The aim is to build trainee confidence, and concomitant competence, says Philippe Fisher, AAR's Oklahoma City training manager. The new mentoring initiative is predicated on Fisher's remembrance of what happened “the first time I went up to an airplane after school.” He approached the aircraft and said to himself, “Now what do I do?”
Mentoring already has paid dividends for AAR. Since its implementation, Fisher says it has saved the facility “probably 30-35 percent” in terms of rework. He sees a direct correlation between the tried-and-true process and the reduction of reworks.
AAR reflects the fact that not everyone's working on the 787 just yet, and that there are resurrected training techniques which can—if properly applied—enhance quality and cut costs for today's fleet of commercial aircraft.
Ken Tacket appears cut from the same cloth as Philippe Fisher. “We feel we get more bang for our buck out of hands-on training,” says Pemco's director of quality and planning. That hands-on curriculum is underpinned by the use of mock-ups, where tasks as elemental as metal-forming are carried out before trainees hit the hangar floor. Harkening back to Holger Beck's assessment that it's best to front-load as much of the learning as possible, Tacket says, “it's imperative that instructors see students successfully perform tasks “in a hands-on, controlled environment.” That way, students receive immediate feedback.
Closing the feedback loop, and doing it such that the lesson sticks, is fundamental. It is the most classic of educational tenets, and it is just as applicable when teaching someone to work on next-generation aircraft as it is on today's fleet. “Feedback shouldn't be six weeks [later]. It should be immediate,” says Beck.
This is part of reason that Lufthansa Technical Training has significantly reduced the amount of time it takes to impart computer-based training. What once took as many as 40 hr. to cover as an overall topic now takes considerably less by focusing on methodological learning. For example, if LTT wants to teach a technician how to start an auxiliary power unit or an engine, and just that, “It takes only three to five minutes of computer-based training. Afterward, we discuss in a group what we have learned.” In such a setting, the feedback/reenforcement loop flourishes, and so does competency-based training.
But the tools to perform the training have to be readily available. Gameco General Manager Norbert Marx says, at least at this point, that engine run-up training doesn't satisfy the Chinese MRO's needs because of the absence of a simulator. That means “all engine run-up training would need an actual aircraft in the hangar, which may not suit the training schedule or may impact the production schedule.”
If the MRO industry is really to successfully front-load the learning process, simulators must continue to heighten the learning experience, cut the time it takes impart critical skills, and keep costs under control. In part, that's because “younger maintenance engineers have less real-life experience [because] we now have fewer troubles and repairs on the aircraft,” asserts ANA's Akihiro Terada. “Experience and knowledge are the aspects of being a maintenance engineer that only real-life incidents can nurture.” He says the industry struggles to compensate for that, especially on aircraft such as the 787 that employ Digital Turning Tools.
More broadly, Pennington argues that the industry needs to train for technology far earlier in the mechanic formation process. “Mostly, the emerging technologies are not adequately covered at the basic license level,” he contends. Moreover, “the added complexity of advanced system architectures is not always well provided for” in the early stages of the game. Far too often he believes training organizations focus “purely on the theoretical elements.” He says this is fine if the aim is to simply certify that someone has completed the requisite coursework, but not so good if on-the-hangar-floor competence is the goal.
Pennington maintains it would help if regulatory agencies revamp their requirements to keep pace with the technological tone of the times. “One of the biggest challenges in competency-based training is it's kind of outside of the requirements that the regulators publish at the moment,” asserts Boeing's senior manager for maintenance training. He says that while most worldwide regulatory requirements address knowledge-based and accompanying practical training, nowhere in the regulations do they talk about training to a level of competence. “It's a gap,” he contends, “that we need to close.”