The Importance of Staying Involved

July 1, 2000

The Importance of Staying Involved

Taking control of your career

By Dennis Piotrowski

July 2000

Dennis Piotrowski is vice president of quality, BELAC LLC in Oldsmar, FL. Piotrowski has also served as acting division manager, Aircraft Maintenance Division, as well as a legislative fellow in Washington, D.C. He was also the branch manager, Training and Technical Standards Branch, Flight Standards Service. Piotrowski is a member of the FAA's Aging Transport Systems Advisory Committee/ARAC, is a certificated A&P, an IA, a commercial pilot, and served in the armed forces.

Have you ever asked yourself, "Where am I, and how did I get here?" Another variation of the question is, "Who is in control?"

Many of us want to believe that if we do a good job, our work will speak for itself. Unfortunately, there is also what I will call an ignorance factor. Let me quickly say that this is not a derogatory statement pointed at you as an individual. No! The truth is that the system we work in lends itself to keeping us tucked away under the old mushroom. I mean, contrary to our flying brethren who get to cool their heels and catch up on their reading in air-conditioned executive lounges waiting for their fare to return, you and I have no such luxury. In fact, should we get that 15-minute break, and someone sees us sitting there reading, it is clearly more than a perception that we are being judged as less than diligent. Sad!

Current hot topics that concern aviation professionals are human factors, internationalization and harmonization of maintenance, a shortage of "qualified" technicians, the criminal prosecution for making a mistake, and the condition of ARAC - but what do these matters really mean to you and how are they affecting your chosen career?

Not many of us have had the opportunity to work in the United States government at any level much less as leader in the Federal Aviation Administration where the rules and policies are made that affect our very livelihood. And, even fewer have had the privilege to work in the United States Congress, to learn firsthand how our laws are made and how money is appropriated. I have done both. While working in the U.S. Congress, I toured through every airport in my congressional district. I have talked to governors, mayors, city managers, presidents and vice presidents of airlines, and have talked with citizens at many town hall meetings. Do you know what was the overarching concern? Answer: People are making decisions that affect us and yet we are often unaware of the process until it is too late. It is with a heavy heart that I share with you how critical it is that you stay involved.

There are several ways to combat this concern. One way would be to join a functional association and get involved, or at least offer to review material that is sent your way and give feedback. I am the chairman of the Issues and Technical Committee for the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA). I put a lot of work into reviewing proposed governmental policy and rules and then send these comments out to the committee for their review; however, I need feedback. PAMA wants to be the voice of the working technician. To do so means that you must communicate with your PAMA representatives.

Another way is what you are doing now: reading the trade magazines. But, take it a step further - comment or get involved when you read something that impacts you. Jot down your concerns and fax or email them off to the publication.

Finally, as trite as it sounds, VOTE, but vote wisely. Every technician is a businessperson. Yes, even if you are working for someone else, you are still a businessperson. You have contracted your expertise and your license to your employer, and as such, you must be concerned about the environment that is in place that affects you as a businessperson.

None of these approaches are revolutionary, but each and all are vital if we are going to be able to impact and manage our own affairs versus having someone who is unaware of our issues, making decisions and policies without the benefit of our involvement.