top of page
Blank Notebook
Fountain Pen

A Personal Rant

Neat handwriting.jpg

I generally use this space to discuss all things aerospace and aviation.  And in some

respects this is also about all things aerospace and aviation.  In other respects, this is

just about being a professional in any industry.  Part of this is a frustrated rant, and part

of this is a lessons learned.  I admit this is a rant from an 'old lady', but that does not

make it any less true.  TAKE THE TIME TO LEARN TO WRITE LEGIBLY, at least a little bit! 

Do I mean have flowery handwriting with swirls and curls?  No.  Do I mean pen the

"Great American Novel" longhand?  Definitely not.  Do I suggest you take a mechanical

drafting course and learn to write like a drafter?  Well, if you get a chance, it will improve

your handwriting, but that is not what I mean either.  Do I mean fill out your maintenance log book so that when the NTSB and a lawyer are reviewing the records for the aircraft at the bottom of a smoking hole looking for a reason why, they can actually read what you wrote?  I most certainly do!  I feel like I have gone off on this topic before, but it is worth saying again.  Write so you can read it!  "But I use my phone to take notes, I don't have to be able to write."  "My company uses a LIMS system and electronic lab books, we don't write longhand entries anymore."  "That is so racist to expect me to conform to your expectations for legibility!"  Well, to that last point, the lawyer representing the widow and orphans does not care what race, gender, or creed

you are, they are just looking for the last person standing when the cup of blame goes

around.  And I promise you, the person who cannot prove they put 50.0 gallons of fuel on

the aircraft, not 5.0 gallons will be the last person standing.  And why can't you prove you

put on 50 gallons? Because no one can read that dashed off chicken scratch and it LOOKS

like there is a decimal point after the five.  Or maybe they cannot tell whether you "charged

the battery" or you "changed the battery".  Think about the difference that could make to the investigation.  Can you tell I have been reading maintenance and fueling records lately?  "But I told you, we use electronic logs.  I don't HAVE to write things out."  To which I'll say, your facility logbooks are all digital, but the client may very 

                          well hand you a bound paper logbook  and suddenly you DO have to pull out a pen. Wouldn't

                          you like to be able to put down your certificate number and sign your name in a manner that

                          assures you can say with certainty, "That is NOT my signature or certificate."  Some one I know

                          once told me that his students said they did not have to be able to sign their name legibly, it 

                          was their "mark of individuality."  I say unless you are Taylor Swift, or Gucci Mane, leave your

                          "mark of individuality" to your social media page.  Another said, "My dad is the CEO of a major

                          company, and that is how he signs HIS name."  The response? When you are CEO of your own 

                          company, then sign your name how ever your lawyers tell you to, right now, sign it so we can 

                          read it.  Or my favorite, "It will be so unique that no one will be able to forge it."  Well no one but 

                          me still writes checks, so that isn't what you are afraid of...  But in truth, it is SO easy to copy 

                             that long swoop line with a curl on the end that even I can put my husband's signature on my niece's birthday card and no one is any the wiser.  I have heard that there were a number of Hollywood film stars who purposefully had a scrawling signature.  Why?  So their aids could sign autographs on the photos given away to fans, and the fans would not know it wasn't Rita Hayworth who signed it.  So are you SURE you signed off that work order?  Or did your co-worker with a grudge just use your credentials to sign it off?  Alternatively, can you tell who DID sign off on that paperwork?  The point is, spend a little time, learn how to make numbers clearly (is this a "4" or a "9"?), and channel your teenage self and practice writing your signature.  If you want to be a professional taken seriously, this one of the easiest tools to put in your toolbox.

Which leads to my lessons learned.  First, I am NOT a lawyer, and I do not play one on YouTube.  This is in no way legal advice.  But in my experience, whether you are using a paper notebook or a LIMS eBook, make sure you put down enough information that when you go back to remember what you did on which aircraft, 12 years ago, you have enough information to be able to answer the question, "So you charged the battery?"  "No sir, you can see I recorded that I CHANGED the battery.  I replaced it with a DuroChampion 12 volt, dry acid battery, P/N 12-5258B, Serial Number 2-523548-45.  I used DSD Battery Terminal Protectant, and torqued the terminal connector to 12 inch pounds.  The torque wrench had been last calibrated on 12/15/2012."  "Well, how do you KNOW the battery was appropriately charged and functional when you installed it, hmmm?"  "It says here that I checked the battery's charge with a DuPont multi-meter and it was showing 12.8 volts."  "Well, are you SURE that you did all of that on THIS aircraft?"  "Yes, because here is the information on the aircraft, right here.  It was a Wellspring Canhardly, tail number N-U508 with 27 hours since last annual.  That is the same as the incident aircraft about which you asked."  That is a way different conversation than the one with a chicken scratched "Charged battery on Joe's plane".  There are those who say, with good reason, don't say too much.  And that is true, you want just the facts.  And it is just the facts with which you are personally knowledgeable.  If you don't know if it is okay for that new oil to be green, you may want to ask your supervisor because you thought it looked different, but don't write that you noticed "the oil looked weird " because you don't want some lawyer chasing you down a rabbit hole about something you didn't know anything about.  But I can tell you, in my experience, when I am sure I wrote down everything I could POSSIBLY be asked, and that means the client asking too, not just a lawyer, they will ask me about some detail I did not think to record.  "Did you run a new baseline before you analyzed my sample?"  I am sure I did, I always do, DARN IT!  If I had just written, "ran baseline".  And now I am forced to go through the files and find the baseline and figure out was it run before the client's sample or not.  As I said, I have been consulted on a few different incidents lately, so I have had the opportunity to see a variety of records.  And like it or not, when I read the maintenance logs from the maintainer who has neatly written (or printed out from the eLog) a full, concise description of the work performed, I will give a lot of professional cred to that person, deserved or not.  To the one who I cannot tell if that was 4.7 in-lbs or 9.2 ft-lb and whether they charged or changed the battery... Well, you can't help but wonder about that person's work in general.  

     Finally, one last thing.  If you sniff at everything else I have gone off on, take this one to heart.  Learn how to scratch out an error.  We all make them.  Sometimes we find them when we re-read

what we wrote.  Often our first inclination is to write over the top making it a heavy

mark.  Our second inclination is to scribble out the error and write in the correct value.

Don't.  If you make a mistake, as we all do, one single line through it, two at most. 

Don't write over the top of it.  Really.  Even you will have second thoughts when you go back and look at it and try to tell is that 5 over a 3 or it an 8?  And don't try to scribble it away (unless there is a reason to redact it), because the widower's lawyer will say "And just what were you trying to hide Ms. Thom?"

mechanical drafting.jpg
bottom of page