November 05, 2012
Jerome Greer Chandler Anniston, Ala.
While the switch from knowledge-based to competency-based maintenance training is a philosophic fait accompli, the issue facing the MRO industry remains one of getting that “knowledge transferred into actions,” says Holger Beck, chief commercial officer for Lufthansa Technical Training. In other words, translating theoretic lessons into real-world abilities. Airline and MRO executives believe the answer lies in integrating new technology and new methodologies, while maintaining the benefits of tried-and-true teaching techniques.
Not all that long ago, maintenance training was a bifurcated affair. First came a classroom lecture. Then it was time to practice the particulars of the airframe arts out on the hangar floor. That approach was “not efficient at all,” says Beck, carrying with it inherent risks of an unforgiving learning curve.
When done right, competency-based training doesn't eschew the classroom; rather, it front-loads the learning process so students can make mistakes “in the protective learning environment [of] the classroom,” says Beck.
That path, paved with sophisticated technology and illuminated by creative teaching techniques, just may be the training template of the future. Many MRO executives assert such a formula—properly applied—can cut training costs, maintain quality and better prepare technicians to repair the new generation of aircraft just beginning to enter service.
“That's certainly the path we went down with the 787,” says Steve Pennington, senior manager for maintenance training at the Boeing Commercial Airplane Co.
Learning starts in a special 787 classroom. Boeing has nine of them sited around the globe, a quartet in Seattle alone. Those classrooms are fitted with flat-screen monitors, around which partnered pairs of technicians gather. The screens afford students access to a 3-D virtual simulation of the seven-eight, which allows them to “virtually” navigate around the aircraft.