Recently I have had the pleasure of serving on a local aviation schools advisory committee. It got me thinking about how I began my career, and how I managed to stick with it this long. I began my aviation career in the U.S Army, working on Bell & Boeing helicopters. I didn't get my A&P right out of the Army, like I should have, but instead, went to work for a Part 145 repair station, overhauling turbine engines, where it wasn't required.
Well, I knew I needed my A&P to advance my career, so I went to the only Part 147 school in the state. I have been in the aviation field (military & civilian) for almost 20 years now. I have had my A&P certificate for over 10 years & my I.A for 7 years.
In particular, I was also thinking about the future mechanics in schools right now, contemplating their chosen career field.
I am writing this to find out the current consensus out there from A&P's all over. I am a former A&P instructor and I wanted to get your opinion on the current FAR Part 147 curriculum requirements for Part 147 schools, as well as Part 65 requirements in general.
I believe the requirements to get an A&P are too vague. Now, I understand the "shortage" of mechanics we have all heard is coming or here. However, I have seen & heard of so many "fresh" A&P's with little to no hands-on experience and frankly un-safe practices being let out in the field, for employers to "weed- out".
Forgive me for the following, but the I.A in me needs some exercise. As I understand it, under Part 65.77, there are 2 ways a person can obtain authorization to take the A&P test: 1. Get a certificate of completion from a certified Part 147 school. 2. Provide documentary evidence, satisfactory to the Administrator, of: (a) at least 18 months of practical experience maintaining airframes or powerplants OR (b) at least 30 months of practical experience concurrently performing the duties appropriate to BOTH the airframe and powerplant ratings.
Under Part 147, the curriculum requirements state the number of hours for general (400), airframe (750) and powerplant subjects(750), subject matter in General (33), Airframe (55) and Powerplant (41) & their respective teaching level. Nothing about hands on training requirements, nothing about human factors, little about composites and NDI techniques and requirements as they pertain to aviation.
I know construction programs that are getting students career field exposure within the first 3-months of school. Most A&P schools follow similar formats offering XYZ class at 2 or 3-credit hours, trying to take the Vo-Tech out and bring University mentality & AA degrees in. They don't or can't (restricted by the FAR's) offer internships or on-the-job training. My FSDO was strict on logging student hours, but they couldn't care less regarding the practical hands-on aspect of the curriculum.
The FAA allows former military personnel to qualify for the test, based on their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). This being the FAA's book on MOS's and they just look up your job code and see what qualifications it transfers to i.e: General, Airframe or Powerplant. This is how I obtained my powerplant authorization when I ETS.
How is this helpful to the industry when the military's mission is so different from civilian aviation? They are focused on mission readiness. Cost is an after thought and troubleshooting skills are minimized. They are not taught anything about the FAR's, even less about manufactures service bulletins or Airworthiness Directives. Go ask a Marine working on CH-53's where to find the latest AD on a Sikorsky S-65 and they'd ask you what AD stands for. Yet the FAA looks into their magic book, checks a soldiers MOS and signs them off. I know so many former military personnel that weren't able to transition from military aviation to civil aviation because they didn't have the skills.
O.K, now I am not trying to insult anyone, so don't anyone get their panties in a bunch. I just hear from so many A&P's that all they learned in school was the FAA test and no real content or that they don't use half of what they learned in school out in the field. What good is it and why to we keep an antiquated system?
Answer the following:
1. What do you think of the current Part 147 curriculum requirements for schools regarding number of hours and subject matter?
2. Should Part 147 & Part 65 require higher teaching levels and more specific subject practical projects?
3. Are there any FAA movements in the near future, to incorporate and upgrade the requirements for A&P test authorization?
4. When was the last time the FAA made a major revision to Part 147 curriculum requirements to incorporate newer technology?
5. Should the FAA revise the A&P to itemize specialized skills, such as turbine engine overhaul, helicopter (class specific) maintenance, airline (+12,500 lbs) maintenance, system maintenance and so on?
6. Should the FAA standardize NDI & Composite materials and techniques for aviation use?
Thanks for listening, it's a subject close to me and I would like to know if I'm the only one thinking about this.
Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance
Women in Aviation International
Professional Aviation Maintenance Association