"Come-on-lets go check out those motors you just put in!" It was the Chief Pilot of the company this young general aviation mechanic first worked for telling me that I was going to fly in the airplane I had just finished installing two freshly overhauled engines. Since I had every confidence that everything was done properly, the engines checked good during the ground runups and I just did not know better, I said "sure-lets go".
I had never flown in this type of aircraft before and it was exciting to fly in the co-pilot seat.
The engines started normally and the ground checks were all good. It was when we taxied to the active runway for takeoff that the "wonders" started going through my mind-I wonder if I tightened all of those fuel hoses-I wonder if I got the torque on the engine mount bolts right-I wonder if the throttle control hardware is saftied, etc. I know that I double checked everything but the "wonders" crept in.
We rolled down the runway and soon lifted off. The engines were running perfectly. As we were climbing to altitude, the pilot lit a cigarette and started smoking. Never having been a smoker, the smell was annoying. Soon we were climbing through 15000 feet and I was starting to feel light-headed. I looked over at the pilot and he was still smoking away. The airplane reached 17000 feet and I told the pilot that I could not breath and was going to pass out. At the time I did not know that anytime you fly above 12500 feet in an unpressurized airplane you are required to use supplemental oxygen. The pilot looked over at me and must have decided that I did not look so good. Before I lost conscienceness, I saw the ground coming at us straight ahead-we were going vertical.
I woke up and did not know what had happened. The pilot had leveled us off at 5000 feet and knew that there was enough oxygen to wake me up. He just looked over at me and smiled. This was his way to initiate a rookie general aviation maintenance mechanic into the business. The landing and taxi in were anti-climatic. I will never forget the experiences-especially the "wonders".
Ever since that day, I have had another technician inspect the work I have done. This second set of eyes gives one an additional confidence that the aircraft is safe and the "wonders" do not come around so much anymore.
All of our company's freshly minted general aviation maintenance technicians are trained to have their work inspected and will be told "you are going on this flight" soon after finishing one of their jobs. (they will not know when the order to fly will be given) Hopefully they will "wonder" and make sure the job is done correctly every time.