Maintenance Training: The need for decision-making skills

Sept. 1, 2002
Maintenance Training The need for decision-making skills

By Lonnie Williams

Decision making, we hear a lot about that these days. Do you know that significant decisions are being made today that will affect our profession for the foreseeable future? The seasoned veterans at a number of alphabet groups and OEMs are using their decision-making skills to shape policy and devise standard formulas to measure aircraft dispatch ability and systems reliability.

A Forum for Enhanced Reliability and Maintenance Standards (FERMS) has been created to address the above-mentioned items and address future aircraft designs. The folks participating in this forum have experience with maintenance steering groups, ATA codes, training, and have sat on numerous OEM advisory boards, focus and user groups. A hot topic of discussion centered on the skills needed beyond the technical aspect of maintaining the aircraft. The real question is - are we as an industry addressing technician soft skills training such as decision-making to meet future requirements? As for the training providers they must decide where to put subject matter dealing with 'soft skills' in their curriculums that will help technicians make the right decisions when managing flight line and hangar scenarios that affect dispatch reliability.

In my last article I touched on the changing scope of maintenance training via the efforts of the training providers and the NBAA. A lot of what the technician should be able to do at some point in his or her career (the earlier the better) is manage a departure scenario where the action often does not follow a prescribed path. The general feeling among the experts is that a decision has to be made within a 30-minute window when the aircraft decides it does not want to fly that day! The person managing this scenario has to have the technical expertise as well as the aforementioned soft skills to deal with the following:

  • Manage available resources, e.g. personnel, support equipment, and parts
  • MEL decisions
  • Flight Department operational guidelines and policies
  • Maintain a mindset of safety in the midst of chaos

That is just a sampling of the alertness a technician must have to manage maintenance situations to affect a successful departure. Now, can the skills required be identified, categorized, and prioritized according to the complexity of the task at hand? Can curriculums be written that will apply to all types of training institutions and also be acceptable to regulatory agencies, OEMs, and other interested parties? What are the long-term benefits of a standard (modified) soft skill infused curriculum to employers and the technicians?

By working together with the traditional flight departments, fractional operations, maintenance facilities, OEMs, and the training provider we can establish criterion acceptable to all parties. One aspect that must be addressed immediately is the wide variety of educational opportunities that will be utilized in training the technician. An eclectic curriculum must allow for advancement of individuals schooled under an OJT program, those just entering formal training, formally trained individuals, trade school /military trained individuals, and differing levels of college experiences. If you feel strongly either way about where this is all going and what skills you may need to enhance your performance please contact me in care of AMT Magazine.

Lonnie Williams is a Corporate Training Counselor for FlightSafety International and manager of Maintenance Training Plans for FSI Training Solutions. He has more than 30 years experience in aircraft maintenance training, marketing, and management. He holds an A&P certificate and is a past president of PAMA's Fort Worth, TX, Chapter.