Aircraft Maintenance Technology

JUN-JUL 2018

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20 JUNE/JULY 2018 AIRCRAFT MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY background in the STEM world (science, technology, engineering, and math) do find it easier to begin.” William Russo, University of the District of Columbia Community College aviation program director, says, “The biggest challenges that we face involve effectively preparing the next generation of AMTs for work in the industry, because there is disparity between the FAA’s mandated Part 147 curriculum and the current needs of the industry. Organizations like ATEC are working hard to bring about legislative and regulatory changes which will help to better align Part 147 school curricula with industry needs.” What opportunities is the shortage creating? “While the technician shortage is a problem facing the industry, it is creating excellent opportunities for our graduates,” says Chuck Horning, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) associate professor and department chairman. “Recent graduates have filled positions in manufacturing, MRO, corporate and commercial aviation, unmanned systems, and space. For the foreseeable future, graduates have an amazing opportunity to pretty much go anywhere they want in the industry.” ERAU is headquartered in Daytona Beach, FL. “The technician shortage has opened a very robust communication between AMT talked to AAR in Wood Dale, IL, to find out what MROs are doing to support the need for aircraft technicians. Dany Kleiman, AAR vice president, airframe maintenance, responded. AMT: What sort of recruitment programs is AAR involved in? Kleiman: AAR partners with local community colleges and technical training schools near our five MROs in the U.S. to help develop curriculum to teach students modern airframe and powerplant technology. We also hire students and grads from these programs and have created on-ramps to full-time employment. We’ve also stepped up recruitment of veterans transitioning out of the military as part of a recruitment strategy to target individuals who have a strong skills training and development background. The goal is to reduce the time it takes to upskill freshly minted A&P mechanics from about one year down to six months. An example is AAR’s partnership with Rock Valley College in Rockford, IL. We stood up a new wide-body MRO facility there in 2016, and the college agreed to enhance its A&P training program and built a 40,000-square-foot training facility near the airport. We grant interviews to anyone who completes the program. As a result, enrollment in the A&P program at the college went from about 40 to full capacity at 170 students. AMT: What challenges are you facing in developing the next generation of aircraft technicians? Kleiman: The industry remains challenged by the loss of vocational and technical programs in middle and high schools and a negative perception toward hands-on skilled labor. The focus turned almost solely to careers that require a bachelor’s degree, made worse by the airline industry slump after 9/11. What’s more, maintenance careers take place behind the scenes and off most people’s radar. So it’s imperative that maintenance providers raise the curtain and introduce these careers to young people starting in middle school. Until Part 147 schools are no longer bound to teach old techniques such as dope and fabric, employers will have to develop their own training programs to get AMTs work-ready. There has been some movement legislatively, with support in both houses of Congress for an aviation workforce development pilot program bill that would provide grants for training initiatives operated jointly by a business or labor group, school and government entity. Both measures will help us begin training the additional employees that we need and can put to work immediately in our repair facilities. AMT: What skills do new graduates need more training on? Kleiman: Next generation aircraft using advanced technologies will require AMTs to become more prolific in STEM. I believe we’ll see more focus on continuous learning and critical thinking with this generation of tech savvy young adults. Even with current platforms, new grads need more hours of experience and specialization in specific areas and this lack of experienced mechanics remains a key issue. AMT: What sort of outreach programs is AAR involved in? Kleiman: AAR hosts programs at middle and high schools in Chicago, Miami, and Oklahoma City to expose students and their teachers to aviation careers and to help change their perceptions about hands-on skilled labor. This includes visits to our nearby MRO hangars to see the aircraft and mechanics in action. One ongoing program involves AAR employees, along with our recently retired CEO David P. Storch, mentoring high school students at Perspectives Charters Schools on Chicago’s South Side and exposing them to opportunities in aviation. And we continue to look for new ways to raise awareness of and interest in aviation careers. For example, we are initiating a partnership with our customer Republic Airlines in Indianapolis to go into high schools and middle schools to talk about these exciting careers. Also, AAR just announced its sponsorship of the Design Hangar in the How Things Fly Exhibit at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, including a $1 million gift from AAR, former CEO David Storch, and the family of our late founder Ira Eichner. We’re also sponsors of the Cradle of Aviation Museum’s high-school program in Long Island, NY, and the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Cool Aeronautics programs in the UK. For more information visit www.aarcorp.com.

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