Welcome to A Day in the Life, where we take you behind the scenes at JetBlue to learn more about the important jobs that work in concert together to run a major airline. This time, we visit with Frank and Jerry on our Technical Operations team, one of the most unpredictable positions at JetBlue.
Frank and Jerry are Technical Operations Maintenance Technician leads at our home base of operations at New York’s JFK. They wear many hats, including leading a team of 11 to 14 crewmembers each shift as part of the overall group of 450 technicians at JetBlue who maintain our 175-strong fleet of Airbus A320 and Embraer E190 aircraft.
The work of a Technical Operations crewmember is extremely varied and requires critical and creative thinking as well as versatility and open-mindedness. The tasks run the gamut, from the least glamorous like unclogging the lavatory sink or toilet, to changing a light bulb or seatbelt onboard the aircraft; to the considerably more complex assignments like working on the flight control system, the aircraft engine, tires, paneling, or replenishing materials like the onboard oxygen or hydraulic fluid.
Frank and Jerry and team have to keep myriad factors in mind when making a maintenance decision and each situation is different. Questions like, “What’s the history of that particular aircraft?” Where is the aircraft scheduled to fly to next?” “When does it have its next maintenance check?” “Do we have the parts handy to fix this or will we have to order them from somewhere?” Every plane has a unique history and the Tech Ops guys and gals track the history for each tail number via a computer system, logging new information as they encounter it, which creates an extremely helpful tool for others to access later on.
Jerry and Frank help prioritize which jobs need the most prompt attention and allocate tools and resources accordingly. The team works with safety as its number one value, and moves as quickly and efficiently as possible to get our aircraft and our people where they need to go in a safe and airworthy condition.
Each shift begins with a briefing, where relevant information about the day’s operation is shared – how many aircraft are flying that day, how many spare aircraft are in the system, as well as any anomalies that will affect the day’s work – and crewmembers proceed to their assigned posts. Our Tech Ops crewmembers may work out of our hangar, where aircraft are parked for longer-term maintenance or at the terminal where they will be tasked with working on aircraft that are flying the line and only parked minimally between flights.
Frank and Jerry also cover the desk where alerts for maintenance needs come in from various sources, including the Maintenance Control Center in System Operations or via faxed messages (called ACARS) from directly from the cockpit. Often, the Tech Ops team will get a message about a maintenance issue before the plane has even landed, which gives them time to proactively respond and have a team waiting with the proper equipment if available when the aircraft lands.
The Tech Ops team is also responsible for making the call when an airplane needs to be pulled out of service, a decision they know might disrupt customer and crewmember plans, but which they do with safety top of mind. Jerry jokes that people cringe when they see his safety vest walking towards them because they think it means there’s a problem. That said, while it’s not actually the Tech Op crewmembers’ faults when a flight is delayed due to mechanical problems, they’re the ones most visibly addressing the issue, and not every issue has a quick fix. Sometimes there’s a mechanical issue in a city where we might not have the necessary part to fix it, so we have to ship the part, sometimes with a crewmember, on the next available flight.
Frank and Jerry have very different backgrounds, which complement one another well on the job. Frank has 30 years experience with the Air Force and has been with JetBlue for nine years. His high level of expertise serves as an anchor; when things get busy – the phones are ringing, the fax is piping in messages from pilots, and crewmembers need to be dispatched to different projects, Frank is calm and centered, orchestrating efforts, offering sound advice, and ensuring that everything gets handled. Jerry is “homegrown JetBlue” as he likes to say. He was handpicked by JetBlue when he graduated from college and entered into our apprentice program. He has worked with us for six years. Each of our 450 Tech Ops crewmembers comes to JetBlue with their own, unique backgrounds but with the shared goal of collaborating, communicating and caring for one another, our customers, and our planes.
Check out the previous editions of A Day In The Life and meet Kristi in Customer Support, Rick, an Executive Coordinator for our CEO, Chris, Lashonne and Jaclyn from Brand Design Jeff and Greg from Schedule Planning, Loretta in Security, Chris in Inflight, Morgan in Social Media, Don in Air Traffic System Control, and Mike in Ground Operations, and stay tuned for the next edition!