Look Out Below!


The P-8A Poseidon is not your typical Boeing 737 aircraft. The unique mission of the P-8A requires unconventional maintenance that is still relatively new to the community. The P-8A has multiple antennas, mission equipment, and sensors installed on the outside of the aircraft. This sensitive mission equipment must be flawlessly maintained in order to keep the aircraft fully mission capable. Late one morning, the aircraft division sent an experienced maintenance team to the aircraft to conduct a routine replacement of the inmarsat radome.

The inmarsat radome is located at the top of the vertical stabilizer, which is 43 feet above the ground. In order to accomplish this task, the maintenance team must use a Genie man-lift to reach the inmarsat radome. The Genie man-lift comes with a cart that has weight restrictions. With these weight restrictions, the individual maintainer cannot bring an entire tool kit.

The maintainer must bring the required tools loosely on the floor of the cart. When operating the Genie man-lift, the movement of the cart up and down tends to create jolting and unstable movements for the rider and the tools. These unstable movements are a known hazard and risk accepted for personnel operating this particular man-lift. Five months into deployment, these seasoned maintainers have learned to operate this machine with attentiveness and caution. As the rider moved cautiously downward, the jolting of the cart caused a tilted unstable platform.

This abrupt motion caused a speed handle to fall of the cart. The speed handle fell downward and struck the tail cone causing minor superficial damage to the skin of the aircraft. Although the damage to the aircraft was minor, the potential for greater damage or injury to maintenance personnel was substantial.

The inherent risks and dangers of flying, operating, and maintaining naval aircraft will continue to be a significant factor in mishaps. We must continue to monitor these risks and continue to implement controls to maintain safety and mission effectiveness. At a glance, the simple idea of a man-lift that provides an unstable cart movement does not seem to be the likely cause of a mishap.

This event proves that there are hidden and unknown dangers everywhere in our work environment. These types of hazards can cause problems for the most experienced and qualified maintainers in the U.S. Navy. Operational risk management, NATOPS, SOPs, quality assurance and the command’s safety department must stress the importance of identifying risk and hazards that can lead to the prevention of damage to equipment and injury to personnel.

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