Evolution of Aircraft Maintenance Training
The aircraft maintenance engineer (AME) profession is as old as aviation itself. The training of AME traditionally would lie in the hands of the aircraft owner. However as the industry grew and aircraft technology advanced, aircraft maintenance engineering became more intricate, and the training of the engineer fell on the engineer himself or the airline he works for. The aviation industry has seen a number of revolutions mainly driven by technology which brought rise to the aspect of safety in the industry. Safety in this regards does not only mean the safety of the crew and passengers onboard the aircraft but also safety of those on the ground as well. Due to this necessity of ensuring safety in this industry, government regulations became necessary and, therefore, play a major role in the maintenance of aviation safety. The training today of aircraft maintenance personnel does ensure that safe practices are incorporated as well as Human factors so as to ensure that this safety culture is maintained.
Historical Perspective of Aircraft Maintenance.
Traditionally the training of aircraft engineers was through an apprenticeship scheme1, as this is a field that largely relies on skill base. On the early days, aircraft maintenance focused on mechanical systems and the engine, as the aircraft was made up of a structure, control mechanism and the engine. As the aircrafts became more complex so did the training, due to more equipment being installed into aircrafts for example; autopilot, navigational systems and lately in-flight entertainment and so forth.
Licensing Aircraft Maintenance Personnel
The licensing began in 1909 and by the year 1919 the first international licensing standard were established as Annex E of the Paris Convention. The early standards of licensing were mainly for aircrew and this licensing was based on medical fitness as well as experience. The first personnel licensing standards were implemented by ICAO in 19481. This licensing was structured to ensure control through a metrics comprising; categories, groups, and ratings. Each maintenance engineering license is different as a rating is applied on a license depending on the training the engineer has received on a specific aircraft and part. ICAO is responsible for establishing the licensing standards and guidelines for contracting states1, however ICAO is not responsible for enforcing these standards, enforcement of standards is the responsibility of the government of the state of any given country. Obtaining an aircraft engineering license does require the comprehensive study that this article will address using New Zealand as an example of the various options in which the license can be obtained.
This is a specialized field due to its odd nature as unlike many fields it requires a hands-on skill application as well as knowledge of complex systems. Due to the hands-on approach an apprenticeship system is used as well as the teaching of the required knowledge in vocational institutions and polytechnics, as a strong theoretic foundation is also paramount1. To become an engineer one will attend a certified school that’s registered under the National Airworthiness Authority’ of the country they are seeking to work for. Under the course, they will basically learn all that’s required for maintaining a typical aircraft. Once the theoretical work is complete the student will then go through an apprenticeship which could be as long as four years, depending on the institution requirements. Once the theory and practical part of the course are completed the student will receive an LWTR (License Without Type Rating)2. An engineer can now decide whether to gain further certification or seek employment just as a general maintenance engineer who is not certified in a specific maintenance Type.
In general they are two types on engineers; Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (LAMEs) and those who do not hold a license. Both types of engineers can maintain a broken or faulty aircraft, but it’s only a Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (LAME) who can certify that the aircraft is, ‘safe to fly’. An uncertified engineer, however, has to have all of his/her work supervised and authorized by an LAME2. The requirements for becoming a LAME are contained in the Civil Aviation Rules, Part 66 Aircraft Maintenance Personnel Licensing. In order to gain a type certified/type rating the aircraft maintenance engineer has to undergo exams with the local Aviation Authority for the specific aircraft (normally a small aircraft, based on aircraft weight) or alternatively do a course and sit an exam with a Quality Assurance Department of an Approved Organization/Airlines, normally for larger aircraft. - Source AviationKnowledge
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