues, customers are going to be even more angry at the industry.

Readers, what’s the strangest maintenance issue you’ve ever experienced?

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  1. That’s not too bad. When Northwest Airlines used to fly turboprops into FYV, the flight attendant couldn’t get the overhead bin to close, so the plane was delayed over three hours until the mechanic decided to take the overhead bin door off and belt the door into a seat. There were only three passengers on the plane, so there were plenty of empty seats to choose from. That might have been why there was no hurry to fix the problem. I wish they would have thought of the duct tape fix.

  2. Haha, I fly the kc-135… Over afghan. Little duct tape would have been welcome! Be thankful for boing METAL!

  3. im curious which airline too. Must be some unionized heavy legacy airline like UA or AA.. on some flights, CO seems to still exist.

  4. 1-1/2 hour delay to fix the in-flight entertainment system! Several of us missed our connections. Because it was mechanical the airline had to pay for all of our hotels. Penny wise pound foolish.

    I was also one of the people stranded when United failed to test their flight computer upgrades correctly. Lost a day there.

    Both were stupid.

  5. The scratch issue is not trivial. A lot of them will affect the aerodynamic characteristics of the airflow over the craft and reduce airspeed. It doesn’t take much. In small planes, a month’s worth of bugs along the leading edges of the wings can reduce airspeed by 5 knots. They have to be scrubbed off regularly.

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