Though it may appear via the title of this article that I’m off and running to the topic of IA renewal process within the FAA discussed heavily the last three months, you guessed incorrectly. I’m going to focus on being engaged actively in our industry but not from just the perspective of the IA.
Before you continue reading, stop and think for a moment about how actively engaged you have personally been in your chosen career path. Ready? OK. I’m going to ask you a few questions and, just for fun, you can score yourself — one point for each correct answer, using the honor system. If you score is higher than 10, please contact Mr. Phil Roberts because there is a place for you in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio, at the Air Force Museum. I really mean that — we need aviation maintenance heroes’ names on the walls. This is critical to our lineage and to the growth of our careers. To my knowledge, there is only one, and that becomes the first question in the test.
1. Who is the founding father of aviation maintenance and how busy have you been lately in getting his picture on the back of our A&P certificates?
2. Are you familiar with the NBAA Maintenance
Committee Maintenance Managers Conference, and if so, are you attending this year?
3. Who do you think should lead us into professional
development, and are you participating?
4. Are you busy with mentoring young A&Ps in your corner of the world?
5. Do you have a constant connection with your FAA PMI or FAAST Team?
6. Are you leading an SMS initiative in your own organization?
7. Do you participate in written activities, blogs, webinars or even speaking assignments to support local technician organizations in your area?
8. If you are in a leadership role, what give back opportunity do you support for our industry?
9. If you’re not in a leadership role, are you preparing for one?
10. What advanced educational opportunity are you in pursuit of?
11. What major professional advancement for our craft have you accomplished?
Tough test for anyone, I think. Now that we have cleared the way for most of us mortals, let’s get practical with this leadership thing. How can most of us rise to the bar of a Charles Taylor or Bill O’Brien and the currently actively engaged Tom Hendershot? Maybe our stars may not rise to that height, but that is not what we need right now. Fine examples as they are, we need a tidal wave of leadership, a clear majority of opinion and focus to understand the major compass direction we need to take to complete our course.
We have that opportunity in front of us right now. If you’re willing to attend the NBAA MMC held in San Diego in early April for the first time, you’ll be thanking yourself all the way home after the event. Your peers have already sampled the event and I know they’re coming back. You see, we (your leadership partners) are proclaiming this year as the year of “Building a Community of Leaders.”
We have been working very hard the last several years in an attempt to build the event for the advancement of all aviation maintenance leaders and have achieved success to a measured degree. Where we excel is producing vendor interest. Where we lack is getting our peer Chiefs of Maintenance, our Managers of Maintenance and our Directors of Maintenance. We have even experienced a little success in getting those pilots that manage the maintenance function to attend for their advanced learning of our profession.
This dilemma that we have is that we are missing many of the people for whom we build the conference. The higher you scored on the test in this article, the more people of your own kind you’ll meet at the conference. The lower you scored, the more the reason for coming for your own career advancement. I’m one of you and have met a good many of you, so there is no need to pretend we could not triple last year’s attendance in a heartbeat. Of all of my kind that have been fiercely independent and too stubborn for their own good (I’m looking in the mirror when writing this) to attend for any of 1,000 reasons, I’m asking you now for your own career’s sake to come and experience the conference. I have never heard one of you say you were not interested in advancing your own career.
Designing the path of shift
We are truly standing on the corner of an intersection of time. All the major players and predictors in our industry are pointing to a major shift in our industry demographic. We can design the path of the shift; that is why the NBAA Maintenance Committee is asking for your help and attendance at the MMC. There is a distinct galvanization of the work force necessarily being constructed by the marketplace. Without direct regulatory oversight, it will have an unpredictably negative impact (maybe from Europe) on our careers, even though they are starting to look a little more like retirements.
The line is marked by those who have certification, leadership and experience being in the upper cast and the rest (the majority) hired by MROs at a very economical rate that remain uncertificated. The lower-cast mechanics will be a vast majority supervised by the experienced upper cast. NBAA Project Bootstrap is a technician advanced certification program to answer career growth for all in a worldwide community, including the EASA framework. This program has the potential to embrace the educational aspect of EASA without the typing mandate which many of us contend has no place in our professional environment.
We’re fighting big battles and that is why we need to build this leadership community. The opportunity is golden at this moment in time. Even though this seems hyperbolic or a little over the top to inspire you to come and save the A&P world, I don’t mind using it to wake you up. It is based solidly in fact. We might fade away in the annals of history — that would be the worst fate. Maybe uncertificated people would dominate the work force and computers would be forced to make the call on when an aircraft conditionally needs an MRO visit.
The fact is that market and bureaucratic forces will carve out the technical aircraft maintenance definition issues of the future workforce without our advice if we leave them to do it. It is complex and I do know the folks that tackle complex problems eloquently every day: all of you. My faith lies in you and always has. That is why we are “Building a Community of Leaders.”
So, let’s get together at this event, learn a few new things, network a lot and make some more money for our companies while we’re there. Let’s start talking about how we create the future of the aviation maintenance professional — I mean a worldwide standard.
Let’s set our independence and our well-earned pride aside for one moment. Pick up a golf club for the first time and have a laugh at the guy who swings worse than you do; it might be me. You guys on the East coast had a very poor showing last year. Now that I live there with you, I know why you didn’t come. Not because that airfare is so expensive but because the flight is so damn long. We got stuck in San Diego by large forces for this event the last couple of years, so let’s make the best of it. We’ll be in Nashville next year. Don’t make that your excuse, though. I’ll be there looking for you. We need everybody this year.
Engage actively ... there is little time to waste!
Brad Townsend is a 35-year experienced AP/IA/avionics technician, founder of Project Bootstrap (NBAA professional maintenance technician development program) and currently serves as the Chair of the NBAA Maintenance Committee.