PAMA agenda underscores the soft side of maintenance

 - January 30, 2007, 10:02 AM

“What gets me through an airshow is trust,” Michael George Goulian, Air BP’s Castrol Aviator and champion aerobatics pilot, said in his keynote address at the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA) Awards Breakfast. “I’m 20 feet above the deck at 200 mph doing maneuvers and my life is in the hands of those who do the work.” Goulian’s comments reflected the tone of the week–the importance of the role of the maintenance technician.

Aviation Industry Week drew a crowd of about 5,800, approximately the same as last year. About 300 registered for IA renewal credit and attended PAMA seminars, but the number is not a good indicator of the total number of PAMA members who attended. “Many of our members are employees of NATA organizations and came with their company, registered with NATA,” said Brian Finnegan, PAMA’s president. “We’ve had more people attend the seminars than just those enrolled for IA renewal credit.”

PAMA offered more than 40 seminars and sessions, and it is worth noting that this year, recognizing the increasing complexity of the life of the technician, as many as one-quarter were devoted to “soft” subjects such as human factors, environmental health and aviation law.

In “Maintenance Error Prevention,” Richard Komarniski, of Manitoba, Canada-based Grey Owl Aviation Consultants, reduced his well known two-day program to a two-hour seminar. He discussed the “dirty dozen” causes that appear consistently in accident reports.

“You see the term ‘maintenance error’ used in accident reports but it isn’t a maintenance error that causes an accident,” he said. “The cause is to be found in whatever it was that interfered with the technician’s judgment at a critical moment–the outcome of which was a maintenance error.” He emphasized that complacency is a conscious or unconscious relaxation of one’s usual standards in making decisions and taking action.

The association moved its awards ceremony, historically a luncheon early in the week, to a breakfast session later in the week this year for two reasons. The luncheon conflicted with the exhibition schedule, preventing exhibitors from attending. The scheduling change also made it possible for the association to announce the winners of the Professional Aviation Maintenance Olympics at the awards ceremony.

This year the Midcoast Arch Rivals retained the top spot for the second year in
a row, the first time that has happened in the history of the event. The Bombardier Hot Wrenches placed second, and newcomer Southwest Airlines Maintenance took third place. Dassault Falcon Jet, General Dynamics Aviation Services and JetBlue also participated.

The awards ceremony saw other firsts. Midcoast Aviation earned FlightSafety International’s 2005 Award for Excellence in Maintenance Training. In the past, the award has been given only to an individual, but Midcoast was cited for such exemplary effort FlightSafety made an exception.

For the seventh year in a row Gulfstream earned the Chili Cook-off Taster’s Award. Casting $1 per bowl votes, chili lovers spent more than $2,170 at Gulfstream’s booth for the Professional Aviation Maintenance Foundation (PAMF) scholarship fund. Other contestants, all of which garnered significant contributions, included Aircraft Maintenance Technology, Avtrak, Bombardier Aerospace, CRS Jet Spares, Dassault Falcon Jet, EMS Satcom, FlightSafety International, Midcoast Aviation and Professional Aircraft Accessories.

Safety Considerations
Dr. James Allen, an occupational health physician for the Navy, presented a seminar titled “Healthful Hints for Those Who Work on Aircraft.” Discussing occupational health issues, Allen talked about cause-and-effect relationships between the work environment and health. The first part of Allen’s four-part presentation discussed exposures, such as noise, that every technician should know about. The second looked at the work environment, from the perspective of toiling in temperature extremes, for example, and how to select the ergonomically most appropriate tool.

The third area Allen discussed was exposures a technician might face when doing a specific task. He emphasized the importance of measuring the work environment.
“Take noise,” he said. “You can measure your environmental noise levels very easily. Many companies have a safety department that can take measurements, but anyone can go to Radio Shack and buy an instrument to measure noise for about $50.” Allen said mechanics are regularly exposed to noise levels between 83 and
89 decibels. “At about 85 decibels time-weighted-average, you should begin thinking about hearing protection,” he noted.

Recruiting New PAMA Members
PAMA also holds its annual meeting at Aviation Industry Week. Forty members and seven board members attended, a considerable gain on last year’s tally. There was some discussion about the lower dues structure implemented last year to attract more members. Finnegan told members that they need to inform potential members about the value they get for their $49 membership fee. He cited a new career services benefit that will be available only to PAMA members.

Jet Professionals is developing a Web site that will allow PAMA members the option of posting their résumés in a confidential and safe environment that will be available to potential employers to search when looking for job candidates. The Web site will also exclusively provide PAMA members with information to assist them in planning their career goals and strategies. Jet Professionals anticipates the Web site will be online late this month or early next month.

Finnegan talked about the value of chapter members joining the national organization, saying many chapters let interested people go to meetings without becoming dues-paying members. “We encourage chapters to let potential members attend meetings,” he said. “But at some point there needs to be an effort to convert them into members. Let’s face it, in most chapters they get a free meal and the benefit of a speaker. Nobody wants to take advantage of the system; people want to pay their fair share. In most cases they just need someone to tell them they should join the organization.”

At the annual meeting, members learned that PAMA’s Golden Eagle program is moving forward. “We’ve been honored for the past year to be able to work with Westchester Aircraft Maintenance Association and the NBAA Maintenance Committee,” said Finnegan. “Both of these organizations have expressed a common goal for a PAMA recognition program that gives credit for the training a technician has already received as well as future training.”

As currently envisioned, the program will validate the training and experience a technician has and outline requirements to achieve successive levels of recognition that would require technical training, soft subject training and practical experience.

Legal Considerations
One of the sessions addressed the hard reality of being an aviation technician. Participants were told that aviation law covers all aspects of the maintenance field, from buy/sell agreements to aircraft accidents and enforcement actions. Attorney Derrick Hahn, of the Dallas-based Hahn Law Firm, presented “Legal Issues for the Aviation Maintenance Technician.” Hahn is also a commercial pilot, flight instructor and A&P mechanic, and he holds an IA.

Hahn said enforcement actions have different degrees of severity. “There are administrative actions, legal enforcement actions and criminal actions,” he said. “A legal enforcement action can include a letter of investigation, a notice of proposed certificate action, an order of suspension or revocation and civil penalties.”

Hahn said a letter of investigation “will say something to the effect that the FAA has information you worked on such-and-such an airplane and you did something or other, and this is your opportunity to provide them with an explanation of what happened. It will also tell you that if you don’t respond within 10 days the agency will continue its investigation without the benefit of your input. If you take nothing else away from this seminar today, remember this: do not respond to that letter!”
Hahn said there’s nothing in the FARs that requires you to respond to a letter of investigation. “There’s also nothing in the FARs, nor is there case law, that says
not responding to the letter is an indication of liability,” he said.

Hahn said it’s a natural reaction to want to help and to want to clarify what happened. “People think if they just honestly tell the FAA what happened it’ll be OK. Don’t do it. The fact of the matter is, that letter will be Exhibit A in the enforcement action against you. It happens all the time,” he said. Hahn said an airman should never make an admission or implicate a lack of training or any intentional action.

Maintenance Foundation Leadership
John Boomhower talked to AIN about the status of the PAMF. Boomhower, director of turbofan sales for Standard Aero, was instrumental in the development of the Professional Aviation Maintenance Olympics (PAMO). Turning over the PAMO committee chairmanship to Tom Yanus, director of aircraft maintenance technology at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Boomhower will move into the PAMF board president’s chair.

According to Finnegan, in the past the foundation has essentially been an awarding committee that would evaluate nominations and give away money. “The people on the board are fantastic supporters of education and of the association but they’re not fundraisers,” he said. “Boomer will bring a fund-raising mentality to the foundation. It’s the kind of thing he does best.”

Boomhower agreed with Finnegan, saying, “We’ve got a very strong board with Sandra Gordon (who will be passing on the title of president), Karl Florian, Pete Ginocchio, Bill Johnston and Bob Reimer. Sandra was a recipient of a PAMF scholarship when she was a student. But many of the board members are retired, and I have the luxury of working for a company that gives me good travel capability. It won’t be a problem for me to serve as a liaison between the PAMF board and the PAMA board.”

Boomhower said his job will specifically be to find new, creative fundraising methods. “The Chili Cook-off is always a high point and a good fundraiser,” he said. “We may even bring back the silent auctions next year.” He also suggested the foundation could do a better job of proactively explaining the 501(C) (3) tax benefits they can offer potential donors.

“There are many different methods to be explored, including estate planning. You know, if the industry has been good to you, why not provide for scholarship money in your will? What better legacy can you leave than helping to pass the torch to a new generation?”