Learning Beyond Part 147

Being a newcomer to the aviation industry with no experience can be a daunting transition to a student attending an aviation-related school. I have come to realize this as I start my second year of A&P training at Redstone College in Denver.

The information we receive while attending a Part 147 program has taught us much about the industry. However, there is something that no amount of training and bookwork can provide: familiarity and confidence.

Real-world experience
This may seem elementary to someone with any real-world aviation experience, but to an outsider the industry can at first be intimidating. Complex aircraft and operations, endless rules and regulations, learning a whole new language full of acronyms and cryptic terms, and finally just being in an unfamiliar and sometimes dangerous environment. This can all lead to a bit of justified anxiety as a student looks forward to graduation and heading out into the real world.

There are several ways a new student can ease the transition, and, at the same time gain some practical knowledge beyond the FAA core curriculum.

A few ideas for gaining basic aviation experience include the following:

  • Volunteer at an aviation museum doing restoration work or exhibits
  • Volunteer at an air show or fly-in; many different tasks are staffed by volunteers
  • Ramp jobs including aircraft fueling, cleaning, and handling
  • Air cargo handlers, unloading and loading cargo
  • Aircraft cleaning/service with a local FBO

Basically anything that can get you on or near aircraft will be beneficial.

Regional fly-in volunteer
Recently I had the opportunity, along with many other Redstone students to volunteer at the 2007 Rocky Mountain EAA regional fly-in held in Watkins, CO. Volunteer positions included everything from aircraft registration to ground handling and aircraft judging.

I was fortunate to be able to participate in aircraft judging. Aside from being surrounded by beautiful works of engineering and craftsmanship, I was able to gain valuable experience with the aircraft, their pilots/builders, and many industry professionals. Along with seeing how the whole event was operated and organized, I was able to put into use some of the skills I have learned in school.

After the EAA event I presented the following question to my fellow student volunteers:

“What do you feel was the biggest benefit of volunteering at the fly-in?”

Here are a few of the responses:

“The biggest benefit of volunteering for me was learning the type and model of a lot of the aircraft,” Nancy Cabrera, aircraft registration volunteer.

“Learning about ground operation, and what it takes to control aircraft movement on an active runway,” Konrad Labno, aircraft handler ground ops volunteer.

“Being a judge and being able to tie everything I’ve learned about at Redstone together in an up close and personal perspective,” Kevin Lindsey, aircraft judging volunteer.

One thing all of the students I spoke with agreed upon was that the experience was rewarding and a lot of fun. I suspect that each of them came away with a new confidence in their future.

The greatest piece of advice I can pass on to the students is to get out into the industry by talking to aviation professionals, instructors, industry associations, and find every opportunity to learn something beyond the books.