The Basics / 1/4 Inch Drive Socket Set

Ratchets

The quarter inch socket set is the most necessary component in the Aircraft Mechanics tool set. When we begin using tools there are some that just fit our particular hand shape better than others. This is particularly true with the Quarter Inch Ratchet. When choosing a ratchet of any size buy a quality brand. Fine tooth ratchets are for tighter places but the finer teeth are less robust than the coarser teeth and may not take the torque that a course tooth ratchet of the same brand might. Swivel handles make excellent “speed” handles but become uncontrollable when paired with a universal socket. My fight line bag contains a fine tooth standard 1/4″ ratchet and a coarser tooth swivel handle 1/4″ ratchet which is my go to ratchet for almost every normal job. I have very big hands so the length of the swivel handle just fits better.

Quality tool truck brands are very expensive and you may not have access to any particular brand, but for me there are just certain tools that I can’t be without and I will search out a tool truck to obtain and maintain them. The two ratchets that I have linked to are on that list.

I also own some older Craftsman ratchets that are excellent but you have to scour flea markets, yard sales, estate sales etc. unless your grandpa left them to you to find these.Craftsman

Although I have not used them much, Gearwrench by APEX should be a very good alternative to the more expensive brands. They make a fine tooth close tolerance 1/4″ drive, also in a swivel head, that looks to be very usable.

1/4 Inch Drive Sockets

A full set of 1/4″ standard and deep 12 point sockets from 3/16″ up to at least 1/2″ is a must. Most good quality brands will do, but I search for US or German steel although some Oriental brands use quality steel as well.

A set of 1/4″ SAE 12 point universal sockets is also a must but if you can’t afford the entire set immediately, then the 5/16″ and 1/4″ will get you started. The Snap-On version is still the best on the market, though a few other brands are close.

Don’t forget the Bit Holder, some of the larger sets will include one, but with those you also get a bunch of items you will never use.

Extensions

I have recently been using locking extensions. I wasn’t a big fan at first, but because my line bag is only 12″ long I have to use multiple extensions to get a bar over 12 inches and the locking mechanism adds security.

What Works?

In today’s world of aviation there are many sub categories of aviation maintenance from General Aviation to Corporate Aviation to Commercial Aviation and then there are Helicopters, UAV’s and Lighter Than Air Craft. This is by no means a complete listing.

My experience is with Fixed Wing Aircraft, from single engine GA aircraft to Commercial heavy jets and the purpose of this blog is to discuss the various hand tools that I have used, and that I am aware of, with the hope that the reader, whether just out of A&P school or a seasoned veteran, can glean some useful information and hopefully some recommendations to build a usable tool kit.

Disclaimer: I will from time to time post links on this blog that will direct you to some of the products discussed and some of those links will pay me a percentage if you buy from them.

Minimum_Tool_List

Here is a sample minimum tool list for new hires at one of the US’s largest commuter airlines. While it is a good basic starting point I see tools that I no longer carry in my personal flight line bag.

There are a lot of ways to fill the Minimum List and depending on how you obtain your tools there is a wide margin on what you can spend. My current line bag contains about $1,500 worth of tools. You can get by with less cash outlay, or more. I used to carry about $4,000 worth of Snap-on tools, but I don’t have tool insurance and I found out that if some dishonest baggage handler took a shine to them, my current employer would not cover my loss. The airline baggage policy is pretty worthless in that regard too. Down grading was my best choice and to be honest I can get by without most of the high dollar tools that I used to carry. There are some tools that I just couldn’t do without. It will all eventually depend on what works best for you.