Toolboxes can look very different between AMTs depending on what kind of aircraft they work on and what their specialty is. The following list, however, are must haves for any aviation mechanic.
1. A good headlamp.
Whether you work on Cessna 150s or Airbus A380s, we’ve all been there- fumbling to install hardware obscured by a component or structure, gritting a flashlight between our teeth as we try to illuminate our cramped workspace and see what the heck we are doing. It only took me one night on a rainy, cold flight line fumbling with a stubborn, buried squat switch and a small pocket flashlight to realize my mistake.
A headlight is your best friend, leaving your hands free while filling your workspace with light. Headlamps are typically not as high powered as some of the more popular traditional torches, which can become nearly blinding in small spaces. I’m partial to the relatively sleek Princeton Tec headlamps, but the market has plenty of great compact, durable options.
2. A quality coffee pot.
It’s a well-known fact that mechanics function best with caffeine. Every hangar has two main categories of caffeine abusers: the energy drink slammers, and the coffee bums. The coffee bums almost always come to the rescue when the Monsters and Red Bulls run out, however.
Imagine a hangar without delicious, roasted go juice available. It’s terrible- I’ve seen it. That $10 Hamilton Beach coffee maker always breaks when you are getting hammered by unscheduled maintenance. Stop settling for the cheapo fix and get the shop to spring for a nice coffee maker, or even an ultra-convenient Keurig. You’ll never have to be groggy for that nose gear swap again.
3. Credit with the Devil.
You know who I’m talking about- the guy that drives the big red and white truck that visits once a week and simultaneously induces feelings of elation and despair. Snap On tools are the subject of many heated debates among AMTs, but nobody can deny the convenience of the tool truck showing up after your el cheapo socket breaks in the middle of critical maintenance. And hey, who doesn’t love those thin-walled Snap-On sockets?
Now, I am not advocating that you max your credit line faster than your wife in a Coach store… We all know a guy sitting on the equivalent of a mortgage down payment in financed tools. However, it makes a lot of sense to have a bit of credit available should an expensive tool break and you need a replacement fast.
4. A magnetic pick-up tool.
As a self-proclaimed butterfingers, I don’t know how any mechanic could possibly live without one of these amazing tools. There is nothing worse than shoving your arm down a compartment to fetch a dropped screw and coming into contact with an unkempt safety wire pigtail or sloppy cotter pin left by a lazy technician. 15 minutes and a bunch of four letter words later, you’ll have that screw in hand and a new scar on your arm!
Avoid this scenario with a good pick-up tool. Some of them even have built-in led lights so you can see the runaway hardware for easier fishing, and flexible shanks for the most awkward spaces. The heavier duty versions are even strong enough to pick up some dropped tools. The best part? They are one of the cheapest tools you will purchase.
5. An iPad.
We’ve all been there- spilling oil or fluid on our paper manual, chasing loose pages across the hangar when someone turns the fan on… there’s a better way to access maintenance data!
Every mechanic deserves an iPad or similar tablet for accessing maintenance manuals, work orders, and other pertinent data. Throw it in a tough case and it will endure most of the drops and spills that it encounters. Pair it with powerful aviation maintenance software and you’ve got a tool that can reduce a large percentage of the headaches in our line of work while streamlining your maintenance operation.
We’ve seen the possibilities that mobile technology can bring to aviation. We know that team communication, record keeping, productivity and cost efficiency can all be improved when maintenance personnel are empowered by having great software built with their needs in mind- it’s what motivates us as we continue building SynapseMX.