Training: Does one size fit all?

Does one size fit all?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has significantly changed Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 145, which governs foreign and domestic repair stations. In particular, there is a new provision -- 14 CFR 145.163 -- that requires each repair station to submit a training program to the FAA for approval no later than April 6, 2005.

To assist industry and FAA inspectors in complying with this requirement, the FAA asked a research group to identify the current state of training to provide guidance. The group has made recommendations for establishing training programs at repair stations. This report will have an influence on FAA policies on training and affect the direction of the new Advisory Circular describing the approved repair station training program. Many of the same issues were addressed in the Part 66 rewrite that had many positive and negative comments to the final Notice of Proposed Rulemaking but did not become regulation. In the case of Part 145, regulations are already in place and the recommendations from the research group and upcoming Advisory Circular are one way but not the only way to comply with the regulation.

The research team reviewed the FAA's and other aviation authorities' requirements on repair station training and conducted interviews. The general consensus was that the FAA should specify hourly requirements as well as acceptable content and format for the training programs. Due to the diversity of the maintenance segment of the aviation industry, the challenge for the FAA is to create a reasonable compromise between an acceptable minimum of formalized training at smaller, less complex repair stations without reducing the training offered by the larger repair stations. Having very specific hour requirements for very specific categories may have interesting cost considerations.

Based on the 14 CFR 145.163 regulatory requirements, the current state of training at repair stations, and the interview results, the report offers guidance and recommendations on establishing an approved training program at repair stations. The report discusses the elements and functions that constitute an effective training program and the recommended number of hours and topics for training repair station mechanics, managers, supervisors, and inspectors. The research team recommended that the FAA build on existing tools to create an effective template for repair stations to design their training programs. This will allow repair stations to develop realistic training programs which build on current knowledge and skills. This comprehensive training plan is required to ensure that the training activity focuses on each organization's performance objectives and goals. And individual repair stations can use the plan and expand it to suit their needs.

The research team also suggests minimum basic hour requirements in repair station training programs with initial and recurrent training phases for each category of mechanics, managers, and inspectors. Repair stations should be allowed to conduct the recommended training in-house or to contract with an outside vendor or a 14 CFR Part 147 school. The FAA may establish a standard mechanism for tracking training in general and on-the-job training in particular.

Formal and hands-on training

The report states that most airframe and powerplant mechanics acquire their required skills through a combination of formal training and hands-on experience. Many mechanics obtain their formal training through maintenance training schools certificated under 14 CFR Part 147, which establishes minimum curriculum requirements and certain hour and level of instruction requirements.

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