3 Skills I Learned Working on Helicopters That I Use as a Software Developer

March 30, 2022

Surprisingly, many of the skills I learned in the Army translated to my role as a developer, albeit not directly.

Sometimes, you have to chase bubbles

Debugging and troubleshooting are invaluable skills to have as a developer and crew chief.

We could diagnose issues quickly for cooling:

  • Measure the pressure in the system
  • Fill to max
  • Spray some soapy water on coolant lines
  • Measure again after some time, document the loss
  • Look for bubbles indicating a leak

Some of our problems as a developer can be like this. We know what to do, so we measure, diagnose, and fix. Others, like hydraulics, are more complicated, and we have to go about it slower.

In the process, we might waste some time, but we learn what not to do.

For every hour of flight, there are four for maintenance

I was exposed to the concepts of Product Management during a stint in the Production Control office. At the time, I didn’t know it was used outside the military.

Scheduling maintenance and inspections across a fleet of 20 aircraft taught me to prioritize new work, debt, and legacy maintenance.

Most of us want to work on shiny greenfield projects, but the reality is most of the work is in maintenance. Like on the flight line, most work is significant inspections, not daily flights.

Working with Pilots

How do you know someone’s a pilot? They’ll tell you.

The same can be true for developers. While some are humble out there, most of us have opinions, and some are held very strongly.

Pilots can be the same way; the power dynamic can be different with a rank structure. Learning how to pick my battles was something I still use.

Sometimes it’s really not worth it, especially if you know they’re wrong but won’t budge; they might need to learn that lesson for themself.

I hope this reflection has made you think about some of your own skills and where they come from. Much of what we do is built up from our everyday lives, not directly tied to the tech we use.

Marcus Lyons