Director Viewpoint

Sept. 17, 2010
Quality curriculum over the number of hours

As a member of its Industry Advisory Board, I recently had the opportunity to attend the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University Charles Taylor Aviation Maintenance Science Department annual meeting. I was able to learn, first hand, the challenges and progress aviation maintenance schools encounter. It is, hopefully, without prejudice, that I can state the Taylor school is an excellent example of the good work and advancements being made in A&P training.

This editorial follows my previous effort to put the spotlight on the necessity for refocusing the education and training for A&Ps to the quality of the curriculum rather than a certain number of hours.

Currently the school has approximately 250 to 275 full-time students. This is a far cry from the heyday of more than 1,000 students. But that is the reality of today’s economy and the lure of the profession. The school offers the A&P certification along with the opportunity for an associate degree in aviation science and a full bachelor of science degree in aeronautical disciplines. ERAU is the foremost aeronautical school in the country, so this is saying something.

What is impressive is that the Taylor school is continually tweaking its curriculum to upgrade its classes. And it is in the process of building an entirely new building dedicated to aviation maintenance sciences. The building will house classrooms that will enable more hands-on and computer use, along with new labs where avionics, composites, and modern transport type systems are taught. And, it continues to operate a fully certified FAR Part 145 repair station for the school’s fleet of aircraft. Great hands-on training.

The school is also audited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI). While this auditing body only affirms the standards of schools that offer degree programs, when you wish to pass an AABI audit, you have to demonstrate that graduates are able to:

1. Apply mathematics, science, and applied sciences to aviation-related disciplines.
2. Analyze and interpret data (troubleshoot a schematic).
3. Work effectively on multi-discipline and diverse teams.
4. Make professional and ethical decisions.
5. Communicate effectively, both written and oral skills.
6. Engage and recognize the need for life-long learning. (I cannot recall how many of our readers have commented on this necessity for professional aviation technicians.)
7. Assess contemporary issues.
8. Use techniques, skills, and modern technology necessary to practice one’s trade professionally.
9. Assess both the national and international aviation environment.
10. Apply pertinent knowledge in identifying and solving problems.
11. Apply knowledge of business sustainability to aviation issues.

Suffice it to say that schools that meet the standards required for approval and the 147 requirements are doing their best to ensure the new A&P enters the profession with the best preparation.

It would be remiss of me to not mention the excellent training provided by the Aviation Technician Education Council schools. This is an organization of FAA-approved maintenance training schools. It is my understanding that most of the membership consists of schools that offer the 1,900-hour program for A&P certification. Many of these schools also offer courses and labs that go beyond the 147 requirements but meet the demands of today’s professional technician. Hats off to these schools, as many will not see a return on their investment for many years.

Those of you that already are A&Ps practicing professionally should take note that your industry is changing as you work in it. There are fewer jobs due to a shrinking economy and overseas placements. OEMs, MROs, and operators alike are applying tougher hiring standards and management strategies like Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing. New A&Ps will need all the help and guidance you can provide. The one thing the schools can not provide is day-to-day experience. You have it; share it!