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New Horizons

Aviation Maintenance Evolving

Sophisticated aviation technologies are drawing new types of professionals to the field.

Whereas once an aviation mechanic’s toolbox contained wrenches, screwdrivers, rivet guns, hammers, paper manuals and the like, the tools used by many of today’s aviation maintenance technicians (AMTs) now include laptop computers, tablets and smartphones.

Greg Hamelink, outgoing chair of NBAA’s Maintenance Committee, and James Huntoon, incoming chair of the committee, agree that aviation maintenance is on the cusp of new horizons, with the advent of advanced air mobility, electric engines, supersonic aircraft, unmanned aircraft and more.

“We need AMTs with good computer skills and a much more information technology-oriented mindset.”

Greg Hamelink Senior Manager, Flight Operations, Stryker Corp.

“When it comes to aviation maintenance, the sky is truly the limit,” said Hamelink. “We need AMTs with good computer skills and a much more information technology-oriented mindset. Today’s toolbox looks completely different than it used to, and includes the use of robotics and virtual reality.”

Huntoon believes that the evolution of the AMT skill set should be attractive to young people from the computer science and IT realms. Even individuals with a passion for computer gaming might fit into the evolving field of aviation maintenance.

“There is an amazing opportunity for avionics and IT-related technicians who may or may not have an A&P license, as there are a growing number of AMT careers where IT-related skills are replacing what used to be a mechanically-driven skill set,” noted Huntoon.

“With all the advanced connectivity and sophisticated technology – not to mention impressive multi-million-dollar business aircraft – there are almost unlimited growth opportunities and continuous challenges for ambitious, technically-oriented individuals,” Huntoon added.

Despite all the current technological innovations in aviation – and the ones just over the horizon – Hamelink said there is still a need for mechanically-minded people with traditional A&P skills. “AMTs need to learn the basics, because somebody is still going to have to maintain a Cessna 421, for example.”

GREG HAMELINK is senior manager, flight operations at Stryker Corp. JAMES HUNTOON is director of fleet and MRO partnerships at Viasat. As chair and vice chair, respectively, of NBAA’s Maintenance Committee for the past three years, they have led the committee’s focus on strategic issues facing aviation maintenance operations.

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