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Day in the Life of a STARS aircraft engineer

03.28.2012 Engineering Operations

People’s lives depend on the work that Kim Heidel completes throughout his day. The aircraft maintenance engineer arrives at the STARS base every morning ready to make a difference.

8 a.m. Heidel reaches the base. His first priority is to talk with the pilots who are on duty, discussing how many hours were flown on the helicopter, changes to inspection times and training agendas, and if there are any problems to report. Doing so helps schedule maintenance tasks for the day.

“Communication with the pilots is very important,” Heidel said. “We have to stay diligent when planning our day and making sure the helicopter is safe to fly. Our goal is to minimize any downtime and keep STARS up and running.”

8:30 a.m. Heidel prints off a daily task list and heads to the hangar to get to work. On this particular day, he is checking oil pressure inside the engine, making sure that various components are receiving the lubrication they need to function safely. If a call comes in, the helicopter will be good to go.

“You have to be constantly managing time and changes,” said Heidel. “The pilots and crew are focused on the mission and it’s our job to make sure a helicopter is airworthy. The engineers are required to make some really important decisions on whether a particular aircraft can fly or not.”

11:30 a.m. After completing the maintenance, Heidel joins the pilots in the helicopter for a test run to check operations and make sure the job was done right.

1:30 p.m. A special component on the helicopter is removed and replaced with a functional unit. Heidel is now tasked with fixing the older part so that it can be used again in the future.

“There are a lot of behind the scenes jobs that need to be done when not doing inspections,” Heidel explained. “Whether it’s fixing a part, building special tools, touching up some paint or replacing a decal, there’s always something important to do.”

3:30 p.m. A call has come in and the STARS helicopter is out flying a mission. This is an opportune time for Heidel to sort some hardware, saying that doing so will increase the effectiveness of the engineering team. “We can’t be wasting time looking through washers or bolts to find a specific one. Having things catalogued and organized allows us to do our job more efficiently.”

4 p.m. Heidel is flight following on a special computer program; he is able to track the helicopter’s location, airspeed and direction. By doing so, he and the engineering team can know exactly when the aircraft will be back and be prepared to work when it arrives.

5 p.m. A day of work is now complete for Heidel. He heads home to spend some time with his family, feeling good about what he accomplished throughout the day. “I leave with the gratification of knowing I played an important role in keeping STARS flying and saving lives today.”

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