Over the years I have been impressed at the armed services and their success in the very risky business of aviation. It is truly amazing to imagine a high school graduate trusted with the lives of others after a very short block of instructions and what seem to be streamlined training. Recently, a very junior mechanic was working with a few of his peers on the rotor system of a helicopter in our fleet. Sometime during the wee hours of the morning, almost to the end of a graveyard 12 hour shift, the junior Soldier saw something bounce off the engine inlet and straight in. The Soldiers up above acknowledge dropping some hardware from a bag and come down from the aircraft to see if they could retrieve it. The area was an unimproved hardstand but with the harsh environment we face while deployed, it is very difficult to account for everything that hits the floor. After hours of looking, inspecting and even an engine bore scope, no hardware could be seen in the inlet or internals of the engine. Many doubted the junior soldiers’ recollection after his long hard night. The technical inspector, Maintenance test pilot and Production control Officer all weight in after all the precautionary inspections were done but the junior soldier stood his ground and was the most important safety officer that day. The engine was removed and set to the shop for teardown and inspection. Prior to tear down, the engine was hung upright with the inlet pointed to the ground. The output shaft was spun in the hopes that the said hardware fall to the ground. No hardware was found. The teardown begun and to the amazement of all involved, a 5/16 nut was discovered concealed beyond the inlet guide veins. The pressure was finally released from the shoulders of all involved and the hero of the day was the fresh out of high school soldier who understood the implications of a simple 5/16 nut going through the compressor blades of a jet engine.
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