New U.S. Mechanic Training Standards Nearing Completion

maintenance technicians repairing overhead bin
Credit: American Airlines

WASHINGTON—A major revamp to the rules that spell out how U.S. schools teach aspiring aviation mechanics is inching toward completion, with a few key steps remaining before new standards come into force. 

The FAA on March 10 published on its website the proposed text of an interim final rule modifying Part 147, the regulations that set aviation technician education school standards. The agency called attention to the rule, alerting key congressional leaders and staffers that the regulations—which lawmakers have been pressing the agency to complete—were done. 

But the rule has not made it through the Federal Register and is not yet officially in place. Several days after it was posted online, the FAA-amended document clarified that the rule’s text is not quite set in stone. 

“Please be advised that the published document may contain minor changes due to formatting and editorial requirements,” the agency said. 

Industry sources with knowledge of the situation told Aviation Week that any changes are expected to be minor. However, several key pieces required to implement the new rules, including an advisory circular and the finalized mechanic airman certification standards (ACS), still must be released. The ACS are replacing current practical test standards and will provide the framework for all Part 147 mechanic testing.  

The ACS is made up of general subjects, such as Cleaning and Corrosion Control, with related subtopics, such as corrosion identification and inspection. Both the AC and the ACS are expected to be added to the docket as part of the rule finalization process. 

The final rule’s effective date will be 120 days after publication in the Federal Register, which the FAA said will be sometime “this spring.” 

A Part 147 revamp has been in the works for years. Unlike the aircraft, engines and components that mechanics work on every day, the current standards have changed little since 1970. Proponents of the revamp are confident that the new standards will produce better-qualified certificated mechanics that need less on-the-job training once they are hired. Getting mechanics qualified quickly and effectively is seen as key to meeting future demand, which is expected to be strong as the industry shifts from recovery to growth mode in the coming years.  

A lobbying effort succeeded in getting Congress to order the FAA to wrap up the rulemaking—even if the next step needs further revamping—as part of the massive Consolidated Appropriates Act of 2021 omnibus bill that also ordered changes the FAA’s aircraft certification process. 

“These improvements will help us educate the future workforce and meet the demands of the evolving aviation community,” the FAA said when the interim rule was posted. “Under the new rule, technical schools will update curriculum and incorporate technical training that aligns with the current industry standards.”

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.