Re-Exam for Technicians
Is safety really compromised?
By Stephen P. Prentice
Imagine attending an authorized A&P school, passing all the tests, getting your ticket and a year later being told that you had to be re-examined by the FAA because the school was found to be violating FAR’s in regard to testing procedures. Upset? You bet!
With the need for additional technicians, many schools have sprung up to both train and test people for their A&P certificate. Military and former military personnel among others, signed on to these schools in good faith to pursue an aviation maintenance career.
The man who contacted me recently with this story was a senior enlisted man with close to 20 years of service in the Air Force working on Air Force Boeing equipment. In addition, he was part of an elite maintenance group that took care of and flew with Washington, DC government personnel. He told me his certificate was suspended on an emergency basis until he was re-tested — all this because he happened to attend a school that was targeted by the FAA for alleged failures of their designated examiner in the oral and practical testing procedure.
The FAA claimed that the re-testing was necessary to be sure safety was not compromised. Nonsense!
It does not take much to get into the A&P training business. A location, some desks and the other usual teaching equipment. Bring in some knowledgeable A&P licensed techs as teachers, have someone available who is designated and authorized to give oral and practical exams, and you are in business. No further certification or approval required. It’s no wonder these schools are targeted.
Accelerated training schools are to be distinguished from the typical two-year training curriculum provided at many community colleges for example. This is not to say that accelerated schedule schools do not perform a valuable service. They do. Where you have people working in the field for many years on both general aviation and air carrier equipment, and they have attended numerous factory schools, there is little reason for them to attend a full two-year program. The regulations provide for this shortcut where you have people with the required experience in the business.
Generally, there is a minimum of surveillance at these schools. They do a good job of providing a route for otherwise experienced personnel. It is not until somebody complains or there is some other "event" that the FAA decides to take a closer look at the program.
The way this oversight gets started is with a complaint about an oral or practical exam or other testing procedure. The FAA will then get a list of all the graduates and send them a letter asking for information concerning their training. It is usually called a "survey." However, buried in the text will be questions dealing with the procedure and content of the oral and practical exam. The technicians did not feel that the letter would amount to any more than a simple critique of the process and the school. Boy, were they surprised after they returned the "survey."
What happened was that the technicians who responded were unwittingly providing information that would require their re-testing in some cases and the ultimate suspension of their certificates if they refused. Needless to say, none of the technicians suspected that some of them would be forced to retest as a result of the "survey."