Maintenance Training: Setting the mark
By Lonnie Williams
Adaptability best sums up the approach maintenance training vendors must take these days. There are several major issues at play every day in the maintenance training business; all of them equal in the eyes of the beholder. For instance, many of today's consumers of maintenance training want shorter courses; however, the JAA and Transport Canada, want much longer courses with plenty of hands-on practical training with clearly identified task listings. Some flight departments want modularized systems training and training over periods of time, while still others want avionics integrated courses that include spending hours in a full flight simulator. And, it must be affordable and targeted to each individual technician's learning ability!
While most maintenance training vendors are doing their best to keep pace with today's requirements, and overall do a pretty good job meeting these fluctuating demands placed on them, let's look down the road to 2008. The people who will be trained to maintain aircraft and their highly integrated systems in the future are most likely to enter the workforce with far more computer literacy than those who are now maintaining legacy systems on older aircraft. For this reason we must look at what the technical trends are now and where the technology is likely to be in 2008. A large part of the training development process will be the evaluation of how students are currently being taught and what learning methodologies they are exposed to. That process will help us prepare for the coming generation of maintenance technicians - in other words setting the mark!
To provide examples of how difficult the training development process is let's look at an example of the aircraft technology we may be dealing with in the future. One of the most talked about technologies for highly integrated aircraft is Prognostic Health Management (PHM), a composition of imbedded software that constantly monitors system maintenance status. Yes, some onboard diagnostics exist now, but they are really first generation. PHM is light years ahead of what is currently available. So how will we teach that and continue lessons for aircraft servicing, and removal and replacement of components, perform ground handling, etc? Do we use an Integrated Maintenance Training System (IMTS), Interactive three dimensional and Virtual Reality (I3D/VR), Integrated Interactive Computer Based Training (CBT), Desk Top Simulation, Instructor Led Classrooms, or a blend of it all? As you can see there are significant challenges for maintenance trainers. As new technologies become better known, the maintenance training business is likely to use more emulation-based training products. But as recent feedback has shown, there is still a demand for realistic, practical hands-on training . . . so setting the mark will continue to be problematic. It is clear, the only maintenance training vendors that will succeed are those that are persistently soliciting feedback, building on lessons learned, continually committing resources to the task, and maintaining close working associations with OEMs to enable them to gain knowledge of what is required by the future technology. There is no reason to believe we can't reach the levels of training our future technicians will require - see you in 2008!
Lonnie Williams is a corporate training counselor for FlightSafety International and manager of Maintenance Training Plans for FSI Training Solutions. He has more than 30 years experience in aircraft maintenance training, marketing, and management. He holds an A&P certificate and is a past president of PAMA's Fort Worth, Texas, Chapter.