Going the Distance: AMT Distance Learning Test Takes Flight

This article is from the September/October issue of the FAA's Safety Briefing, to read more click here.

As part of a multistep initiative to enhance Aviation Maintenance Technician training and
education, the FAA has announced it will begin beta testing the integration of distance learning, or e-Learning, with initial AMT training programs. The agency has selected four U.S. maintenance schools to participate in the test, which began in July 2012
and is scheduled to run through July 2013. Students in these programs will have the ability to complete select portions of the AMT curriculum requirements (found in Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 147) by using a computer from home or with other alternative delivery methods outside the traditional classroom environment.

Greater Access

“This represents a major step forward for the FAA to address the accessibility of AMT schools and to enhance and enrich the learning experience for AMTs,” says Marty Bailey, General Aviation Branch Manager of FAA’s Aircraft Maintenance Division. “The beta test will allow us to see what works well and what issues need to be corrected for this to be a
successful program.”

Bailey, who is also a co-chair of the project’s Distance Learning (DL) Review Team, works closely with the selected schools as well as the regional FAA offices and local Flight Standards District Offices to review best practices and challenges during the test period. The AMT schools will report quarterly to the DL Review Team with specifics on the number of users, project and test scores, and feedback from both participating students and school personnel.

An analysis of this quarterly data, along with a final report provided by each school at the conclusion of the test period, will compare findings between traditional and online learning methods of the Part 147 curriculum.

Provided the analysis and feedback can validate distance learning as an effective learning method for AMT training, the FAA will consider developing guidance documentation, including an advisory circular that will address the requirements for implementing DL programs at other AMT schools.

“If the data supports the use of distance learning, our plan is to use it across the board,” says Bailey. “Not having a rulemaking requirement tied to this initiative will also allow for a swifter integration of this exciting new learning method.”

Among the advantages of AMT distance learning is the flexibility it offers to accommodate the needs of AMT candidates whose regular jobs may not allow them the time to commit to the classroom hours needed for an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certificate. A&P candidates currently must satisfy a 1,900-hour curriculum requirement as outlined in
14 CFR part 147, Appendix B. For students involved with the DL beta test, gaining credit towards those hours will require their attendance and/or participation to be identified and documented. They must also pass a final test of the covered material with a minimum score of 70 percent.

Eight core subject areas have been identified as eligible for the DL program. These include basic electricity, aircraft drawing, materials and processes (lecture only), math,maintenance forms and records, basic physics, maintenance publications, and maintenance privileges and limitations. While most of the DL content is theory- and lecture-based, there are still some areas that allow for hands-on practical application. For example, AMT students can study electricity with the use of a portable electronic test bed that can interface with a computer.

Bailey acknowledges that there are still many challenges to overcome before the program can be fully deployed, including how to effectively verify and validate active participation and how to ensure Part 147’s time requirements are properly satisfied. Despite these obstacles, Bailey and the DL Review Team remain optimistic that their hard work in developing the program’s initial standards, together with a carefully conducted beta test, will lay the groundwork for a successful DL program for AMTs in the near future.