My late father once told me that records are made to be broken and records are sometimes only as good as the person that conceived it to be a record in the first place. Well, when we reached a new record number of employers of aviation maintenance technicians (AMTs) that participated in and earned one of the program’s Awards of Excellence, needless to say we were excited. In 2008 we reached a new high of 67 employers participating. But, remember “Records are made to be broken” and in 2009 the one-year-old record was not just broken, it was shattered.
Beginning in 2010 the newly improved “Bill O’Brien” AMT Awards Program had 212 employers enrolled in the program and of those 120 earned an Award of Excellence. These employers employ approximately 13,796 AMTs, and of these 8,198 individual AMTs were also enrolled in the program for 2009. That is far from the more than 300,000 certificated AMTs that are presently in the FAA’s Airmen Certification System and this number doesn’t include the thousands of non-certificated AMTs that are employed by repair stations and air carriers.
So we asked ourselves why such a dramatic increase in participation by the employers? First, approximately 10 years ago the FAA made it a requirement that all Part 145 repair stations have a training program for their AMTs. Secondly, we automated the AMT Awards program and placed it online at FAASafety.gov for easier use.
Placing the Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) Awards Program online was made for several reasons; the most important of which was that the program had become stagnant. So, the FAASTeam created an easily accessible and understood online program that can be used by both AMTs and employers. Another reason was that, even though the number of employers using the program was going up, the number of individual AMTs that were participating was decreasing in a big way! In 2008 we had a little over 6,000 individual AMTs that received a Certificate of Training from the FAA for meeting the requirements of the program versus the average of more than 20,000 per year when we had the NASCAR program running.
The leading motive for making changes to the program was to address aircraft accident causal factors where maintenance was involved, along with the number of FAR violations by AMTs pointing to the AMTs’ failure to follow procedures! Thus, the mandatory core training courses that are now required for anyone to receive an award was implemented.
Mandatory core training can be one to two required courses that an AMT must receive credit in before he/she can earn an AMT Awards Program Certificate of Training. The number and content of core training courses will be determined by the FAASTeam’s Airworthiness Committee, and when needed AFS-300. The courses will most always address a safety issue or an FAA policy issue. The core training courses can be found in the Aviation Learning Center at www.FAASafety.gov.
A look back
What many of you may or may not know is that the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) do not require the general aviation (GA) AMT to have any type of recurrent training once they receive their Airframe and Powerplant certificate. Thus, in October 1991, Flight Standards Service, AFS-300 determined there was a need for an incentive program to encourage AMT employees, in particular GA AMTs and their employers to participate aggressively in available initial and recurrent maintenance training/courses. FSS was encouraged to do this because it noted the success of several repair stations and maintenance facilities that had, on their own, realized a need for aggressive training programs in areas such as FARs.
Again it’s important to note that this Flight Standards Services incentive program was created before the repair station training program requirement.
In the first few years of the program’s existence very few people participated or even knew about the program. With the leadership of Rich Mileham, a seed was planted using the increasing popularity of NASCAR to boost awareness of the program. The results: the FAA/NASCAR AMT Awards Program Contest had more than 60,000 individual participants inside three years of starting the contest. Since the NASCAR Contest went away around 2001, participation in the AMT Awards Program by the individual AMT had steadily decreased. We realized that we had to do something.
With the aid of a wonderful group of industry volunteers the contest was kept going for a number of years after our association with NASCAR ended. Regardless of their hard work interest diminished but the program continued to operate. Each and every one of you individual AMTs and your employers owe Jennifer Baker, president and owner of Baker’s School of Aeronautics; and Tom Hendershot, executive director of the AMTSociety, a great amount of gratitude for their services during this time.
In closing, if we can make simple changes to the program and, in doing so, reduce the number of accidents and incidents where maintenance, and in particular an AMT is involved, doesn’t it make sense to make these changes? I ask you to join us in making a difference by participating in the AMT Awards Program. Together, and only together, we can reduce the number of maintenance-related aircraft accidents. AMT