Dec. 21, 2015

Staffing concerns, lost employee productivity and potential savings in time and cost are some of the common reasons why flight departments are moving toward in-house training for aircraft maintenance technicians (AMTs) and other personnel. Perhaps more importantly, this type of education helps promote a positive, collaborative work environment.

Bill Knauf, avionics technical support manager at maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) provider Constant Aviation, said his company has conducted lunchtime training on such diverse subjects as radio operation, cabin management systems and auxiliary power unit servicing.

“Like other MROs, it’s hard for us to send a technician away to a weeklong class and lose that productivity,” said Knauf. “‘Lunch and learn’ sessions work perfectly as far as timing.”

Small class sizes (three to six maintenance personnel) help keep the sessions manageable, with lunch provided as another means to entice people to participate. Company management, outside providers and in-house AMTs who demonstrate proficiency on specific topics conduct the classes.

“We challenge our technicians to do some of the in-house training for growth and development, and to tap their expertise,” noted Jerry Baxter, chief of aviation maintenance at Hewlett-Packard.

Like other MROs, it’s hard for us to send a technician away to a weeklong class and lose that productivity. ‘Lunch and learn’ sessions work perfectly as far as timing.

BILL KNAUF Avionics Technical Support Manager, Constant Aviation

“All technicians receive at least one to two weeks of aircraft technical training per year, with a goal to earn a master technician award on the current model of aircraft. Most of the in-house maintenance department training is done at the shift hand-over, so that the maximum number of personnel will be present.”

Training on technical skills, as well as hangar and aircraft safety, is logged in the employee’s records. Time spent addressing maintenance procedures counts toward fulfilling FAA requirements for AMTs if the session lasts at least 50 minutes.

In-house training may also be helpful in meeting FAA repair station requirements or the certification requirements for Stage 3 of the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations. In addition, training in safety protocols and risk mitigation can help operators meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements. Baxter noted that Hewlett-Packard’s Environmental, Health and Safety Department coordinates OSHA-required specific training, often bringing in outside experts.

In addition to conducting in-house educational sessions that address technical topics, Bob Agostino draws upon his prior experience working at aircraft manufacturer Bombardier – in particular, the company’s renowned Safety Standdown program – in emphasizing human factors training at his current flight department job. AMTs benefit from training in a familiar environment, surrounded by their peers, which further promotes teamwork and the sharing of experiences.

“I compare it to the early space program,” said Agostino. “One of the greatest accomplishments of the space race wasn’t the technology, but rather the ability to [have so many] people rowing in the same direction. You simply cannot have a truly professional flight department unless people get together and respect each other, and in-house training offers a natural means of accomplishing that goal.”

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2015 issue of Business Aviation Insider.