Aviation has clearly seen rapid advancements in technology over the past 20 years with shifts toward advanced composite primary structure, glass-cockpits and electronic-flight control systems, and information management systems in the aircraft and in the maintenance facility. At the same time we’ve seen the business of aircraft maintenance change with shifts toward using specialized maintenance providers and managed maintenance programs. The basis for educating AMT students here in the United States comes from CFR 14 Part 147, yet this part of the regulations appears to have not kept pace with technology advancements and changes to the business environment.
I recently returned from the EAA’s 2012 AirVenture, where one of the sessions I attended provided some interesting and timely information relating to the subject of AMT training. Terry Michmerhuizen, assistant professor with Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation, presented on the topic of 21st Century Aviation Maintenance Training.
Michmerhuizen contends that knowing what to teach new AMT students should be relatively easy by asking these few basic questions; What do the regulations require; Where will AMT graduates be working; What equipment will they be working on? However, changes in technology greatly outpace the ability to amend and update training regulations, and the implementation of new training material by the Part 147 schools. One of the first pieces of information presented was the following quote from the “Background Information” released with the 1992 revision to CFR 14 Part 147:
“Part 147 was adopted in 1970 and except for some minor changes, has not been revised since that time. The civil aviation environment in which the aviation maintenance technician operates has changed significantly since that regulation was adopted. Thus a person could graduate from a Part 147 approved school and not be fully prepared to function in the current aviation environment.”
Again, this statement was written 20 years ago and arguably it is more applicable today. In 1998 the FAA published through the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), Part 66 as an updated regulation relating to Part 147 schools and AMT training. Good parts existed in proposed Part 66, but it resulted in much industry comment and was eventually withdrawn.
Michmerhuizen adds that today’s AMTs need to learn and embrace non-technical skills such as the four Cs: critical thinking skills; concern for quality and integrity; comprehension of the effects of human factors on their work; and clear ability to communicate. Not part of a traditional AMT training curriculum, yet many feel skills such as these have a place in both the current and next generation of AMTs. In this rapidly changing global industry who should take the lead regarding advancement of the education and training for the current and next generation of AMTs; the regulators, industry, or academia?
Ron Donner has held both technical and management roles in general aviation and during his 27 years with Northwest Airlines. He holds FAA certificates as an A&P/IA and a commercial pilot.