As usual, there are numerous noteworthy sessions planned for WATS, but this year one should look for the big picture on maintenance and training. Robert W. Moorman explains.

When WATS begins this spring in Orlando, Fla., those attending the maintenance sessions will hear a recurring theme: how creating a safety culture will lay a good foundation for training aircraft maintenance technicians (AMTs). While including the latest training aids and methods are helpful in developing a training program, they will be ineffective without a commitment to safety from the boardroom down to the maintenance floor.

CAT Editor-in-Chief Chris Lehman said it best in one editorial: “The establishment of a Safety Culture starts at the top, and it is measured at the bottom."

Embracing this concept applies aptly to issues and problems that deserve attention. Even with enhanced training, problems will reoccur without the development of a safety culture. William B. Johnson, Ph.D., Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor for the FAA, who will lead the maintenance sessions at WATS, illustrates the point when discussing one of his major concerns.

“The top issue is the continued failure to use technical documentation to get the job done,” he said. “We have a culture of not using documentation properly, whether it is on the ground or in the cockpit. We have a tendency to skip things.”

Johnson’s concerns derive from the maintenance related data collected by the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP), NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System, internal FAA data that looks at administrative actions against AMTs, as well as other means of collecting and analyzing safety data. Collecting and analyzing maintenance data is a sound template for how to augment maintenance training as well as creating a safety culture. Past-suggested solutions, such as reminding AMTs to use the documentation, or simplifying the instruction language are “good ideas that won’t work,” Johnson said candidly.

Some suggest that the FAA fines AMTs or their employers for not using proper documentation. But levying punishments won’t get at the overall problem, said Johnson. A study by psychologist Patrick Hudson from the UK, who has researched the need to follow documentation, agrees with Johnson.

What then? “We have to change the culture,” Johnson said, “which will require an extremely high level of corporate commitment.”

Peer pressure would help, but creating a safety culture first as part of the company’s Safety Management System (SMS) as well enhancing AMT training is the way to make lasting change, said Johnson and other training experts CAT interviewed. One way to help create a safety culture within maintenance departments is to encourage the use of a variety of reporting systems, and act on that data. “We are good at collecting [maintenance related] data, but not very good at analyzing it,” Johnson said.

Aircraft manufacturers and airlines have initiated programs and offered products that make documentation readily available through the use of mobile devices, such as iPads. Gulfstream Aerospace, makers of high-end business jets, offers good readily available documentation for AMTs and other users. But these are tools. What is needed first is a change in mindset.

Safety Culture Johnson cited Miami Air International, a small Dade County, Fla.-based charter airline, as one operator with a high corporate commitment to its SMS.

“Without a safety culture, you do not have a SMS program,” Armando Martinez, senior director of Safety and Security for Miami Air said. Miami Air was the first charter airline to have a fully implemented SMS program under FAA’s SMS Pilot Program.

The program has been very successful. In 2012, Miami Air got a $30,000 credit from its insurance underwriters to use on safety initiatives. This year, it got $50,000 to use for the same purpose.

Johnson points to Pratt & Whitney (P&W) as a good example of a large company within a larger corporation that has a good safety culture. P&W, the engine manufacturing division of United Technologies, which also owns Sikorsky Aircraft, maintains a safety culture through its Accelerating Customer Excellence (ACE) program. All UTC companies, including Pratt’s engine manufacturing and MRO units, are part of ACE.

One UTC-wide safety practice worth noting are the daily, so-called “stand-downs,” where every staff member stops what they’re doing and inspects their work area for any safety problems.

“On the engine floor, safety procedures are built into the standard practices,” said Curtis Ray Lowery, manager, Curriculum Design and Development, Customer Training, Pratt & Whitney.

Maintaining a system wide safety culture within maintenance departments is particularly important today because of the changes that have occurred within the industry, particularly at airlines.

“We are trying to do more with less,” said Joaquin Villarreal, senior manager FedEx TechOps Training. “We are all trying to perform maintenance more efficiently and effectively.”

To deal with this new economic reality, FedEx Tech Ops instructs its mechanics to better troubleshoot maintenance problems the first time in order to avoid a major maintenance down the road. Aiding the troubleshooting task are easy access electronic logbooks.

FedEx is in the process of acquiring iPad tablets for every AMT to use on the aircraft. iPads can be checked out by AMTs before their shift begins. AMTs can access a parts manual or order replacement parts on the tablets. While these tools are a help, it is the top-down commitment to safety which is what drives FedEx Tech Ops and other carriers to evolve its maintenance practices and training, Villarreal said.

In the last five years, FedEx TechOps Training has adopted a lean continual improvement culture, which has included updating the training program for AMTs. FedEx has implemented an aircraft strike prevention program as part of its SMS program, along with YouTube style videos to better train its AMTs. AMTs also can obtain additional training on various aircraft systems online. Like other carriers, FedEx Tech Ops uses CAE’s Simfinity program to simulate maintenance problems.

“We try and duplicate real life scenarios as much as possible,” said Villarreal. “This has made a real difference in the quality of maintenance performed by FedEx mechanics.”

Safety Elements A key component of maintaining a safety culture is the inclusion of Human Factors. Gareth McGraw, Human Factors Advisor, Standards Division, Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia will discuss “Safety Behaviors - Human Factors for Engineers,” at WATS 2014.

While many think of human factors as it relates to piloting an aircraft, the concept for maintenance has been around for 30 years, said Johnson. Continental Airlines is credited with establishing the first human factors training program for maintenance, dubbed Crew Coordination Concepts. The program was modeled somewhat after the cockpit crew coordination program. Similar programs have been adopted by other major and regional airlines and independent MROs.

Aviation associations are doing their part to promote a safety culture through better training within maintenance departments. Airlines for America is working with member airlines and industry participants to revise the ATA Specification (ATA Spec) 104, titled, “Guidelines for Aircraft Maintenance Training.” [FedEx’s Villarereal, chairman of the A4A maintenance Training Network (MTN) will discuss those plans at WATS.]

In addition, ATA is producing a new spec that describes an industry best practice in identifying a continuous monitoring of maintenance instructions for operators to provide feedback when a safety related maintenance instruction exists.

A4A does not sponsor or endorse maintenance-training programs. Nor do its members think a specific area of maintenance needs better training. “That said, specialized system training on NextGen avionics and aircraft troubleshooting are two areas upon which operators continue to focus their maintenance training efforts, “ said Mark Lopez, A4A director Technical Operations.

Lopez said he would provide an overview of A4A maintenance training industry efforts on the revision of the ATA Spec and review maintenance training issues, such as combining training programs in response to recent industry consolidation.

One question that is likely to be asked at WATS - how do you create, or re-create a safety culture at a merged airline, which had two different corporate cultures and maintenance processes?

Investment Creating a safety culture with the help of an SMS program can be particularly challenging if there aren’t enough trained AMTs on staff. The Regional Airline Association (RAA) has been quoted nationwide saying the challenge of maintaining an “adequate supply of trained maintenance personnel is here today.” Even with personnel challenges, the association wants greater focus on practical training for AMTs to ensure they are prepared for work at a regional airline once they arrive. RAA would like trainers to integrate more non-technical training, such as fatigue, human factors and preventing non-compliance. RAA urges that technical training of AMTs keeps pace with technology. RAA is encouraging airlines to partner with educational institutions, such as high schools with vocational education as well as community colleges with aviation programs. It also wants to see a greater financial investment in training AMTs, particularly as it applies to NextGen related avionics and other equipment.

“The US government will spend $12 billion on NextGen, and there should be a small percentage of that money invested in our ‘human’ capital since it’s the technicians, who are responsible to safely maintain this technology and support our industry,” said Stacey Bechdolt, senior director, Safety & Technical Affairs, Regulatory Counsel.

Meantime, RAA member airlines are doing their part to help create a safety culture within maintenance departments. The Association suggests: incorporating Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS) into the Continuous Analysis and Surveillance System (CASS) audits; requiring human factors/behaviors training for leadership and supervisors; promoting safety by working to implement the Maintenance Aviation Safety Action Program (MASAP) and other voluntary programs; implementing company-wide InfoShares with maintenance breakout sessions focused on safety, training, technical and compliance issues; communicating the ‘whys’ of new policies and procedures to help technicians understand the importance of the safety risk.

Record Keeping Ric Peri, vice president of Government and Industry Affairs, Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) said maintaining a safety culture in maintenance departments would be enhanced if FAA-licensed AMTs were required to keep a record of their ongoing training and experience.

“We (in the US) do a great job of institutionalizing continuous improvement training, including maintenance, but a lousy job of documenting it,” Peri said. “Our deficiency is not in the fundamental requirements [for US AMTs], our deficiency is the ability to show what has been done.”

In the US, the only record an AMT is required to keep is the qualification to get the certificate. No regulatory requirement exists for any record keeping of training beyond that, he said.

Peri is correct when referring to Part 91 regulations, which pertain to the operation of small non-commercial aircraft within the US. However, airlines regulated under Part 121 and Part 135 are required to keep maintenance-training records. This also applies to Part 145 MROs. Some of the larger corporate operators, which operate under Part 91, are likely to keep maintenance-training records, even when not required by the regulator.

Some mechanics also keep their training and working requirements, which permits them to maintain their “Recency of Experience” as described in Part 65.83. Nevertheless, Peri’s point is well taken. Better record keeping of training enhances and validates a maintenance operation, and augments the safety culture of a large segment of the aviation industry. Peri would like to see a provision to Part 65 to have record keeping of their continuing education/training so regulatory authorities or employers can evaluate the AMTs.

“Fundamentally, we have a maintenance safety culture,” Peri said. Incorporating the SMS into the corporate culture - without fear of reprisals - would help advance the safety culture.”

“At present, there are around 130,000 wrench turning mechanics in the aviation industry,” said Peri, of which 52% work for airlines. The rest of the AMTs are divided among manufacturing, FBOs and government.

WATS 2014 attendees should not miss another session on new ways of delivering maintenance training. Professor Dennis Vincenzi, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide will discuss ERAU’s “Experience with Massive Open On-Line Courses (MOOC).

Other sessions of note: D. Smith, Training Manager, US Department of Transportation Safety Institute, will address “SMS, Accident Investigation, and Non-technical Maintenance Training.” Michael Kalbow, Head of Maintenance Training, Airbus will talk on “How to Promote and Sustain Safety Culture Through International Technical Training Cooperation.” Dr. Maggie Ma, Senior Research Engineer, The Boeing Company will follow up with “Affecting Voluntary Reporting Across Many Cultures.”

CAT contacted numerous airlines for their views on enhancing AMT training and creating a safety culture for maintenance departments. Many said they couldn’t answer one question without including the other in the answer.

“Training and safety are intertwined in the same way that training and technical skill is,” said David T. Deveau, vice president Safety Quality & Environment, Jazz Aviation, a regional airline serving Air Canada with a fleet of over 130 aircraft. “In a modern safety culture, training is not separate activity. It is a safety activity.”

Maintenance Training manager Robert Harpelle agreed. “In the past, safety training was almost like an add-on or a standalone training subject. We would cover specifics items such as human factors or safety reporting requirements.”

“That has changed,” Harpelle continued, “we include safety as part of all training. The safety subjects are selected based on SMS inputs, which highlight areas of concern. This ensures that the training is focused on areas, which need attention, not just trying to tick a box off.”

Deveau said the blending of training and safety could manifest itself in many ways, “including when training is part of the feedback cycle whereby risks and hazards and other issues identified through SMS flow back through those who manage risk.

“It also works the other way around, in that it is often during training that we learn about the realities and subtleties of what is happening on the front line,” Deveau continued. “Training is as much a safety process as any other part of SMS.” That is a message that is likely to be heard again and again at WATS.