General Aviation's Perspective on Maintenance Training
The Impact of Technology
By Fred Workley
A new aviation industry group has formed to look for ways to interest more people in careers as aviation maintenance professionals. Also, the rewrite of Federal Air Regulation part 65 has been published as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking under Part 66. In light of all this industry and Federal Aviation Administration activity, let's take a look back, examine the present, and look forward to the future.
A study undertaken by industry and the Federal Aviation Administration was concluded several years ago and was compiled by the Pilot and Aviation Maintenance Technician Blue Ribbon Panel. The findings were released in a document entitled, "Pilots and Aviation Maintenance Technicians for the Twenty-first Century — An Assessment of Availability and Quality."
Its conclusions were that there was no current numerical shortage of aircraft maintenance technicians, and that there would not be a numerical shortage for the next 3 to 5 years. However, the Blue Ribbon Panel predicted an impending shortage of AMTs who meet the qualifications necessary to operate in the complex aerospace system of the future. The panel also predicted a high probability that there would be another numerical shortage after 1995 and through 2010. There are now many people who think that the numerical shortage will be in full evidence by the last quarter of 1998. In General Aviation, the aircraft maintenance technicians are essential to ensuring safe and reliable aircraft. These technicians perform the day-to-day maintenance tasks to keep aircraft in airworthy condition. The aircraft range from many 1940 and '50s vintage Piper Cubs, Aeroncas, and Cessnas, to very sophisticated jets and turbo-prop aircraft with the most modern equipment similar to the newest airliners.
Aircraft maintenance technicians are employed by all of the airlines, but a large number have full time employment in the general aviation sector. General aviation offers five areas of employment:
1. On-demand air carriers called Air Taxi operators;
2. Corporate operators;
3. Business and Commercial operators;
4. Fixed Base Operators (FBOs) providing a multiple of services;
5) Repair Stations.
Neither the major air carriers nor the commuter/regional air carriers are considered General Aviation. The commuter air carrier operates aircraft with a maximum of 60 seats, and provides at least 5 scheduled round trips per week between two or more points, or carries mail. However, in the General Aviation sector, the air taxies are on-demand any time and any place. These operators fly everything from 1943 Taylor Craft on floats at Fairbanks, Alaska, to the latest business class jets.
On the other hand, corporate operators use owned or leased aircraft flown by professional flight crews and operated for use by corporate personnel. Business aviation uses an aircraft for its own business activity, and a company representative flies the aircraft. These aircraft are not for hire or compensation and support the business, like any other valued resource.
Fixed base operators provide a variety of services, including aircraft maintenance, fueling, flight instruction, aircraft for hire, and cargo service.
Repair stations often employ AMTs even though the repair station's certificates do not require the use of licensed technicians. Repair stations look for individuals with good mechanical skills and the ability to be trained in specialized processes sometimes performed during maintenance of aircraft and components for which the repair station is authorized. Within general aviation, maintenance technicians perform a wide variety of tasks.
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