Aircraft Maintenance Technology

JUN-JUL 2018

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14 JUNE/JULY 2018 AIRCRAFT MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY FROM THE FAA Service jobs in the computer, automotive, and other industries seem to be more attractive than aviation maintenance opportunities. Secondary school graduates head off to college, even though the percentage of unemployed new graduates is at an all-time high. It takes, at least, two years to obtain certification as an FAA aircraft mechanic. The training and apprentice time in Europe nearly doubles that! That is a long duration of expensive tuition requiring extensive presence in the classroom and laboratories. The time constraint makes it very difficult to hold a job while in training. The estimated completion rate from AMT programs is about 70 percent, 60 percent of program graduates take the FAA certification exam, and 20 percent of graduates take jobs outside of aviation. Airline employers say that most newly certified AMTs are not qualified for unsupervised work. The current situation is grim. Another challenge to attracting potential U.S. AMTs is the expressed and perceived status of the certified aviation maintenance technician. The U.S. Department of Labor places certified AMTs in the major group “Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations.” Typically, workers in this category do not have the extensive initial and continuing training and exam requirements of the FAA Certified A&P. It follows that secondary school counselors are less likely to suggest this line of work. Further, such labor classification hardly helps raise the salary to match the credentials and impending occupational shortages of AMT personnel. Associated with perception is the title “mechanic or technician.” In most of the world, the term “engineer” applies to one who maintains aircraft. While status is an unlikely major cause of the AMT shortage, it is one of many contributing factors. The Schools and the AMT Curriculum For a long time many U.S. AMT schools, regulated by CFR 65 Part 147, have used the outdated FAA curricular requirements as a good reason to have outdated, antiquated equipment. Traditionally, it has been more affordable to use old reciprocating engines; traditional airframe construction and repair equipment; and low technology instructional methods/equipment to meet the “FAA requirements.” Further, to remain commercially competitive, schools strive to complete the training in the required minimum time of 1,900 hours, about two years within a standard academic calendar. That translated into “old-fashioned” vocational education. Round engines have evolved to turbine wheels, fabric has become composite material, and avionics have Positive Steps to Address the Challenge For Schools: • Emphasize the worker shortage • Modernize aircraft and training technology • Reinforce partnerships with industry • Increase attendance options for students • Propose and test new alternative curricula and competence-based solutions • Address certification testing • Ensure recurrent training for instructors • Increase diversity of student population • Focus on competence to pass certification rather than on program completion • Match graduate skill and competence to local aviation employment opportunity For Industry: • Ensure attractive compensation and benefits for certified AMTs • Actively recruit all newly certified personnel (no escape to other industries) • Improve marketing of AMT profession at all levels of schools • Assist with certification testing challenges • Collaborate with schools • Help schools with equipment • Increase apprenticeship opportunities • Offer tours of maintenance facilities For Government • Recognize the urgency • Capitalize on risk-based decision making • Consider all reasonable proposed new curricular modifications • Help schools with certification testing • Do not wait for congressional mandate • Stay the new current course for change

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