The Value of the Aviation Maintenance Engineer

I just returned from the NBAA Maintenance Management Conference. This year it was held in Fort Worth, TX. The NBAA Maintenance Committee and NBAA staff did another great conference. If you are an Aviation Maintenance Engineer, or manage the maintenance function in any capacity, this is for you. There were exhibitors and a series of presentations designed to further advance the professionalism of the maintenance career field. The presentations of all the awesome speakers are available online: NBAA_Maint_Mgr

I was invited to give a presentation on “Maintenance and the Art of Aircraft Acquisition Planning.” I had 50 minutes to go over the acquisition process. Suffice to say it was the 40,000 foot overview. While I could tell them nothing they didn’t already know about a pre-buy inspection, I did want to give them the overview that would encourage them to be a part of the whole acquisition process from the very start.

Notice that I used a term Aviation Maintenance Engineer (AME). While we still use A&P or mechanic in the US, other countries have used the term Engineer. Like we do in Flight Engineer. I think this term better fits the level of commitment and professionalism of this group. Too many AME’s toil in obscurity in the hangar and are not involved in the day-to-day process of the running of the aviation operation. This is a shame, and perhaps a travesty.

AME’s are in, and part of the every day life of the aircraft. They have intimate knowledge of the aircraft, its systems, and the level of support available locally and globally for every component on the aircraft. That is enough to make them an important team member in the aircraft acquisition process. AME’s also interact with the crew and passengers as the board and deplane. They, along with your pilots and everyone else at the hangar, are the first face of your company when you bring in clients and prospects to visit your company.

AME’s are no better or worse prepared to be managers than pilots. While it seems a natural progression to go from first officer to captain to chief pilot to aviation manager, most AME’s go from technician, to shift leader, and top out at the maintenance manager level. Through education like the NBAA CAM as well as degree-level schooling, AME’s develop into excellent managers. Many pilots, when promoted into manager positions, try to maintain proficiency in the aircraft and develop proficiency as managers. For a small operation this can be done. For larger operations, the Aviation Manager/Director of Aviation position can be a full-time job. The skills required to be a manager and leader do not require an Air Transport Pilot rating (nor an A&P).

If you a fortunate enough to have in-house maintenance staff, get them more involved in the running of your operation. They see and know a lot. Get them more education and encourage their professional development. In addition to motivating a great employee, you develop team leaders and future managers with the skills needed to keep your aviation operation running well.