Ever since I departed the role as tech rep for an airframe manufacturer, I have noticed subtle changes in my life. First, I no longer need blood pressure medicine. Secondly, my cell phone usage has gone from 3,000 minutes a month to less than 100.
This new relaxed life style gives me some time for contemplation which, on a few occasions, promotes revelations. A while back while talking with an old friend and listening to him describe a recent event with our health care system, it came to me. He was relating a tale of a painful hangnail and when I asked if he had gone to a doctor, his response was yes. It seems his wife’s brother is a proctologist with an office not far from the airport. Within two days of treatment a serious infection set in requiring further treatment from a wound specialist and 10 days of antibiotics. I, of course, related this experience to aviation maintenance. Would it be prudent to contact someone with extensive engine overhaul experience to troubleshoot an auto pilot problem?
A&P: all purpose
It is assumed by many that the (A&P) abbreviation for Airframe and Powerplant technician is in fact an acronym for All Purpose and in fact in some operations that is the expectation.
Is it an unreasonable assessment? Not necessarily. In business aviation, organizations that have one or two aircraft and one or two technicians might be very well equipped to handle most day-to-day nose-to-tail maintenance. When it comes to the heavy checks a specialized service center might fill the void.
Early in my career while working for a maintenance repair organization (MRO) we had separate airframe and powerplant shops where the mechanics from the airframe department would work side by side with people from the engine shop. At that time, it was commonplace to segregate the avionics types as they were, for the most part, a strange lot who did not care for getting their hands dirty.
Initiation to avionics
My official initiation to the avionics world came as a result of working on Lear Jets that required a technician to go along on stall test flights to facilitate adjustments to the stall system computer. It just so happened that none of the currently employed technicians had the stomach for the required maneuvers. Usually two dozen deep stalls were needed and early Lears were not known for their docile stall characteristics. At the conclusion of the flight, the factory test pilot told the avionics shop manager that I was able to make all the adjustments and did not get air sick. I was appointed “Avionics Technician” on the spot. That night while at home contemplating the day’s events, I began to wonder when the avionics elves would arrive to impart their knowledge and wisdom about such things as autopilots and navigation and communication systems. After all, where would I acquire all the “need to know” of the trade?
Perhaps we can find some guidance in the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR). Part 65 does provide some insight:
§ 65.81 General privileges and limitations.
(a) A certificated mechanic may perform or supervise the maintenance, preventive maintenance, or alteration of an aircraft or appliance, or a part thereof, for which he is rated (but excluding major repairs to, and major alterations of, propellers, and any repair to, or alteration of, instruments), and may perform additional duties in accordance with §§65.85, 65.87, and 65.95. However, he may not supervise the maintenance, preventive maintenance, or alteration of, or approve and return to service, any aircraft or appliance, or part thereof, for which he is rated unless he has satisfactorily performed the work concerned at an earlier date. If he has not so performed that work at an earlier date, he may show his ability to do it by performing it to the satisfaction of the Administrator or under the direct supervision of a certificated and appropriately rated mechanic, or a certificated repairman, who has had previous experience in the specific operation concerned.
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