Customer Training

Aviation, aircraft, and engines have come a long way since the Wright brothers first worked on their flying machine. So has the way technicians learn to maintain airplanes. For example, Pratt & Whitney’s customer training program has expanded its mission and capabilities dramatically since 1935 when the first class of mechanics learned how to maintain its Wasp engines.

Today, more than 4,000 customers and others are trained annually on engine operations and maintenance practices through its Customer Training Center and satellite/franchise operations. To learn more about it, AMT talked with Laura Holmes, general manager of the Pratt & Whitney Customer Training Center (P&W CTC), East Hartford, CT. She suggests anonymous student comments from past training session evaluations provide a good indication about what to look for in classes that help you do your job and planes fly more safely.

Knowledgeable instructors
“(The instructor) was great. I was very impressed with his overall aviation knowledge. He kept the class very interesting,” one student wrote on his form this past February following a class at the P&W CTC.

Other attendees appreciated having an instructor who was easy to talk with, professional, courteous, had a good training style, and was very knowledgeable on the subject. “Our teacher was able to tailor the material to our level of experience,” wrote another student, a training factor obviously important to him.

Clear answers to all questions and detailed information so students could grasp even complex subject matter were noted often. This translates into ideas you can take back to the job, and led to one comment: “This training will help cut down on setup time.”

Holmes explains that good training, like that available from the P&W CTC, is dedicated to delivering a focused learning experience to students from around the world. “Our curriculum blends classroom instruction with computer-based technologies and hands-on engine practice. Comprehensive and effective training solutions can be provided at one of our state-of-the-art training centers, at a satellite network location, or on-site at a customer facility.”

As part of its global strategy, the China Customer Training Center was opened in 2002 in Beijing to provide training to customers in the region. Training satellites have also been established within its engine center network to support both employee and customer learning requirements on various engine models. The locations include Stavanger, Norway; Christchurch, New Zealand; Columbus, GA; and North Berwick, ME.

The company employs eight full-time commercial instructors and five full-time military instructors, plus many part-time instructors within its global satellite network. Their backgrounds are both in engineering and technical skills, typically combined with 10 to 30 years of hands-on experience.

“Customer Training has a world-class professional instructor team, and rigorous standards for qualifying and continuously developing their knowledge, expertise, and skills,” Holmes says. “In addition, the P&W curriculum development team members have strong backgrounds in adult learning principles to ensure that content is designed to maximize knowledge retention and human performance improvement when they return to the job.”

Courses vary anywhere from two days to six months in length, depending on the subject or program.

A wide choice in subjects and instructional methods
At the best training facilities, students have choices. For example, at P&W CTC, you can select instructor-led commercial and military engine maintenance training, engineering and engine performance courses, general courses, and executive education initiatives. “Online courses are also available as an additional resource to support training needs in a self-paced format,” Holmes points out, ”and these include new courses such as Jet Engine Introduction and Human Factors Awareness.”

In fact, Pratt & Whitney’s Customer Training program’s primary mission has been broadened. “We have greatly enhanced our curriculum from engine maintenance for the original P&W engine models, such as the Wasp,” she explains, “to a full range of courses on maintenance, design and performance, and engine fleet management for all active production P&W models today, as well as the Engine Alliance GP7200. Courses for the PW1000G are already in the early stages of development in preparation for this model’s entry into service.”

That’s not all. “We also offer courses on human factors awareness, standard practices, and jet engine operation,” she adds. “In November 2006, we launched the MRO Leadership Program, which shares knowledge, experience, and best practices with industry counterparts to address the critical issue of future maintenance, repair and overhaul talent in a rapidly changing business environment. Our program is offered in cooperation with universities, industry experts, and associations.”

The Air Transport Association (ATA) Specification 104 provides definitions for five training levels. A useful training supplier offers all five levels. Level I is General Familiarization, Level II is Ramp and Transit, Level III is Line and Base Maintenance, Level IV is Specialized Training, and Level V is Component Overhaul Training.

You also want to look for a training provider that offers special certifications. “The P&W CTC is an approved Transport Canada and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Part 147 maintenance training organization,” Holmes points out. “With these certifications, we can provide ‘type training’ for European and Canadian aircraft and power plant technicians as required by their respective curriculums.”

Good facilities focus on practical training
Two of the center’s former students emphasized the importance of a complete training facility. “The ‘shop floor’ is very impressive,” one pointed out, while another wrote, “You have the nicest shop I’ve seen so far!”

Good training facilities know what their students need, and provide it. “Our primary customers are owners, operators, and maintainers of Pratt & Whitney engines; however we have many students who also work on our competitors’ engine models,” Holmes says. “As P&W has expanded its scope of product and service offerings to include the CFM56 engine family, Customer Training is supporting the effort to train employees and partners.

“The entire learning experience is designed with the student in mind, from registration to course completion,” she continues. “While the courses are intense with theoretical and hands-on practice, students are also provided with many amenities including on-site catering, a student lounge and activities, Internet access, and facilities designed to accommodate many cultures.”

Perhaps this person summed up what quality training is comprised of: “Knowledgeable instructors, an engine to work on, and parts to handle made it easier to convert the info into job knowledge.”

More information about the Pratt & Whitney Customer Training Center’s services is available by calling (860) 565-8600, or visiting its web site at

This site allows students and training supervisors to review the catalog, schedule and register for courses, and manage training records — all online.