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Training for maintaining

Making a virtue of necessity is a management strategy that can fit well with MRO training. George Marsh investigates

Training tomorrow’s aircraft maintainers is an imperative and, given the looming shortage of licensed aircraft mechanics, technicians and engineers (we shall use the term ‘technicians’ for the purposes of this article), more of it will have to be done. Reasons for the scarcity include the diminishing supply of skilled personnel from the military, the once-traditional source of recruitment, losses to other industries following financially-driven layoffs, and the activity’s relatively low profile among potential recruits. Above all, though, the rising proportion of ‘silver heads’ in the industry, with technicians retiring wholesale, is worrying.


Existing resources are dwindling, and the demand for MRO skills is growing. The public’s appetite for air travel shows little sign of abating and the ICAO has predicted a need for 480,000 technicians to maintain the 35,000 or so commercial aircraft expected to comprise the world fleet by 2030. Other factors include a requirement for advanced skills to match the growing complexity of modern aircraft and their systems, more stringent licensing and regulations, and a need for individuals to maintain currency in an evolving technical environment. All of this adds up to a significant opportunity for airlines and other MROs to train personnel from third parties alongside their own technicians.


Training your own technical personnel is a well-trodden path for airlines in particular and a number have tried to reduce their costs by providing third-party training, whereas others have developed fully-fledged training academies, turning cost centres into profit centres.


One of these, serving needs throughout Africa and more widely, is Ethiopian Airlines. The airline started an aviation training department in 1956, initially to meet its own requirements for skilled aviation personnel. This has since developed into the Ethiopian Aviation Academy which today comprises six independently run training schools that turn out qualified pilots, cabin crew and ground operatives, as well as technical staff, both for the parent airline and for third parties. Two of these schools – the Aviation Maintenance Technician School and the Technical Recurrent Training School – are MRO-focused.


The Aviation Maintenance Technician School, itself established in 1967, is widely accredited and prepares students for the examinations of the FAA (US), EASA (Europe), CAA (UK), CAA (Ethiopia) and other regulatory bodies. Courses get students ready for work as aviation maintenance technicians (two-year course), powerplant technicians (14 months), airframe and aircraft structural technicians (14 months) and avionics technicians, or to specialise in electrical, electronic or aircraft instrument maintenance. The academy recruits candidates aged 18 to 25 who have suitable qualifications in physics, mathematics and English.


Fulfilling a similar role for the Asia-Pacific region is the EASA Part-147 approved MAS Aerospace Engineering, a subsidiary of Malaysian Airlines System. Claiming to train up to 2,000 personnel at any one time for over 100 customers worldwide, this organisation delivers licensed technicians suitable for base, line and workshop employment. Courses include crucial on-the-job training and workshop experience, facilitated by the organisation’s status as one of the world’s largest airline MROs.  


Serving customers in and around the Indian sub-continent is the International Training Academy of Sri Lankan Airlines. The academy’s Technical Training School provides basic training in mechanical and avionic streams, fulfilling the standards of EASA Part-66. The school accepts students having three ‘A’ level passes, including two credits, and qualifies them for basic maintenance licences. A 480-day mechanical course includes 243 days of theory and 237 of practical, the latter being spent in base, line and workshop environments. Students can gain B1 (airframe) and B2 (powerplant) licences. Type training is offered on Airbus A320, A330 (Rolls-Royce Trent 700-powered version) and A340 families.



Europe has several airlines that provide third-party technician training. One example is International Airlines Group (IAG), the merged British Airways and Iberia entity. IAG sees the merger as an opportunity to expand third-party MRO business since both constituent airlines have vibrant maintenance and engineering divisions and each undertake third-party training. >>

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