AMT Schools Praise New Part 147 Changes

AIM student working on aircraft
Credit: Aviation Institute of Maintenance

ATLANTA—More than six months have passed since the FAA’s new Part 147 regulations for aircraft maintenance training took effect last September, and educators have already made sweeping changes to how they are preparing tomorrow’s technicians.

During a panel at Aviation Week’s recent MRO Americas event in Atlanta, leaders from several aviation maintenance training schools shared their perspectives on the impact these changes have had so far.

“We completely threw away our old program and revamped it,” said James Hall, dean of the Aviation and Manufacturing National Center for Aviation Training at WSU Tech. He pointed out that previous FAA regulations made it difficult to teach airframe and powerplant (A&P) curriculum like “an actual college program,” but “now we as colleges have the freedom to change things and to improve education, because education has changed a lot in 50 years. Now we are using our own accrediting bodies to certify our programs, and that allows us to teach the programs using modern methods.”

Prior to the new Part 147, aviation maintenance technician (AMT) schools were saddled with outdated curriculum requirements and required to navigate layers of bureaucracy if they wanted to make any changes. Joel English, executive vice president of the Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM), compared the old Part 147 to a uniform from a fast food restaurant. “It’s got you covered, but it doesn’t fit particularly well. It’s sort of one size fits all,” he joked. Previously, English said AIM’s 14 campuses across the U.S. all had different FAA primary maintenance inspectors enforcing uniform requirements that stifled adaptations to local needs.

“We were so constrained to the requirements of it that we couldn’t edit, change or customize our program for the different airlines and MROs that we serve,” said English. “The change allowed us more flexibility to interpret what we do at our various campuses and allowed us to teach a lot more relevant education for our constituents. It allows us to be able to roll out a single program and make changes to a single program throughout the country without having to go back and get individual sign-offs.”

According to Sheryl Oxley, aviation program coordinator at Tulsa Tech, the move away from seat time requirements has enabled more cooperation between schools and companies when it comes to changing curriculum to better address industry needs. Now, Oxley says schools have flexibility to add new subjects to the curriculum “and we can put it anywhere and make it align with the Airman Certification Standards, because that is a more updated curriculum set of objectives. It’s easier to cater to our advisory members and their input on what they feel we should be adding to assist in their organizations as well.”

The changes haven’t been implemented quite as quickly at Liberty University’s School of Aeronautics due to the requirements for changing curriculum from its own accreditation body, but the school has still seen positive impacts from the new Part 147. “We’ve been spending the last year getting in alignment. We kind of piecemealed things together in the fall to make it work,” said Associate Dean Steven Brinly.

Brinly said the previous hours-based requirements placed heavy constraints on the school’s ability to offer new opportunities. “If we wanted to take our students to a local MRO or a local employer, have a tour and show them opportunities, we had to do that outside of curricular time. Now, there are opportunities for partners to come in on that curricular time, which provides a real value for our students and also provides a value for the industry in the area,” he said.

The changes will also provide opportunities for curriculum to be taught by a broader set of instructors—and at a wider range of venues.

“One of the largest impacts was being able to utilize instructors who weren’t A&P certified but had specialized experience,” said Oxley. “When the industry is up and hiring the way they are now, it’s very difficult to get any of the certified instructors in, but we can get someone that specializes in composites structures or turbine engines to come in and teach that specific section.”

Each of the panelists agreed that the new Part 147 will enable efforts to bring A&P curriculum to high school students. “We’re no longer required to have only one base of operations, so we can expand and work with our high school partners across the state and country without adding an additional certification for us,” said Hall. Several panelists highlighted efforts through industry nonprofit Choose Aerospace, which is working to implement A&P curriculum at high schools.

“Under the previous Part 147, where all instruction had to be done inside a certificated A&P school, it either took an ending of that regulation or was simply impossible,” said English. “Now, with the change, we’re able to provide a curriculum to a high school, let them teach it in a way that works for them and then have the ability to transfer that credit. I think it’s actually one of the largest answers to the workforce development shortage that we have available to us.”

English noted that AIM has found the “jump-start” to an A&P license provided by these high school programs to be a quicker, less expensive process for students. English and Oxley said they expect it to also reduce attrition rates of students that choose not to complete their education and enter the industry.

Both AIM and WSU Tech see the new Part 147 as an opportunity to expand technician training abroad. Hall noted that WSU Tech is now in the process of adding more campuses to support growth overseas and English said AIM plans to add one or two international schools within the next five years to serve global clients.

The flexibility in adding new curriculum should also help schools prepare new technicians for the emerging advanced air mobility segment. Hall said incorporating this type training was “impossible” under the old Part 147, but schools will now have the agency to embrace new technologies that support industry needs. English said AIM already offers add-on modules to curriculum that allows students to take on a specialty, such as avionics or helicopter maintenance. He said AIM will “be adding an electric vehicle specialty where [students can] take an additional three classes and gain an appropriate certification.”

Regardless of the new flexibility, Oxley stressed that industry should be actively taking part in efforts to develop Part 147 curriculum so it matches what employers are looking for. “If you are in the vicinity of a local Part 147 school or any aviation school, partner with them,” she said. “Offer to be on their advisory committee. Give them suggestions and recommendations of things that you are doing that are new and improved, and help them start catering to you more.”

Lindsay Bjerregaard

Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.