Acronym Anomolies AMU Magazine



Have you ever stopped to notice how often you use acronyms on a daily basis? “Yesterday I dropped into HMV to pick up a few CD’s and DVD’s. Driving home in my SUV, I decided to get some KFC, got lost while checking my GPS and side-swiped a truck from UPS!”


Although acronyms are really starting to go mainstream in our everyday vocabulary, they have always been a mainstay in the language of aviation. Though it is not common knowledge, even the word acronym is in fact an acronym. It stands for, ABREVIATED, CONFUSING, RARELY, OBVIOUS, NAMES, YOU, MAKE, simply because you are to lazy to write the whole thing. The lists of aviation acronyms for parts, products and systems can be overwhelming and often confusing. We strive to learn them all but the list just continues to grow. The industry barely gets a new name out and it is immediately acronomized. The new Honda Jet is a good example. The very light jet has already become a VLJ!


When I was a teenager (many years ago) my first sports car was, a well used, 1962 MG Midget. When I purchased the car I remember that my father was horrified. “You could have gotten a nice dependable American car!” he said. In his opinion, MG simply stood for ”miles of grief.” Sure enough, keeping the little car going was a full time job. The first time it wouldn’t start posed a bit of a problem. I couldn’t figure out how to open the damn hood. I finally realized that the little knob under the dash with the “B” on it stood for bonnet and so my education into acronyms and British sports car nomclementure began. Soon I was, popping the bonnet, opening the boot, and fetching my spanners to replace brushes in the dynamo. Ah yes the dynamo…obviously the “Prince of Darkness” Mr. Lucas himself, didn’t have the nerve or the confidence to actually call it a generator! Hence the motto of all British car and motorcycles enthusiasts world wide, “Get home before dark!” After all the lights were controlled by the even more famous, three- position, Lucas toggle switch…dim, flicker, and off!


Speaking of generators and getting back to the topic of aviation, the modern flying machine is an acronomic nightmare. The generator is now a CSD (constant speed drive) or an IDG (integral drive generator). The engines have FADEC (full authority digital engine control), to command the FCU (fuel control unit) and VIGV’s (variable inlet guide vanes). You need not worry if your EGT (exhaust gas temperature) is too high or your EPR (engine pressure ratio) is too low. Simply do an HSI (hot section inspection) to check out the engines condition. If you find a crack, no problem, we can check it out with NDT (non destructive testing). If the part turns out to be NFG (no freaking good) we can order a new one AOG (aircraft on ground) and have you flying ASAP (as soon as possible). As you can see this acronym thing is OOC (out of control)!


Recently in the engine overhaul shop at Centennial College, a student asked a question while doing a bulk inspection of a Lycoming engine. It concerned the inside diameter of the shaft bearings of the crankshaft. The table of limits stated: “diameter must be concentric with main bearing within .003 inch TIR”. “What is TIR?” they asked. Fortunately it was coffee break (saved by the bell) so my fellow instructor and I looked it up on his computer. In aviation acronyms alone we found over thirty possibilities. Luckily we quickly narrowed it down to the only logical choice (total indicated runout). Never the less it was a real eye opener!


Another interesting acronym misadventure, was trying to determine the meaning of the RSA fuel injection system. This system has been around for a while and is still used on many piston engine aircraft today. I finally found the answer in an old RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) training manual. This system uses a stem assembly and poppet valve to control fuel flow. The stem is connected to an air diaphragm and a fuel diaphragm, each regulated by two air pressures and two fuel pressures respectively, hence the name RSA (regulated stem assembly).


Fortunately for me, those early days with the MG Midget were not so complicated. It was a relatively simple car to work on and was a great way to learn the secrets of basic maintenance. I sealed the leaky petrol tank with PRC (Product Research Company), topped up the SU carburetors (Skinners Union) with ATF (automatic transmission fluid) and lubricated the linkages and cables with WD40 (water dispersant, formula #40). I re-sealed the rocker cover with RTV (room temperature vulcanized) and filled up the crankcase with oil and STP (scientifically treated petroleum). Afterward, that little MG Midget ran like a clock. MG? We all know that one stands for Morris Garages. However, as stated earlier, acronyms can often have many different definitions. As a nineteen year old, high school kid, MG had only one meaning that mattered… more girls. In my rusty recollection, a very accurate acronym, indeed!   

The Motorcycle Aviation Connection AMU Magazine By Sam Longo


By Sam Longo, AME


The link between aircraft and motorcycles dates back to the very beginning of powered flight.  Everyone knows that Glenn Curtiss was a famous pioneer of early aviation, but before he pursued that particular passion, he also built bicycles and motorcycles.  By 1901, he was designing, building and racing his own motorcycles.  In 1904, he invented the twist grip throttle control, now standard on every modern motorcycle.  In 1907, he was crowned “the fastest man in the world” by coaxing a V8 powered motorcycle to an astonishing 136.36 MPH!  That particular record remained unchallenged for many years thereafter.  It wasn’t until 1911 that he actually earned his pilot’s licence (number one by the way!) 


Rumour has it that, even the blue and white logo that adorns every BMW motorcycle and automobile is a stylized whirling propeller derived from the early days of building aircraft engines. Paralleling that same motorcycle-flight connection, Motoguzzi’s logo is the Condor, Harley Davidson the Eagle and of course Honda uses a wing, to name just a few.   


The mechanical DNA between motorcycles and aircraft runs quite deep.  Both have traditionally used air-cooled engines and require good horsepower to weight ratios for optimum performance.  Both machines require the operator to tilt or bank the machine around its longitudinal axis to navigate a turn.  Also in terms of a “sense of movement” an open cockpit aircraft and a motorcycle both share the same acute exhilaration derived from feeling the rush of air at speed.  It is not surprising then that many similar minded people are drawn to both. 


A more current connection between aircraft and motorcycles is a creation of MTT, based in Franklin, Louisiana.  They are the creators of the “Y2K”, a motorcycle powered by a Rolls Royce/Allison 250 series, gas turbine engine.  Its 320 shaft horsepower normally powers a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter.  The Guinness Book of Records lists this “turbine terror’ as the fastest production motorcycle on the planet and at a cost of $150 thousand you can have it in any colour you choose.  Jay Leno has one and to quote him: “Twisting the throttle is like a push from the hand of God!” 


Biblical references aside, my own connection with aircraft and motorcycles began in the early 1970s.  I got my motorcycle license and first bike in 1973 and enrolled in Centennial College’s aircraft maintenance program in 1974.  I also paid my tuition by teaching motorcycle safety training courses for Toronto Cycle School on weekends.  My passion for aviation, motorcycles and cars has never subsided.  I currently own six vintage Hondas and a “recently turbocharged” Mazda Miata.  One of my Honda motorcycles, a 1973 CB750, I have owned and ridden for the past 36 years.  It is now a highly modified Café Racer with a number of aviation related modifications.  The oil pressure warning light was originally a Boeing 727 galley oven light.  The clamps securing the oil cooler arrived “AOG” from Montreal, while working at Air Canada and the custom tail light sits on an aluminium bracket, hand fabricated while on shift at DeHavilland.  Every winter brings new ideas to further enhance and evolve the original design.  The evolution of that particular bike will likely continue for as long as I can turn a wrench and lift a leg over the seat to ride. Speaking of rides, I would be remiss if I did not relate the tale of my most bizarre motorcycle ride that is, of course, aviation related. 


The Canadian Arctic is not the sort of place that usually generates motorcycle memories, yet in March of 1976 I was bound for a tour in Frobisher Bay on Baffin Island.  As a young apprentice aircraft mechanic, I really didn’t know what to expect… and motorcycles were the furthest thing from my mind.


  As it turned out however, during a midnight shift in the Nordair hangar, a young Inuit lad approached me and asked if I could fix his motorcycle.  He had attempted to do some work on it, and now it failed to run.  A well-used Kawasaki trail bike sat half buried amid aircraft parts at the back of the hangar.  We pulled it out and after a short time tinkering, and a few investigative questions, I discovered the problem. The carburetor float was installed upside down.  Once this was sorted out, a few quick stabs of the kick start and it roared to life!  The owner’s face lit up with delight and he insisted that I take it for a spin.  Under the intense glow of the Northern Lights, I ripped around the frozen aircraft ramp, doing wheelies until I was frozen solid.  Later, reflecting on that unique experience, I wrote the following poem: (with apologies to Mr. Robert Service)


Arctic Cycle

The Northern Lights have seen strange sights,

But the strangest that they ever did see,

Was the end of the day, up in Frobisher Bay,

Me, on a Kawasaki


It was sixty below, tarmac blowing with snow,

Yet I gleefully clicked it in gear,

Soon my face was quite numb, after wheelies of fun,

With a freeze dried grin, ear to ear


Some call it a ploy, to ride such a toy,

In the land of the Midnight Sun,

Just to boast to my mates, with a record that states,

Baffin Island’s “my northernmost run”



Like Father Like Son – AMU Magazine

Like Father, Like Son

By Sam Longo AME A&P


In the best-case scenario, that old term: “Being a chip off the old block” is not such a bad thing. Teaching your children to be hands-on savvy may very well be their ticket to a happy and prosperous future.


From a very young age, it was clear that my father Louis could fix just about anything. When I was in grade school we lived above E&L Radio, his repair shop on St. Clair Avenue. Back in those days, people actually fixed household devices when they broke and his shop was always busy. I was accustomed to seeing the exposed inner workings of radio and television chassis glowing and humming on his workbench as he carefully brought them back to life.  Despite his repeated warnings not to touch anything, I remember getting more than one electrical shock poking my fingers where they should not have been. I suppose, looking back, that my urge to emulate him was just too strong.


As the years rolled by, transistors began to eclipse tube technology and my father’s career moved on, spending the balance of his life repairing household appliances. Despite a hard working life, often holding two jobs to care for his growing family, he passed away at age 63, never realizing the well-deserved peace and pleasures of retirement. His legacy however, passed down to me, was the inherent joy of fixing things.


My only son Spencer started taking an interest in what I was doing in the garage just around the age of twelve. Like my father had done with me, I didn’t push him to it, but rather let his own curiosity take the lead. Perhaps the fact that he lived with my ex-wife made our time more precious, but soon he was at my side helping out and asking questions at every opportunity. Of course the fact that the shop was full of motorcycles didn’t hurt his enthusiasm.


At age 14 I began teaching him how to drive a manual-shift car. He was a natural and only stalled it once before he fully mastered the technique of engaging the clutch’s friction point. It was also around this time that I gave him his first motorcycle. It was a 1965 Honda CB160 and it was presented to him in lots of boxes. It was our first serious project together and the completed project was sold to buy yet another. He really made me proud when he wrote both his Automobile and Motorcycle learners permit on his 16th birthday. Clearly the “gear-head” disease was taking hold! By then he had a nicely refurbished 1975 Honda CB200, our second project. The next season he progressed to a lovely little 1976 Honda 400-4 and became one of the cool guys at his high school, owning and riding his own motorcycle, built largely by his own hands.


By 18 Spencer was already a very competent mechanic, working part time at a high-end bicycle shop using his technical skills to make money and pursue his other passion, BMX biking. His stunting escapades on You-Tube never fail to startle and amaze me. Soon his hand built BMX bikes exceeded the cost of his motorcycles and his collection began to grow. It was now crystal clear that Spencer had caught the mechanical bug. He is inherently comfortable using tools and can now fix anything he puts his mind to. These talents will follow him for the rest of his life, regardless of his future career path.


Now twenty-four years old, he is just finishing his second year at Ontario College of Art and Design, where he is studying to become an Industrial Designer. Where that degree leads him is anybody’s guess. However, one thing will be certain, who ever hires him will be getting an individual that can not only think but also work with his hands, both creatively and efficiently. Unfortunately this is an asset that is in rapid decline in our increasingly “throw-away-fix-nothing” society.


If my father were still alive I think he would be very proud of Spencer and what he has achieved so far. I know I am. Perhaps the ultimate beauty of fixing things is that its sublime satisfaction transcends all mechanical devices. It doesn’t matter if that device that was broken now successfully washes clothes, flies through the clouds or gracefully grinds a rail at a skate park. When it works right, and we fixed it, our joy and satisfaction is immediate.


 If there was only one talent that I could pass on to my son and have it stick, it is that mechanical ability. In all the follies and failures of fatherhood, I realize that being the “Technical-Son of Sam” was not always an easy path to follow. Still in spite of it all, that bench-wrenching bond has always been our common ground, ultimately making our relationship stronger.


Spencer, I can only hope that your apprenticeship with me has paid off and that every time you turn a wrench you proudly acknowledge the technical roots of past generations. May their legacy and strength forever power your grease stained grip. You are, most certainly, a chip off the old block and your Grandpa Lou is surely smiling.