The nuts and bolts people

They are the nuts-and-bolts people of the aviation sector — the aircraft maintenance engineers (AME). While the aviation sector needs all the professionals to do their part to keep travel safe, the AMEs probably perform one of the most crucial functions. Every aircraft has to be certified safe by an AME before it’s allowed to fly.

By keeping an aircraft trouble-free, these engineers also ensure the viability of aviation business. “A well maintained aircraft results in lower maintenance costs and also better fuel efficiency,” says Palash Roy Chowdhury, MD – India, Pratt& Whitney, the aerospace manufacturer.

“The responsibility to maintain the aircraft and its engines rests with technical engineers, technicians and mechanics who work in airlines and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities,” adds Chowdhury.

What it takes

An aspirant should have cleared high school, and then appear for exams conducted by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The examinations, which consists of 10 papers, are held thrice a year. Prepare well, because each paper carries a fee of ? 2,500, per attempt.

After clearing the exams, aircraft specific trainings are provided by different schools approved by the DGCA. Some of the airlines/MROs such as Jet Airways, IndiGo, and Air India Engineering Services (unit of the national airline) train the candidates. There are some standalone schools, like Airbus BLR, as well.

The airlines and MROs also provide the mandatory three years of practical experience, after which the candidate gets a basic licence, called a Category A licence. “This is like an MBBS degree that allows a person to do jobs like change a wheel or a wiper blade,” says a person who has 25 years of experience as an AME.

If an AME decides to specialise in one type of aircraft then he or she will have to clear a B1 licence test. The brighter ones strive to get both the B1 and B2 licences. But according to those in the field, at the moment there is no one with both the licences in India.

It’s not surprising to see why. For B1 licence, a candidate has to pass more modules after taking specialised courses from training institutes. These courses last two months and have a fee of ?4-5 lakh.

In the end of these courses, a candidate gets a Certificate of Recognition, with which he can enrol with an airline or MRO and complete on-the-job training (OJT) as mandated by the DGCA. “There are between 70-80 specific tasks performed by a trainee. The simplest task will be a transit check, which involves checking for wear and tear in an aircraft after it has completed a flight. The most complex will be an engine change,” adds a veteran AME. After completing the formalities, the candidate can apply to the DGCA for endorsement for B1 or B2 licence for that particular aircraft. The veteran points out that the DGCA will also do a skill test on the candidate.

It pays

While an AME’s salary varies from airline to airline, the job pays ?60,000 to ?70,000 a month for starters. For an AME with a B1 licence and experience, the sky is the limit.

Pratt&Whitney’s Chowdhury points out that career progression for a typical AME can be slow initially. But as one gains experience and qualifications — along with certifications from the DGCA and additional endorsements on aircraft and engine types — his or her value increases. “There are many senior level executives in airlines who began their careers as an AME diploma holders,” Chowdhury adds.
17/10/17 Business Line

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