Part 66 - A beginning or the end?

PART 66 - A BEGINNING OR THE END? Will it spell the demise of the general aviation technician? By Stephen P. Prentice November 1998 Stephen Prentice is an attorney whose practice involves FAA-NTSB issues. He has an Airframe and...

Who will be interested in spending the time to become a "super" AMT(T) (transport) when the reward will be an entry-level job at United or America West for twelve bucks an hour? Not many, I am sure.

If you think we have a shortage of technicians now, just wait until 66 becomes the law. Think back a bit. Every time education requirements for a particular job go up, the number of people in that job declines. An example that I am familiar with are registered nurses. I can remember when there was no shortage of nurses in the hospitals. But, as soon as extended college degree-type training became the rule rather than the exception, their numbers declined. Those that remained, worked longer hours for lower wages. A shortage developed and the rise of the non-registered nurse trade developed to fill the gap. They obviously worked for less money. Nowadays, in most hospitals, you are attended to by a lower-level trained person and the registered nurse is only an overworked supervisor someplace in the system.

You may know about other examples of this happening. In our case, we will have fewer licensed A&Ps and many more lower-level employees doing the work. Unless the pay structure changes radically, there will be no applicants for the schools. Look around, enrollments have been declining and some schools have abandoned their maintenance education programs.

This is a good idea. Like the flight instructor, now the maintenance instructor will have his certificated status. Anything that can raise the status of the teacher in my opinion is good. The training schools support this increased status, but at the same time, express fears that they will not be able to attract enough staff to support the additional training required for the transport trained technician. Schools don't pay a great salary. Who is going to teach all of these super technicians for the required extended training period? If they can't be found, won't this slow the pipeline down? Shortage? You bet there will be a continuing shortage. It's really interesting — the FAA proposes rules that may well eventually spell the demise of the very group they are supervising. Just think — all management, and few, or no workers to do the work.

Don't fall for all this rhetoric that names will make a difference. Yes, the proposed change to aviation maintenance technician sounds better, but mechanic will be with us for a long time. Whether you are called a mechanic, technician, or aircraft maintenance engineer, your pay will stay the same. Sure, we want to raise the status of technicians and hopefully raise their pay, but when the corner auto mechanic makes more money with a lot less hassle from government, who wants to be an airplane mechanic? Whether or not your status changes will not depend on the government, but rather on what you do for yourself.

There is even some talk about being type rated as a mechanic on certain air transport aircraft. Some suggest that the day is coming when you are going to need a specific rating to work on a particular aircraft. Like pilots, mechanics will need further specialty training and a specific rating to work on a transport category aircraft. Be prepared for more nonsense — it's coming. Europe, in its complex ways, makes life much more difficult for their technicians, but they pay them better. Although nothing is said about type ratings in the proposed changes, I can see it coming down the road for the air carrier business. Just watch!

Many concerned parties are at odds with the proposed new regulation. (FAR 66). Most of the alphabet groups seem to favor modest changes, but not all of them. Some say it needs more refinement and more input from the working technicians who will be most affected, while others mention excessive costs involved with training and certification.

The new rule will draw a big line between general aviation and the transport industry, which is just what the air carrier business wants. Maybe this is good, maybe not. Upgrading and advanced training will be time consuming and expensive and perhaps out of the reach of many — we'll see. Be sure and put your two cents in to the FAA on this.

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