Fear of Flying, Ch 2: You Too Can Be A Parts Lister in The Exciting World of Aerospace!


For those not familiar with IPCs and Parts Lists and Aerospace Manuals, here is an answer to the question “What is the function of an illustrated parts catalogue (ipc) for aircraft?” from answers.yahoo.com:

“ipc is a cataloge..generally like u purchase a refrigerator or other substance of a company u are able to see the catalogue so tht u can see the product and read the features.. ipc is also like tht and its given by every manufacturer to each comapny for ordering the product because the product u have to order u know how it look and what is the use but for the company u need the part number which is given in the ipc”

Hmmm. Probably a Tech Writer…

For those familiar with the process of creating Aerospace IPCs or who just want to listen to me shovel the dirt, skip the dull stuff. There’s a funny story at the end.

Aerospace Manuals are a little more complicated than the sort of manuals packaged with battery-operated nose hair removers. Engineers draw one blueprint then add variations for each customer. Over time Service Bulletins, Mods, parts replacements and other changes are issued, more customers are added, more configs are required. One blueprint, one IPC Work Copy. How do airlines wind up with Manuals customized to their particular configurations?

Effectivity Codes.

An Effectivity Code is assigned to every line of an IPC. Example:

UA = United Airlines = Effectivity Code: X
AA = American Airlines= Effectivity Code: WY
ZA = Zaire= Effectivity Code: P

Here’s a very over-simplified mockup of  the type of IPC Work Sheet used at TC back then:

It’s possible for a hundred Airlines to be included in one IPC. If a part is used by more than one customer another Code is assigned that includes those customers (CA = AA, X, ZA). Computers at the business in the business of creating IPCs, in my case TC, extract data indicated applicable for a customer according to the Effectivity Code assigned to it.

Randomly assigned Effectivity Codes are not supposed to translate to random parts in a customer’s IPC. However. With the complexity of code combos and the ineptitude of many of those writing IPCs, customers often wind up with Manuals full of parts they don’t use and missing parts they do use.

Which brings me to a funny story a few years into my working for TC.

A certain Air Freight Company purchased a few planes from The Big Aerospace Company. TBAC told TC they needed the new customer’s IPCs ASAP. The Managers were all in a panic. Then a Supervisor had a bright idea: “Wait… we can take some existing Manuals for planes that are sort of like the ones they bought and add their stuff to them. Fast work!”

So the IPCs that were sorta like the IPCs the Air Freight planes would use were thrown on everyone’s desk. Parts Listers hurriedly coded them to include or exclude or add new parts. The work copies were sent down to Data Processing. The computer extracted the Air Freight Company Manuals according to the Effectivity Coded lines.

All Done! Hurrah! The Supervisors grabbed IPC pages as the printer spit them out. No time to look at them or to even put them in order. It was such a rush job they caught a flight to AFC headquarters, assembled the IPC Manuals in flight and delivered them to AFC personally.

It wasn’t long before everyone on the floor knew something was going on in the Front Office. Something Not Good. Turns out the manuals given to the AFC included passenger windows! There was a poster of the new AFC plane in the hallway. One of the clever Illustrators added passenger windows with black magic marker. I can’t tell you how much I laughed!!!

Coming Soon:

Chapter 3: Two Months Later And I Still Have No Idea What Time 1500 Hrs Really Is

(I just made that up. It will be about how I learned that “Acting As If” worked just fine for my new job too.)

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