We have extensively spoken about the topic of training on the AireXpert blog. And as we should. It is a critical topic that has to be met head-on if we’re going to affect any change. The technical workforce in aviation is shrinking; there’s no escaping that fact. It has been on a downward slide for many years, but it is reaching critical mass now. Air travel is also returning to pre-pandemic levels faster than expected, so any buffer the industry hoped to brace for a depleted workforce is null.
We have to focus on how we bring up the next generation of mechanics. How we can fill the ranks, and what tools can be used to bridge the experience gap.
What Training Is Required?
This question is multi-tiered. There is a level of training for zero-experience, rank novice individuals, and a separate set of experience requirements for prior-experience individuals.
Most of the prior-experience crowd comes from the military; it is the sole largest source of experience in aircraft mechanics in the U.S. All of the branches of the U.S. military have aviation branches and fleets of aircraft. It’s tough to get an exact number between all branches and their respective components (active duty, reserve, national guard). A conservative estimate is at least 100,000 maintenance techs in various occupational specialties.
The rank novice must complete “30 months of practical experience concurrently performing the duties appropriate to the airframe and powerplant ratings.” However, if they are only going to pursue one rating or the other (airframe OR powerplant), it’s 18 months of practical experience.
How Do Techs Receive Training?
Aircraft maintainers can be trained in two ways:
Academic training from a Part 147 aviation maintenance technician school.
On-the-job (OJT) training, primarily through military training and experience.
There are minimum classroom hours required for AMTS schools to instruct students:
Airframe and Powerplant (A&P)
Earning the A&P license is a significant undertaking. It is a serious commitment, and those 1,900 hours are only the threshold to take the tests. That’s right: there are mandatory written and practical tests for general, airframe, and powerplant knowledge.
What Is Keeping All The Military Talent From Testing?
If you spent a minimum of four years (a typical enlistment term length) in one of the acceptable military occupational specialties to qualify for OJT, you have spent more than enough time becoming familiar with aircraft maintenance, both in theory and practice.
For one thing, the military turns their troops loose to work independently with far less experience than any civilian counterpart. In the cockpit, it is uncommon for a pilot in their mid to late twenties to become a mission commander (equivalent to a civilian captain), usually with no more than 1,500 hours total time and about 1,000 hours in the airframe.
They operate in much the same way as mechanics. Technicians with over ten years of experience are usually pulled off the shop floor and pushed into supervision.
To summarize, a troop coming out of a four-year hitch as a jet engine troop, hydraulics specialist, rigger, or crew chief is light years ahead of the individual graduating from an AMTS. However, they have no experience at all in general aviation. Military training is a lightning-quick pipeline to take a high school graduate to work on F-15s and B-52s in less than a year, and they are good at it. So they skip many steps necessary to mint a general aviation mechanic.
Frankly, most of the talent leaving the military have no interest in servicing struts on a flight school’s C-172. They want to hop into an MRO or an airline working on jets that are not dissimilar to what they’ve already been doing. But the A&P testing doesn’t consider this. Military talent has to take coursework or shadow a GA mechanic to learn a slew of skills just well enough to pass muster and earn their A&P, just to brain dump them upon certification.
So, the world's biggest pool of aircraft technicians mostly walks away from the trade and does something else.
Where Can You Get Trained?
There are quite a few schools that offer certified training. They are both private academies specializing in aircraft maintenance and public institutions (technical vocational training, community colleges, state schools), and a few private colleges also offer programs.
Of course, the training doesn’t end when you are certified and are hired onto a job. This is only the beginning. Your A&P certification is your license to learn.
Fortunately, the trail to follow-on training is easier than ever before. Our mobile-optimized software solutions now handle compliance management and internal training pushes. Our software gets the correct information into the right hands when you need it there.
Your maintenance standard operation practices are available for all employees to view anytime, and updates are pushed seamlessly.
Does the MRO or Airline Have to Pay For It?
Unless specified in your job description, getting the initial training is up to the technician. Whether they want to join the military and train that route or attend a certified school, the individual is responsible for paying for training either in sweat equity or tuition.
However, once you are onboard, the organization will manage training internally. Paper-based systems have been the norm for decades, but those days are passing the industry. Our compliance-management software ensures your training goals and standards are met and tracked.
Aviation maintenance training is not hard to find. First, the military is always recruiting, and aircraft maintenance is a chronically undermanned field. Every state has options in-state or nearby to receive prep training for the FAA A&P certification process. Either way, there are plenty of solutions available to produce new technicians. The problem we’re faced with has less to do with the availability of training and more with the accreditation process and career stability. We cannot control these things, but we can control how organizational training is processed and tracked and how readily available it is to the workforce.
Check out how easy our system is to implement and operate by requesting a demo today!