Maintenance, employee shortages head agenda as NATA, PAMA meet
By Lindsay M. Hitch, Assistant Editor
The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) and Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA) discuss aviation issues in conjunction with the upcoming AS3 show in Long Beach including employee shortages; maintenance regulations; ergonomics standards; curriculum and training; legal representation; NATA’s AAAI; and drug testing.
With shortages in aviation maintenance professionals and flight instructors and the expected rewrite of Part 65, NATA and PAMA members are sharing more this year than just a trade show.
REWRITING PART 65
After a barrage of opposing comments, the NPRM of Part 66 has been withdrawn and will not be reissued.
"Part 66, the NPRM, is a classic study on how rulemaking is supposed to work," says Ric Peri, technical services manager for NATA. "We were very pleased that the comments from the public asked the right questions, pointed out the deficits of the proposal, and caused the FAA to go back and reevaluate things."
Much of the trouble with the Part 65 rewrite is trying to correct too many things at once, says Peri. In addition to gender neutrality, the rewrite may contain a mechanic/technician terminology change and an attempt at reregistration. PAMA’s Macnair and NATA’s Peri agree that they expect to see requirements for continuing education included in the rewrite.
According to Macnair, FAA’s work on Part 65 is being done in harmony with Part 147. Many people within the industry would like to see FAA regulate training requirements under Part 147. NATA and PAMA agree, however, that a government regulation is not the place for training standards.
Macnair explains, "PAMA thinks the curriculum should be moved into an industry standard in much the same way that the medical and legal professions are trained to industry standards."
Peri adds that "the majority of maintenance technicians out there get recurrent training. We’re constantly learning. We learn over a cup of coffee. We learn at the PAMA convention. We learn at industry meetings. We learn at FAA IA-renewal sessions."
PAMA has begun work with the Aircraft Electronics Association to set up a Center of Excellence through funding from the National Science Foundation. AEA received a grant to begin work on this training body which will establish training and standards for avionics and maintenance professionals. The program is in its infant stages, but Macnair hopes it will grow to be embraced by the industry as a whole.
RESPONSIBILITY FORLIFE-LIMITED PARTS
There is a debate in the industry, however, as to who should be responsible for the disposition of expired parts.
The current proposal places the responsibility for disposition on the person who removes the part. Proper disposition means segregating, marking, destroying, or locking up parts that have reached their life limits. Currently the person who removed the part responsible if it ever ends up on another airplane, even if it had been properly marked or segregated.
"We want life-limited parts to be segregated; at least we want life-limited parts that have reached their life limits to be segregated," Macnair says. "But it has to rest on the owner/operators’ shoulders. This goes back to the basic premise that owner/operators are responsible for the airworthiness of their aircraft."
The proposal requires the segregation of all life-limited parts including those that have not reached their life limits. PAMA feels there is no reason to disposition parts within their life limits.
"In other words, if the part is airworthy, as long as we transfer the life-status, there is no reason why we have to segregate that part from all others -- it is still airworthy," says Doug Macnair. "It’s only after they reach their life limit that we care that they don’t make it back into that parts stream."
PAMA feels that it should be the responsibility of technicians to alert owner/operators of parts that have reached their life limits, but that the disposition of those parts should rest on the owner/operator, that the decision to remove and segregate or destroy a part should be the responsibility of the owner/operator of the aircraft.
NATA RECOMMENDS PART 145 SNPRM
Jim Coyne, president of NATA, recently sent a letter to Norm Mineta, secretary of transportation, requesting that the Bush Administration review the Part 145 NPRM and issue a supplemental NPRM rather than a final rule.
Coyne argues that "the proposed rule failed to consider the significant differences between large repair stations that maintain aircraft for Part 121 air carriers versus the independent maintenance providers holding a repair station certificate for maintaining and repairing piston- and turbine-engine general aviation aircraft."
PAMA is also not satisfied with the Part 145 NPRM. "Don’t just require training without a standard," says Macnair. "Not to say we would ever discourage any requirements for training, but as long as we’re at it, let’s do it right.
LACKING MORE THAN JUST PEOPLE
Doug Macnair, vice president of government and technical affairs for PAMA, says there are many reasons for the perceived shortage of aviation maintenance professionals, and that many have little to do with an insufficient labor force. A&P certificates issued by the FAA have declined significantly over the last ten years.
"When we talk shortage, people talk about money, people talk about respect, attitude, working conditions. But in reality, even if we do attract good people, we don’t really give them much of a career. We give them a good occupation," Macnair says.
In addition to focusing on training and continuing education to combat the shortage, PAMA is actively pursuing the improvement of wages and job conditions for maintenance professionals.
"PAMA has historically avoided any discussion of wages ... We are not a labor organization; we are a professional organization," Macnair says. "You can’t have a discussion about the shortage of maintenance professionals or a shortage of skills, training, and education without [wages] coming into the discussion."
ISSUE IN REVERSE
For years, flight schools focused their attention on attracting good flight support personnel. David Kennedy, government and industry affairs specialist for NATA, says they’re now faced with the opposite problem: attracting and keeping certified flight instructors. The traditional model of advancement has been shortened by regional airlines, major airlines, and fractionals hiring CFIs away with fewer hours than before. Faster advancement and increased pay are good for flight instructors but tough on flight schools.
Kennedy recently visited Flight-Safety and observed its solution to the problem. As incentive, flight instructors receive their multi-engine and instrument instructor certificates, with the understanding that they will stay and fly 800 hours with decent pay.
"Those are the ones who are going to retain folks," says Kennedy. "They’re doing what it takes to keep them there."
On March 7, Congress passed a joint resolution to reverse OSHA’s Ergonomics Protection Standard. This reversal is considered a victory for many small business owners and was strongly supported by NATA.
At first glance, the ergonomics rule appears to be a positive step toward reducing and treating worksite injuries. Unfortunately, the rule covers industry too broadly and compliance would cost businesses too much money, says Peri.
The OSHA rule required training on ergonomics protection and provided "safe pay" (90 percent salary with full benefits) for those injured in repetitive motion activities. Peri says that in many companies, particularly those using production line workers, ergonomics standards need to be set. But in many industries, including aviation, the ergonomics rule would create pure overhead costs that would have to be made up by the consumer.
OSHA will not be able to issue a new rule similar to the first, and may continue to cite ergonomic injuries under its general duty clause.
GOOD NEWS IN DRUG AND ALCOHOL TESTING
The final rule on revisions to Part 40 means more protection for employers involved in drug test verification procedures, according to Jacque Rosser.
Employers will be able to apply to FAA for an employee stand down program that allows them to remove employees in safety-sensitive positions from service while awaiting verification on a positive test.
The employee stand down policy becomes effective August 1, 2001. To qualify, employers must submit a program proposal to the FAA outlining such things as how employees will be protected from harrassment during the waiting period.
PAMA Letter to Bush
PAMA president Brian Finnegan recently sent a letter to President Bush requesting that a Presidential Emergency Board be convened "to address U.S. air transportation needs" and "the poor overall state of the aviation maintenance industry." The letter outlines four major recommendations related to Part 147 and legal actions against technicians. A copy of the letter may be viewed at www.pama.org.
• PAMA Professional Workshops
April 29-30, May 3-4
• PAMA Golf Tournament
Coyote Hills Golf Course
April 30, 6:00am
• NATA Strategic Issues Breakfast
May 2, 7:30-9:00 am
• Annual PAMA Chili Cook-off
May 2, 6:00-8:30 pm
• AS3 Industry Breakfast
Speaker: Golfer Billy Casper
May 3, 7:30-9:00 pm
Keeping Experienced Pilots In The Air
NATA is also working to keep current pilots in the air, and attended a Senate hearing March 13 to discuss modification of the Age 60 rule and submit a statement of approval.
The Age 60 rule was written nearly 40 years ago, when the average life expectancy was much lower. Many industrialized countries allow their pilots to fly well beyond age 60, and there is no documented proof that increasing the 121 carriers’ pilot retirement age to 65 will have any safety repercussions.
"The fewer people that are retiring off the top end, the fewer pilots will be grabbed up from our membership and it will relieve the burden our membership is having now with the turnover and the inability to hire," explains Jacque Rosser, flight operations specialist for NATA.
NATA hopes that by increasing the mandatory retirement age to 65, pilot advancement will slow enough to meet industry needs. Rosser expects to see action on the Age 60 rule within the next year.
• AS3 SuperShow
Non-technical PAMA Symposium Sessions
PAMA has begun a number of initiatives to develop more "professional" maintenance technicians.
Many sessions at this year’s symposium are devoted to non-technical
issues: workforce readiness; stress management; maintenance management;
job interviewing skills as interviewer and interviewee; promoting professional
development within companies; and understanding corporate culture.
PAMA will also offer two-day workshops before and after the symposium on aviation maintenance management, hazardous materials handling and processing, human factors for aviation technicians, and aviation maintenance safety program management.
Macnair comments that the new symposium programming is brought on "by the fact that a lot of people are focusing their attention on the perceived shortage of technicians ... and what we are really seeing when we delve into this is that it is more a shortage of skills than people."
Subpart K and the modifications to Part 135 have been signed off by the FAA Administrator and sent to the Department of Transportation and Office of Management & Budget for approval. NATA does not forsee major problems and expects an NPRM later this year.
PAMA Offers Legal Counsel Services
The PAMA legal services plan covers legal expenses for maintenance professionals in the case of an FAA certificate action. The plan entitles members to everything from a short phone call for advice to full legal representation throughout the investigation. Participants pay a flat yearly rate based on their job responsibilities.
AAAI Campaign Efforts
In Long Beach, NATA will release a "toolkit" (available to anyone interested) that outlines ways to promote, preserve, and expand local airports.
The goal of NATA’s American Aviation Access Initiative (AAAI) is
to direct the attention of communities and FAA to airports that want to
The latest step in the program is conducting town meetings. NATA held meetings in Florida in February and Texas and Kansas City in March. The meetings have given airport supporters the opportunity to promote the need for their airports and have given communities the chance to learn the benefits of local airports.