From composites to onboard connectivity, aircraft technology has advanced significantly in the past several decades. The required training standards used to develop mechanics in the U.S., however, have not kept pace.
But that is about to change.
The FAA is in the late stages of a major revamp of its Part 147 regulations, which set standards for the 170 aviation maintenance technician schools (AMTSs) that supply approximately 60 percent of the industry’s certified airframe and powerplant (A&P) mechanics. (The rest are trained by their employers or the military.) A parallel effort to develop Airman Certification Standards (ACS)—a detailed list of what an A&P candidate must know and do to earn a license—might end up being integrated with the new rule. The result would be sweeping changes in how new mechanics are developed and tested.
The general consensus in the industry is that change is long overdue. The last major revision to Part 147 came in April 1970, the same year that Garrett began testing the TFE731. The changes included increasing curriculum requirements to the current 1,900-hour standard and further defining subjects, placing them in four appendices.
Aside from minor revisions in 1992, the appendices, which cover basic curriculum requirements and list the general, airframe, and powerplant subjects that must be covered, have remained unchanged. The FAA proposed major revisions in 1994 and 1998, issuing notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRMs) that included curriculum updates, but strong resistance from industry stalled both efforts.
Meanwhile, aircraft and engine technology marched on, with once-futuristic concepts such as all-composite primary structures and Internet-connected aircraft becoming commonplace. The FAA, prompted in part by a 2003 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that called on the agency to update maintenance training curriculum, established a working group to recommend changes. The working group issued its report in 2008. Seven years later, in October 2015, the FAA released another draft rule, acknowledging its late arrival and incorporating many suggestions from the working group's report.