What comes to mind when you think of an aviation mechanic? Do you picture a grease-stained guy in grimy overalls, cleaning his hands with a rag, as he critically walks around your aircraft looking for any problems, he can find to justify the steep bill he’s going to hit you with before you can get your bird back in the air? Or do you picture a highly skilled, highly trained, and well-educated aviation professional whose mission is to find and prevent problems before they happen and to whom you must trust your life?
Although pilots receive a lot of the glory, aviation safety is not just about an ace in the cockpit. It’s also about a properly maintained and airworthy airplane that is as dependent on the technicians who service and repair it as it is on the pilots who operate it. I will argue that pilots need mechanics more than mechanics need pilots. Aviation maintenance technicians (AMTs) are the unsung, often forgotten men and women where “everybody only knows your name” when something breaks or goes wrong. It’s hard work — behind the scenes, under the cowling in the drafty hangar with the rattling doors and dangerous chemicals, making life or death decisions under mounds of paperwork and pressure to meet the standards and the deadlines, and balancing the tensions between safety and cost to keep the customer happy.
From Pulling Panels to Signature Authorizations
AMTs are not just your average run-of-the-mill mechanics. They are held to the highest standard of safety. AMTs start with a rigorous FAA training and certification process, and they don’t stop learning until they retire. Their work is detailed, regulated, and stringent. They use a laptop as much as they use a wrench. Even routine tasks are step-by-step, and to the letter with secondary systems and redundancies in place, so there’s no room for cutting corners or making mistakes. From pulling off panels, to diagnosing complex flight management systems, to signing March/April 2022 15 off on inspections; these skills can take years of service, training, and education to develop and master. It takes a great deal of work, growth, and dedication to be an AMT. AMTs perform a vital service that is not only critical to safety but also to the economy.