FAA makes the regulations and oversees the AMT schools. School personnel adhere to the regulations, develop and deliver curricula, and try to ensure that current training is matched to learners’ needs and to job requirements. There are many opportunities for improvements.
Earlier this year two conferences dedicated sessions to asking students about their perspective as the recipients of maintenance training. The sessions were at the Halldale World Aviation Training Symposium (WATS) and at the National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA) Maintenance Manager’s Conference. The students articulated a mature and respectful opinion of the FAA and of their respective schools. However, the students were perplexed that aviation maintenance training rules and practices have not evolved like most other training and education, in other college classes.
The students were from Western Michigan University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and Middle Tennessee State University. In most cases the students were in the final stages of programs that award a university degree and preparation to certify as an Airframe and Powerplant aviation maintenance technician. Most of the students were in the lows 20s, or late 20s if they had some military experience.
Let’s look at the student perspective.
Why do students gravitate to aviation maintenance training?
Every student had a clear reason for being in an aviation maintenance curriculum. No one just “ended-up” there. Some had relatives in aviation but that was not the most popular answer. Many had a view that there is an upcoming shortage of qualified personnel with “Return to Service” authority. Most expressed confidence that the college degree and the maintenance certification would ensure immediate satisfying employment in aviation or any number of technical fields.
Some of the students were interested in flight and were building hours and ratings accordingly. The pilots felt that the maintenance training ensured that they were more qualified than other entry-level flight crew members. It was a delight to know that many of the students expressed a long-time interest in aerospace and aviation. It seems like that interest permeates the profession from the young students to the seniors in our industry.
Did they make the right decision, selecting an AMT program?
The answer was “yes!” A research purist would suggest that there was some bias in the group. The students that represented their universities were a select group and ready to graduate. The timing would be inappropriate to say that it was not a good decision.
In side discussions the students said that those who did not like aviation withdrew early in the program. Those former students recognized early that they were not inclined for the rigors and regiment of a maintenance training program. They were among a very high percentage of undergraduates who often “change majors.”
The primary likes and dislikes?
The students understood that their school curriculum is driven by FAA regulations and the opinion/interpretation of a local FAA Aviation Safety Inspector. With that caveat they had numerous likes and dislikes. They liked the fact that they have developed the ability to learn about and understand “technical things.” They felt that the combination of technical information and hands-on laboratory work prepared them for AMT certification. They felt that, given the right documentation, they could fix anything. That trait is shared by most competent whether students or experienced AMTs.
For the most part, the students felt that it took too much time to learn some of the fundamentals, like math, electricity, regulations, and such knowledge-based things. They felt that they should be able to use technology-based training media to accelerate through the basics. That would give them time to learn about modern aircraft systems and topics like composites. The students did not blame their schools or their instructors. They felt that the FAA was an obstacle to learning more within the required number of training hours. Most felt they could capitalize on instructional technology to build expanded knowledge and skill with the prescribed duration of the training.
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