United States General Accounting Office GAO Report to the Ranking Democratic Member, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, House of Representatives March 2003 AVIATION SAFETY FAA Needs to Update the Curriculum and Certification Requirements for Aviation Mechanics GAO-03-317 a March 2003 AVIATION SAFETY FAA Needs to Update the Curriculum and Highlights of GAO-03-317, a report to the Ranking Democratic Member, House Committee on Transportation and Certification Requirements for Aviation Infrastructure Mechanics The safety of millions of airline BLS projects that there will be about 184,000 aircraft mechanics and service passengers depends in part on technicians employed in the United States in 2010, an increase of 17 percent from the aviation mechanics—known as A&P number employed in 2000. We reviewed the methodology and assumptions used by mechanics—that are certified to BLS to make the employment projections and found the resulting projection to be inspect, service, and repair the reasonable. aircraft’s body (airframe) and/or engine (powerplant). FAA establishes the requirements to A&P mechanics will continue to be supplied and trained by the civilian workforce, become certified as an A&P the military, and the 175 FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician schools. mechanic. About 58 percent of the 47,500 A&P mechanics that were certified by FAA between 1996 and 2001 were trained in aviation maintenance in the military or on-the-job, and Concerns have been raised in the the remaining 42 percent attended FAA-approved schools. Officials of the major aviation industry about having a commercial air carriers anticipate a sufficient supply of A&P mechanics from these sufficient number of A&P mechanics same sources through 2010, citing their ability to contract out work to repair stations over the long term. GAO was asked and to adjust wages and benefits to attract the employees that they need. This latter to determine how many aircraft approach is consistent with economic literature on labor markets, which indicates mechanics and service technicians that most employers take such actions to attract and retain needed workers. Eleven the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of 15 participants on an industry/government panel we convened believe that projects will be employed in 2010, and the reasonableness of that employers may have difficulty hiring A&P mechanics in 2010. According to officials projection; the sources that supply at major airlines, when such a situation has occurred in the past, their companies and train A&P mechanics and the responded by raising salaries and improving benefits to attract the mechanics that likelihood that they will provide a they needed. sufficient number through 2010; and what is being done by FAA and the FAA develops the minimum curriculum requirements for A&P mechanics attending aviation industry to ensure that the aviation maintenance technician schools. However, the curriculum has not changed skills of A&P mechanics are significantly in over 50 years. Industry officials believe that the curriculum is sufficient to work on technologically obsolete geared toward smaller less complex aircraft, and does not provide enough advanced aircraft? instruction on the materials and technology used on modern aircraft that transports the majority of the flying public. FAA should review the required Aviation Maintenance Technician at Work curriculum at aviation maintenance technician schools, identify courses that do not reflect widely used aircraft technology and materials and either de-emphasize or replace them. Also, FAA should ensure that changes to the required curriculum are reflected on the A&P certification examination. www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-317. To view the full report, including the scope and methodology, click on the link above. For more information, contact Gerald L. Dillingham (202) 512-3650 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Contents Letter 1 Results in Brief 3 Background 5 BLS Projection of Increased Employment in 2010 Appears Reasonable 7 Traditional Sources That Supply and Train A&P Mechanics Should Be Adequate through 2010 9 FAA-developed Curriculum Does Not Cover Technologically Advanced Aircraft 18 Conclusions 23 Recommendations for Executive Action 24 Agency Comments 24 Appendixes Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and Methodology 26 Appendix II: Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—Overall Responses to Survey Questions 31 Appendix III: Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—2nd Round 43 Appendix IV: Responses from A&P Mechanics 52 Appendix V: Responses from Aviation Mechanics Students 54 Appendix VI: GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments 56 GAO Contacts 56 Staff Acknowledgments 56 Tables Table 1: Number of A&P Certificates Issued to FAA-approved School Trained and Nonschool Trained Mechanics, 1996– 2001 10 Table 2: Number of Certificates Issued by FAA, 1996 – 2001 11 Table 3: FAA Initiatives to Improve the Qualifications of Mechanics 15 Table 4: Organizations Represented on the Stakeholder Panel 27 Table 5: Interview Locations and Organizations 28 Page i GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Contents Abbreviations A&P Airframe and Powerplant BLS Bureau of Labor Statistics FAA Federal Aviation Administration DOD Department of Defense DOT Department of Transportation This is a work of the U.S. Government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. It may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without further permission from GAO. It may contain copyrighted graphics, images or other materials. Permission from the copyright holder may be necessary should you wish to reproduce copyrighted materials separately from GAO’s product. Page ii GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety A United States General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20548 March 6, 2003 Leter The Honorable James L. Oberstar Ranking Democratic Member Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure House of Representatives Dear Mr. Oberstar: The safety of millions of air passengers depends on the abilities of a specialized group of aviation mechanics who are responsible for ensuring the airworthiness of about 200,000 civilian aircraft. These aviation mechanics inspect, service, and repair the planes’ bodies (airframe) and/or engines (powerplant). Mechanics who are certified to work on both the airframe and powerplant are commonly known as A&P mechanics. Airframe and/or powerplant mechanics have final authority in certifying that a plane is airworthy and approving its return to service. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for establishing the minimum requirements to become an A&P mechanic, authorizing and providing oversight to the 175 schools that teach prospective A&P mechanics, and establishing the schools’ core curriculum. In addition, FAA certifies private individuals, called designated mechanic examiners, to test aviation A&P candidates on their knowledge of servicing an aircraft’s airframe and powerplant, and to issue temporary mechanic certificates that indicate the candidates have successfully met the requirements for certification. FAA issues permanent A&P certificates to mechanics.1 Prior to September 11, 2001, there was concern within the aviation industry that there would not be a sufficient number of A&P mechanics available in the future. That concern abated temporarily with the decrease in air traffic and subsequent lay offs of mechanics, but may return as traffic levels begin to return to pre-September 11 levels. This report responds to your request for information on the prospects of having a continued adequate supply of qualified aviation mechanics. Specifically, we agreed to address the following questions: (1) How many aircraft mechanics and service technicians does the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) project will be employed in 2010, and how reasonable is that projection? (2) What are the sources that supply and train A&P mechanics and the likelihood that they 1 Mechanics can also receive certification for either airframe or powerplant. This report focuses on mechanics who have the combined A&P certificate. Page 1 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety will provide a sufficient number of mechanics through 2010? and (3) What is being done by FAA and the aviation industry to ensure that the skills of A&P mechanics are sufficient to work on technologically advanced aircraft? To address these questions, we obtained and analyzed information from a variety of sources. From BLS, we gathered data on how it develops estimates of current employment and projections of future employment for individual occupations, including aircraft mechanics and service technicians.2 In addition, we examined legislative and administrative requirements for the A&P certification and curriculum and obtained and analyzed FAA data on the number of airframe and/or powerplant certificates that have been issued between 1996 and 2001. We also obtained data from the United States Coast Guard, Navy, Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps on the number of military personnel that have the designation of aviation mechanics and information on their duties and job requirements. In addition, we identified 17 industry and government organizations representing A&P mechanics; businesses that employ A&P mechanics; A&P schools; and FAA, which certifies the mechanics. Officials from these organizations participated on a stakeholder panel that provided their groups’ views on the employment and training of A&P mechanics, the A&P curriculum of FAA-approved aviation maintenance technicians school, and A&P certification standards. To obtain information on certifying, hiring, training, and employing A&P mechanics, we interviewed officials from FAA, the Department of Defense (DOD), and eight major commercial carriers. In addition, we obtained information on hiring, training, and employing A&P mechanics from regional airlines, fixed-based operations,3 repair stations,4 and FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician schools in the Washington, D.C., area, Atlanta, Dallas, Seattle, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Fort Eustis, VA, and Oklahoma City. We conducted our review in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Appendix I contains additional information on our scope and methodology. 2 Service technicians repair, maintain, and service aircraft under the supervision of certified A&P mechanics. BLS uses the term service technicians, while FAA uses the term repairmen. 3 Fixed-based operations are FAA-certified facilities, generally located at or near an airfield, that repair and service aircraft. 4 Repair stations are FAA-certified facilities, generally larger than fixed-based operations, that repair and service aircraft. Page 2 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Results in Brief BLS projects that there will be about 184,000 aircraft mechanics and service technicians employed in the United States in 2010, which we believe is a reasonable estimate based on our review of the process used by BLS to make this projection. The aircraft mechanics and service technicians’ category that BLS uses includes A&P mechanics that specialize in the maintenance and repair of an aircraft’s airframe and powerplant, repairmen, and others who work on aircraft.5 BLS’ projection amounts to a 17-percent increase over the number the agency reported employed in 2000, or an average annual average increase of about 2,600 aircraft mechanics and service technicians. BLS derived its projection from a multi-step process in which the employment of aircraft mechanics and service technicians is influenced by factors such as the projected demand for air travel. In addition, BLS considers trend data on hiring, enrollment in aviation maintenance technician schools, and information provided by aviation industry participants in making its projections. There is always uncertainty associated with projections such as those made by BLS because they depend on assumptions about key economic factors, and the actual values of these factors may differ from the estimated values. The sources that will supply and train A&P mechanics are the civilian workforce, the military, and FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician schools. About 58 percent of the 47,500 A&P mechanics who were issued certificates between 1996 and 2001 were trained in aviation maintenance in the military or on-the-job, and the remaining 42 percent attended FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician schools. Officials of the major commercial air carriers, the largest employer of A&P mechanics, as well as officials from regional and business air carriers, anticipate there will be a sufficient supply of A&P mechanics from these same sources through 2010, citing their ability to contract out repair and servicing work to repair stations, and the ability to adjust wages and benefits to attract the employees that they need. This approach is consistent with economic literature on labor markets that indicates that most employers, regardless of the industry that they represent, take such actions to attract and retain the workers that they need. Many participants (11 of 15) in our stakeholder panel believe that employers may have difficulty hiring A&P mechanics in 2010. According to officials at major 5 There is no estimate of employment made specifically for airframe and powerplant (A&P) mechanics. BLS’ employment figures include all aircraft mechanics and service technicians, including airframe and/or powerplant mechanics and repairmen. Page 3 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety airlines, when such a situation has occurred in the past, their companies responded by raising salaries and providing other incentives to attract mechanics that they needed. FAA is responsible for developing the minimum requirements for the A&P curriculum at the 175 FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician schools nationwide, but it has not made significant changes to the schools’ curriculum in more than 50 years. According to most of the representatives of the aviation industry that we interviewed, overall, the curriculum provides a solid basic introduction to aircraft repair and maintenance. However, they also believe that the curriculum is outdated, and geared toward systems and materials on smaller, less complex aircraft that are rarely used by most of the flying public. Representatives of the major air carriers told us that since the aviation maintenance technician schools do not provide enough instruction on the materials and technology used by modern commercial aircraft, they provide on-the-job training to their mechanics. FAA proposed changes to the A&P curriculum and certification processes in 1994 and 1998, when it issued notices of proposed rulemaking but negative comments on specific items in the proposals, such as a requirement that mechanics have recurrent training, caused FAA to withdraw the proposals. FAA officials told us that there are no immediate plans to reissue the proposals. Since FAA is responsible for ensuring that minimum requirements taught at the aviation maintenance technician schools address current conditions, we are recommending that FAA review the minimum A&P curriculum required for FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician schools, and identify courses that do not reflect widely used aircraft technology and materials on commonly flown aircraft. These courses should be de-emphasized or replaced with courses that address current conditions. We also recommend that FAA ensure that changes to the A&P school curriculum are reflected on the mechanic’s certification examination, thus ensuring that all candidates for the A&P certificate meet the same standards. FAA and BLS generally agreed with our findings and FAA agreed to consider our recommendation. Page 4 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Background Some members of the aviation industry expressed concern about a potential shortage of qualified aviation mechanics. Aviation mechanics (also called “airframe and powerplant” or “A&P” mechanics) who specialize in and are certified to inspect, service, and repair the bodies (airframe) and engines (powerplant) of civilian aircraft are a critical component of aviation safety because they are responsible for ensuring that aircraft are in peak operating condition and can be used to safely transport people and cargo. If an A&P mechanic fails to perform the required services before an aircraft departs, it could compromise the safety of the aircraft, passengers, and cargo. For example, in examining the January 2000 Alaska Airlines crash of Flight 261, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that maintenance irregularities were among the contributing factors to the crash. Concerns about the sufficiency of the number of specialized personnel in the aviation industry have not been limited to aviation mechanics. In a recent report on air traffic controllers, for example, we identified likely future attrition scenarios involving that workforce, and recommended that FAA better prepare for responding to them.6 A&P mechanics inspect and repair engines, landing gear, instruments, pressurized sections, and other parts of the aircraft. They are also responsible for providing routine maintenance and replacement of aircraft parts; repairing sheet metal or composite surfaces; and checking for corrosion, distortion, and cracks in the fuselage, wings, and tail. After completing the work, A&P mechanics must test parts and equipment to ensure that they work properly, and then they can authorize the aircrafts’ return to service. The mechanics often work under time pressure to maintain flight schedules. To receive A&P certification, candidates must first successfully complete a minimum of 1,900 hours of classroom instruction at any of the 175 FAA- approved aviation maintenance technician schools or acquire documented evidence that they have at least 30 months of on-the-job training or experience working with aircrafts’ engines and bodies. FAA developed the core curriculum on repairing and maintaining aircraft used at the aviation maintenance schools. A&P candidates must then pass written and oral tests and demonstrate through a practical test that they can do the work 6 U.S. General Accounting Office, Air Traffic Control: FAA Needs to Better Prepare for Impending Wave of Controller Attrition, GAO-02-591 (Washington, D.C.: June 14, 2002). Page 5 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety authorized by the certificate. For example, candidates must show proficiency in working on items such as aircraft structures, landing gears and components, and powerplant maintenance. FAA administers the written examination and certifies private persons, called designated mechanic examiners, located throughout the country to administer the oral and practical tests to candidates. When a candidate successfully completes the certification examination, the examiner issues a temporary A&P mechanic certificate. The examiner submits the newly certified A&P mechanic’s file to an FAA field office for initial review and, if approved there, the file is sent to the FAA’s Airman Certification Branch, in Oklahoma City. FAA issues the permanent A&P certificate to mechanics who successfully pass all parts of the examination. The examiners charge a fee, which is not set or regulated by FAA, to the applicants taking the examination. FAA is responsible for overseeing the examiners, and both FAA and the Department of Transportation (DOT) Inspector General found abuses in the past.7 While most aircraft mechanics are employed by the nation’s air carriers, others work for repair stations, corporate flight departments, fixed-based operations,8 air taxi and charter services, the federal government, and aircraft manufacturers. Within the aviation industry, the major commercial airlines, corporate flight departments, and aircraft manufacturers offer the highest salaries for A&P mechanics, while salaries for mechanics who work in regional airlines, fixed-based operations, and training facilities tend to be lower. BLS estimates that the average salary of aircraft mechanics and service technicians nationwide was about $41,000 in 2000. According to representatives of some major commercial air carriers, salaries for aviation mechanics vary within the occupation and are based on factors such as the number of certifications the mechanics possess and the sector of the aviation industry in which they are employed. Generally, mechanics who are A&P certified earn more than those having other types of aviation mechanic’s certificates.9 According to BLS, the mean hourly 7 In 1999, FAA found that designated mechanics’ examiners in the Orlando, Florida, area had fraudulently indicated that hundreds of applicants had passed the certification examination. FAA retested many of the mechanics and instituted controls over the certification process. 8 See footnote 3. 9 Examples of other types of aviation mechanics certificates include repairmen certificates and avionics certificates, which are required to work on the electronic components of aircraft. Page 6 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety wage in 2000 for aircraft mechanics and service technicians was $19.49. Officials of the eight major commercial air carriers that we spoke with told us that they offer A&P mechanics an hourly salary rate ranging between $16.50 and $37.00. The hourly salaries for aviation mechanics employed with nine regional airlines, repair stations, and fixed-based operations that we contacted ranged from $11.50 to $30.00. FAA data show that as of May 2002, there were 268,996 certified A&P mechanics, 14,984 certified airframe mechanics, and 10,421 certified powerplant mechanics nationwide under the age of 70.10 In addition, 38 percent of these certified A&P mechanics are between the ages of 50 and 70 years old; 35 percent are between 39 and 49 years; and 27 percent are between 18 and 38 years old. There are also about 80,000 FAA-certified repairmen and an unknown number of noncertified repairmen that are supervised by A&P mechanics at FAA-approved repair facilities, fixed- based operations, and airlines. Neither government nor industry maintains data on the total number of noncertified repairmen who work in aviation maintenance. BLS Projection of As the federal government’s primary source of data on the national labor market, BLS determines the current employment in various occupations in Increased Employment a given year, and it makes biennial projections of the number of future in 2010 Appears employees nationwide in various occupations over a 10-year period. According to BLS data, at the end of 2000, about 77 percent (or about Reasonable 122,000) of the nation’s 157,884 aircraft mechanics and service technicians were employed in the aviation industry by entities such as air carriers, airports, and aircraft parts businesses. BLS’ projection does not distinguish between certified and noncertified aircraft mechanics and service technicians. About 51 percent (or about 80,500) of the aircraft mechanics and technicians worked for the nation’s air carriers, according to BLS. The remaining 49 percent worked outside of the air carrier industry. 10 FAA data show the number of mechanics that have received an airframe and/or powerplant certificate, while BLS data show the number of all aircraft mechanics and service technicians that are, and are projected to be, employed. Page 7 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety In December 2001, BLS projected that the number of aircraft mechanics and service technicians employed in the United States would increase to about 184,000 in 2010, an overall 17 percent increase (or about 2,630 employees per year) over the 157,884 aircraft mechanics and service technicians that were employed in 2000.11 In its projections for 2010, BLS estimates that the overall percentage of aircraft mechanics and service technicians employed in the aviation industry will increase to 80 percent, and the percentage of aircraft mechanics and service technicians employed by the air carriers would increase to about 54 percent. BLS’ Process for Projecting BLS’ projection of future employment for aircraft mechanics and service Future Employment technicians appears reasonable based on our review of the agency’s process for making the projection. To estimate future employment in Appears Reasonable various occupations, BLS uses historical data, an input-output matrix12 for the economy, and forecasts of key economic factors such as economic growth by sector of the economy and labor participation rates, to estimate the output of numerous industries and the number of people employed by those industries. As a result, projected employment in an industry is influenced by the projected demand for the goods and services produced by that industry. For example, the projected employment of aircraft mechanics and service technicians is influenced by the projected demand for air travel. BLS produces a baseline estimate of employment by occupation in each industry by assuming that the industry’s projected employment in the forecast year will be divided among occupations in the same proportions as it was divided in the last historical year available. For example, if employment in an industry is expected to increase by 10 percent, then the baseline estimate would show that employment for each occupation in that industry would increase by 10 percent. Total employment within an occupation is derived by adding the estimates for each industry in which members of that occupation are employed. BLS occupation specialists then consider whether the distribution of employment across occupations in the various industries will change by the forecast year. For the occupation 11 This is the most recent year for which actual figures are available. 12 An input-output matrix shows how much of various inputs, including labor as well as materials, is used to produce a unit of various outputs (e.g., how much steel is used to produce a car). Page 8 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety category of aircraft mechanics and service technicians, the BLS occupation specialist obtains information on factors influencing the supply and demand of these workers from many sources, including trend data on hiring; enrollment in aviation maintenance technician schools; and discussions with various industry participants, including employers, workers, FAA officials, and operators of aviation maintenance technician schools. On the basis of this information, BLS concluded that by 2010 aviation mechanics and service technicians will be more productive due to greater use of automated inventory control and modular systems by air carriers, which will speed repairs and parts replacement. As a result, BLS adjusted its 2010 projection for aircraft mechanics and service technicians downward from its baseline. Since projections such as these depend on numerous assumptions, there is always uncertainty associated with them. For example, if the overall growth rate of the economy, one of the factors underlying BLS’ projections, were to differ from the rate assumed in BLS’ models, then actual employment in various occupations in 2010 will differ from the agency’s expectations. Nevertheless, BLS has constructed its projection on a comprehensive set of factors and employed a sound methodology to analyze those factors. Traditional Sources According to FAA and aviation industry officials, A&P mechanics will continue to come from FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician That Supply and Train schools, the military, and the civilian workforce, and officials of the major A&P Mechanics Should commercial air carriers, the largest employer of A&P mechanics, as well as those from regional and business air carriers anticipate a sufficient number Be Adequate through of mechanics from these sources through 2010. In addition, some air 2010 carriers will contract out their aircraft repair and servicing needs to repair stations, which can operate with fewer A&P mechanics. Most of our stakeholder panelists believe that employers may have difficulty hiring A&P mechanics in 2010. Aviation industry employers maintain that, as they have done in the past, they will adjust salaries and benefits to attract the mechanics that they need, consistent with economic literature on how labor markets typically operate. Page 9 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Civilian Workforce, Military According to FAA officials, A&P mechanics received their aviation Service, and Aviation maintenance training either in the civilian workforce, during military service, or after completing a prescribed curriculum at an FAA-approved Maintenance Technician aviation maintenance technician school. As table 1 shows, from 1996 Schools Are Sources of through 2001,13 FAA issued nearly 47,500 A&P certificates, which Training for A&P Mechanics represents about 7,900 A&P certificates annually. About 58 percent of these certificates were granted to A&P mechanics who were trained in the military or during civilian employment.14 The remaining 42 percent of the A&P certificate holders attended FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician schools. Table 1: Number of A&P Certificates Issued to FAA-approved School Trained and Nonschool Trained Mechanics, 1996 – 2001 Number of A&P certificates issued to Number of A&P certificates Total A&P Year FAA-approved school issued to nonschool certificates issued attendees mechanics issued 1996 2,792 4,776 7,568a 1997 2,234 5,302 7,536 1998 3,003 5,142 8,145 1999 3,610 4,489 8,099a 2000 4,187 4,155 8,342a 2001 4,221 3,567 7,788a Total 20,047 27,431 47,478a Source: FAA. a Amount differs from that shown in table 2. According to FAA, the discrepancy was caused by database request dates. The database is continually changing to reflect the issuance of new or updated certificates. Over the same period, FAA issued almost 20,000 individual airframe or powerplant certificates. Table 2 shows the number of aviation mechanics’ certificates issued between 1996 and 2001. 13 Prior to 1996, FAA’s database did not distinguish the type of certification issued to mechanics; therefore, it was not possible to determine the number of certificates issued to airframe and/or powerplant mechanics and others. Since 1996, the database identifies the type of certificate issued. 14 FAA classifies A&P certificate holders who were trained in the military or during civilian employment as “nonschool mechanics” in its database. Page 10 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Table 2: Number of Certificates Issued by FAA, 1996 – 2001 Number of airframe only Number of Number of both Total Year certificates powerplant only A&P certificates certificates issued issued certificates issued issued issued 1996 1,973 883 7,569a 10,425 1997 2,017 964 7,536 10,517 1998 2,292 947 8,145 11,384 1999 2,494 1,025 8,100a 11,619 a 2000 2,393 1,094 8,349 11,836 2001 2,298 1,091 7,795a 11,184 a Total 13,467 6,004 47,494 66,965 Source: FAA. a Amount differs from that shown in table 1. According to FAA, the discrepancy was caused by database request dates. The database is continually changing to reflect the issuance of new or updated certificates. Many A&P mechanics were trained initially while in the military and supplemented their experience with training on civilian aircraft in order to meet the requirements for taking the A&P certification examination. The combined branches of the U.S. military had about 93,000 aviation mechanics as of July 30, 2002, and, according to military officials, many of them are or could become eligible to take the A&P certification examination. However, no data are available on the number of current military aviation mechanics that have A&P certificates. Significant differences exist in the requirements for military personnel with an aviation mechanic’s designation and civilian aviation mechanics. Military aviation mechanics are not required to have an airframe and/or powerplant certificate, while civilian aviation mechanics must have a certificate (e.g., airframe and powerplant) that is appropriate for the work they are doing before they can attest that an aircraft is operating properly and is ready for departure. In addition, military aviation mechanics are often trained to perform a specialized task on the type of aircraft that is typically used by the mechanics’ branch of the service. In addition, according to military officials, a military aviation mechanics’ job is compartmentalized in that the mechanic is generally assigned to service or maintain a specific part of an aircraft or perform a specific task on an aircraft. In contrast, civilian A&P mechanics are trained to, and often conduct work on, various parts of the airframe and powerplant of different types of aircraft. Since the work performed by many military aviation mechanics is often so specialized, many of them have to supplement their on-the-job work experience with Page 11 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety knowledge and training on civilian aircraft before they can become eligible to take the A&P examination. Several A&P employers told us that former military aviation mechanics are highly sought after once they become A&P certified, because of their discipline and attention to detail. Another major source for A&P mechanics are the 175 aviation maintenance technician schools nationwide that are authorized by FAA to teach a specified curriculum on inspecting, repairing, and maintaining an aircraft’s airframe and powerplant. There are no current or historical data available on the number of enrollees and graduates of those schools, and FAA does not require the schools to report this information.15 Officials at four schools we contacted indicated that their enrollment was at capacity or increasing. In addition, the schools’ officials told us that the majority of their graduates worked initially in the aviation industry after leaving the schools. 15 The Aviation Technician Education Council, the organization that represents many FAA- approved aviation maintenance technician schools, conducts surveys each year on the schools’ enrollment and graduation rates. However, according to the Council, the survey results cannot be used to provide trend information because the same schools do not respond each year. Page 12 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Major Commercial, Officials from the major commercial, regional, and business air carriers Regional, and Business Air that we interviewed anticipated a sufficient number of A&P mechanics through 2010 for two primary reasons. First, the officials for the air carriers Carriers Anticipate indicated that they could avoid a shortage of in-house mechanics by Adequate Supply of A&P contracting out some of their aircraft maintenance to domestic and/or Mechanics in the Future foreign-based repair stations.16 In a 1997 report on repair stations, we noted that the use of repair stations has grown substantially in recent years, particularly by airlines and cargo companies just entering the market.17 Many carriers have found it more economical to contract out much of their maintenance work to repair stations rather than hiring their own staffs and building extensive facilities. FAA is responsible for the certification and oversight of repair stations, and for specifying the type of maintenance that they can perform. While many repair stations have fewer than 15 employees and a limited range of activities that FAA has certified, some employ thousands of workers who completely overhaul engines and renovate aging airframes. As of December 2002, there were about 5,600 FAA-certified domestic and foreign repair stations.18 The stations can offset the need for large numbers of A&P mechanics by employing repairmen, who may or may not be supervised by A&P mechanics, to do the work. Neither FAA nor the aviation industry has established a requirement or guidance on the ratio of repairmen to A&P mechanics at those facilities, and we were unable to find any useable data on this issue. Second, officials for the air carriers indicated that their companies would likely adjust salaries and benefits for A&P mechanics to attract and retain the number they need to operate effectively. Some of the officials stated that during the 1990s, their air carriers experienced periodic shortages of A&P mechanics and they responded by raising salaries and providing other incentives to attract the mechanics that they needed to their companies. 16 Facilities certified by FAA to repair and service aircraft. 17 U.S. General Accounting Office, Aviation Safety: FAA Oversight of Repair Stations Needs Improvement GAO/RCED-98-21 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 24, 1997). 18 Officials for the major air carriers told us that the carriers require foreign repair stations to follow U.S. requirements in some areas as a condition of their contract. Page 13 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Aviation Sectors’ The adjustment of salaries and benefits to attract workers is consistent Expectations on Influencing with the economic literature that we reviewed on this issue. The literature confirmed the economic principle that businesses have typically responded Mechanics’ Hiring through to the potential of workplace shortages by taking action in several ways. Salary and Benefit First, if the number of employees in a given occupational specialty is Adjustments Are Consistent insufficient to support an employer's operations at a given scale, the with Literature on Labor employer can take actions that are likely to attract more new employees, Markets and to reduce attrition among incumbent employees. These actions include increasing wages, offering more generous nonwage benefits, and improving working conditions. Second, employers can devote additional resources to encouraging careers in the occupational specialty, such as advertising job openings and participating in job fairs. Third, an employer could respond to a shortfall in the number of employees in a given occupational specialty by altering business operations so that fewer employees are required. For instance, an employer could scale back operations, such as reduce the number of flights provided. Finally, in some instances, employers may be able to alter the technology to permit the substitution of other types of labor for workers in the occupational specialty that is in short supply. In the event that the number of qualified aviation mechanics should start falling below the level that the aviation industry believes it needs to properly conduct business, we expect that the industry will respond in the ways discussed above. Most Panelists Believe That While the primary employers of A&P mechanics expect a sufficient number Hiring A&P Mechanics Will of mechanics will be available through 2010, 11 of 15 panelists who responded to our question reported that employers may have difficulty in Be Difficult hiring them. The 11 panelists were from organizations that represent, employ, or train A&P mechanics. Furthermore, many panelists believe that more A&P retirees along with growth in air travel and the number of aircraft will increase the demand for aviation mechanics in 2010. We identified no nationwide data on the rate at which A&P mechanics retire or leave the industry. In our discussions with some of the panelists, we were told that the attrition information they provided for A&P mechanics was based on anecdotal comments by their members. In addition, all but one of the major commercial air carriers in our review indicated that their annual turnover rate (which includes employees who have left the industry as well as those who have taken a job with another employer as an aviation mechanic) averaged about 3 percent in the 3 years Page 14 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety prior to September 2001. The other carrier had a turnover rate of about 7 percent during that time period. FAA and Industry Have Both FAA and the aviation industry have programs or activities that are Initiatives to Influence the designed to influence the number of A&P mechanics in the industry, and the skills they acquire. In addition to the initiatives described in table 3, Skills of A&P Mechanics FAA managers told us that local field offices conduct outreach efforts at schools to promote interest in careers in aviation. Table 3: FAA Initiatives to Improve the Qualifications of Mechanics FAA initiative Program description Aviation Safety Program The FAA Accident Prevention Program was started in 1971 to decrease the number of general aviation accidents. In 1996, the program's name was changed to the Aviation Safety Program and its mission was expanded to include all aspects of aviation including air carriers and maintenance. The program consists of 160 program managers who have published safety-related audiovisual materials and publications and conducted a series of safety seminars and clinics for pilots and mechanics. FAA reports that surveys it has conducted show that the program is an effective way to provide mechanics updated information on regulatory requirements, technological advances, and changes in safety responsibilities. In a 1998 survey of aviation mechanics, FAA found that 30 percent (about 7,200) of respondents attended at least one seminar and 10 percent (about 2,400) attended two or more seminars. Aviation Maintenance Technician Awards The program was started in 1992 to encourage aviation mechanics to participate in Program employer-sponsored initial and recurrent training classes on a voluntary basis. Mechanics are eligible to receive certificates of recognition, lapel pins, and other prizes such as roundtrip airfare, computers, and scholarships. Employers providing training to their mechanics may also receive certificates of recognition under the program. In fiscal year 2000, 19,963 pins and 104 awards were given to mechanics and employers, respectively. For fiscal year 2001, numbers increased to 24,047 mechanic pins and 146 employer awards. Over the last 3 years, FAA estimates that participation in the program increased 5 to 7 percent. Source: FAA. Page 15 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety The aviation industry is also pursuing a variety of initiatives to promote careers in aviation maintenance and to expand their own opportunities for recruiting qualified aviation mechanics. For example, an aviation industry employer offers cash incentives to its employees whose referral of an A&P mechanic results in his or her employment. In addition, airlines, including Continental, Northwest, Horizon, Delta, United, and America West, reported involvement with local aviation maintenance technician schools, through providing teaching aids, such as surplus aircraft parts and equipment, and by participating in local schools’ recruiting fairs. Finally, some airlines reported engaging in other initiatives to recruit, hire, or retain qualified aviation mechanics, including participating in career days at middle and high schools in order to introduce students to aviation as a possible career, serving on the board of directors of aviation maintenance technician schools, and working with professional organizations that represent aviation mechanics. In addition, prior to September 11, 2001, Alaska Airlines had planned to establish a program that would offer internal apprenticeships and tuition assistance to employees who express an interest in earning an A&P certificate, provide mentors to high schools and trade schools, establish a direct hiring program in partnership with some A&P schools, and provide tuition assistance for A&P mechanics who want to attain advanced avionics19 training. Plans for these programs were deferred after September 11, 2001; however, a company representative told us that the airline might implement them on a limited basis in 2003. FAA and DOD Have Military and FAA officials have established initiatives that are intended to Initiatives to Assist Military assist military aviation mechanics in pursuing the A&P certification. The initiatives include computer-based training of A&P courses on selected Aviation Mechanics in military bases and a program that encourages FAA field offices to be more Obtaining A&P Certificates consistent in assessing the military’s aviation maintenance training and experience. Several military officials told us that there had been some concern about the potential for a shortage of military aviation mechanics because some mechanics left the service after their initial tour of duty. According to the officials, some mechanics chose to leave the service because the training needed to become A&P certified was not offered on the military bases where mechanics were stationed. The military wanted to devise a way to 19 Avionics is the science and technology of electrical and electronic devices in aviation. Page 16 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety assist military aviation mechanics in pursuing A&P certification as an incentive for mechanics to extend their enlistment. Keeping military aviation mechanics beyond their first tour of duty was important because several branches of service do not have a full complement of aviation mechanics. For example, the Navy and Coast Guard told us that they have full complements of aviation mechanics; however, the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps indicated that they needed to add thousands of mechanics before they reached full capacity. According to an FAA official, a problem with any plan to assist active duty military aviation mechanics in obtaining A&P certification is that the mechanics are not always stationed in areas where it is convenient to attend an FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school to acquire the training needed to supplement their on- the-job experiences. Consequently, the military asked FAA to develop computer-based A&P courses that could be offered on military bases. This training would provide military mechanics with the same courses being offered at FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician schools and that are part of the requirements for A&P certification. FAA agreed and, with funding from the Air Force, initiated a pilot program in 2001 at three military bases. At the time of our review, approximately 1,600 military aviation mechanics, from all branches of the armed forces, were enrolled in this program. FAA and DOD collaborated to address another major concern among current and former military aviation mechanics who believe that FAA field offices are inconsistent in assessing whether their military training and experiences meet the requirements to take the A&P certification examination. According to both FAA and DOD officials, FAA field offices lack consistency in assessing the training and work experiences of military aviation mechanics and determining whether credit should be given toward the requirements for A&P certification. While some FAA field offices gave credit for some experiences, others did not. Some FAA field office staff were unfamiliar with how to evaluate the duties of military aviation mechanics. For example, military officials told us that service personnel that had the designation of a military aviation mechanic perform duties as diverse as refueling a plane exclusively to working on an aircraft’s powerplant. Although both service personnel are aviation mechanics, only the mechanic that worked on the powerplant should be given credit toward the A&P eligibility requirement, according to FAA field office staff. However, the documentation provided to the FAA field office personnel would not always describe the duties performed by military aviation mechanics, so a field office might credit the work of one mechanic, while another field office might deny credit. To assist the FAA field offices in Page 17 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety better assessing the experiences of military aviation mechanics, DOD identified occupation codes that meet specific A&P requirements and provided them to FAA. FAA field office personnel are instructed to refer to these codes as a starting point or indicator that the applicant met some requirements needed to become eligible for the A&P examination. In December 2001, DOD and FAA developed a “certificate of eligibility,” which is issued to military aviation mechanics by their military trainers when they have completed the requirements needed to take the A&P certification examination. According to FAA and DOD officials, military aviation mechanics may present the certificate of eligibility to any FAA field office as proof that they are eligible to take the A&P exam. During our visits to FAA field offices in Atlanta, Seattle, and Dallas, however, we found that officials were either unaware of or had little information about the certificate of eligibility initiative. In one case, a field office official told us that he had been informed of the certificate initiative a week earlier. This official stated that in addition to accepting the certificate of eligibility, he would continue to question all applicants applying for the A&P certification examination as a quality control measure. We discussed the field offices’ apparent lack of familiarity with the certificate of eligibility with an official in FAA headquarters and a DOD consultant who worked on this program. Both acknowledged that all FAA field offices had not been informed of the initiative at the time of our visits, but had been by June 2002. According to the DOD consultant, three active duty military mechanics—all from the Coast Guard—have successfully used their certificates at FAA field offices to establish their eligibility to take the A&P certification examination. FAA-developed FAA is responsible for developing the A&P core curriculum at 175 FAA- approved aviation maintenance technician schools nationwide, but it has Curriculum Does Not not made significant changes to the curriculum of aviation maintenance Cover Technologically technician schools in more than 50 years. Consequently, the training received by prospective A&P candidates at those schools is not relevant to Advanced Aircraft most of the aircraft flown today. Most of our stakeholder panel and aviation industry representatives indicated that the current curriculum, which is required for A&P certification, provides a solid basic introduction to aircraft repair and maintenance. Major commercial aviation representatives believed that the curriculum is too focused on smaller, less complex aircraft and does not adequately prepare mechanics to work on the advanced technology and materials typically found on the aircraft that fly millions of passengers and cargo, and have consequently required their mechanics to take additional training. Page 18 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety FAA Establishes Core FAA is responsible for developing the required or core curriculum for Curriculum but Has Not students attending aviation maintenance technician schools.20 FAA established the present curriculum in the 1940s and, according to Made Significant Changes in employers and school officials that we interviewed, the curriculum Decades continues to reflect the technologies and material common to smaller, less complex aircraft of that era. Most of the industry employers with whom we interviewed indicated that the core curriculum at the A&P schools provided mechanics with a solid understanding of basic repair principles, but that some parts of the current curriculum are obsolete and cover aspects of aviation repair that are rarely needed or used by A&P mechanics. The curriculum does not provide A&P candidates with the training needed to maintain activities for aircraft that are used most prevalently today. The views of aviation employers about the curriculum are not new. Two studies (one sponsored by FAA) on the aviation mechanics’ occupation, issued in 1970 and 1974, by the University of California, Los Angeles, indicated that the rapid rate of technological advances within the aviation industry made it necessary to update the instructional program then provided in most aviation maintenance technician schools.21 In addition, an FAA-sponsored report issued by researchers with Northwestern University’s Transportation Center in 1999, concluded that aviation maintenance schools’ core subjects on tasks involved with working with wood and dope and fabric structures22 and on soldering and welding should either be deleted or condensed because very few aviation mechanics performed tasks associated with these items frequently in any segment of the industry.23 All three reports suggested changes in the A&P curriculum. 20 49 U.S.C. Sec. 44707. 21 University of California, Los Angeles, A National Study of the Aviation Mechanics Occupation (1974) and the U.S. Office of Education and the California State Department of Education Survey of the Aviation Mechanics Occupation (Washington, D.C., and Sacramento, CA: 1970). 22 Dope and fabric are pre-World War II-era material used to cover the wings of older, general aviation aircraft such as crop dusters. 23 Northwestern University, The Transportation Center, Job Task Analysis of the Aviation Maintenance Technician, Evanston, Illinois: May 1999). Page 19 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety FAA Proposals to Change FAA acknowledges that both the A&P curriculum and certification Curriculum and requirements are outdated and in need of revision. The agency attempted, in 1994 and 1998, to address both areas when it issued Notices of Proposed Certification Requirements Rulemaking.24 The 1994 proposal was the result of a series of Were Unsuccessful and the recommendations made to FAA by a multiorganizational group convened Agency Is Not Currently for the purpose of reviewing existing regulations on the certification Considering Changes requirements for aviation mechanics. These recommendations included specifying all experience requirements in hours instead of months for initial certification and clarifying the procedures for taking the certification examination. Many of the recommendations in the 1994 proposed rule were incorporated in the 1998 proposed rule; however, FAA withdrew the proposals in 1999 after some organizations expressed concern about various items that were proposed. For example, according to an FAA- sponsored report,25 the item on the withdrawn rule that drew the most negative comments specified recurrent training for aviation mechanics. In addition, the Air Force believed that the rule should have addressed the FAA process for the certification of military personnel more explicitly. According to an FAA official, new drafts of proposed revisions have been written, but their implementation is not part of the agency’s current priority list for action. In addition, the FAA-sponsored report concluded that the aviation mechanics’ training and certification rules must reflect, among other things, the technology, certification levels, and training curricula needed by the domestic aviation industry. FAA officials indicated that the agency was taking the report’s recommendations under advisement, but had no immediate plans to take action. The officials stated that FAA was reluctant to make significant changes to the curriculum, especially adding courses, because the cost of acquiring modern technologies for hands-on instruction would be cost prohibitive for some schools and they might close. In addition, FAA officials pointed out that aviation maintenance technician schools have some flexibility to make changes to their curriculum as long as they remain within FAA guidelines. Any additional courses would have to be approved by the local FAA inspectors and taken in addition to the 24 The announcements were made in the 59 Federal Register 42430, August 17, 1994, and 63 Federal Register 37172, July 9, 1998. They were withdrawn in the 64 Federal Register 42810, August 5, 1999. 25 R. Goldsby and A. Soulis, Optimization of Aviation Maintenance Personnel Training and Certification (Washington, D.C.: January 2002). Page 20 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety existing required 1,900-hour curriculum. However, school officials told us that adding hours to the current requirements might discourage some students from pursuing these advanced courses because of the additional cost to take them. In addition, many of the school officials agreed with FAA’s contention that the cost of adding courses that focus on advanced technology and require expensive equipment would be cost prohibitive for some aviation maintenance technician schools. Commercial Aviation According to officials from some major commercial airlines that we Officials Believe that interviewed, the required curriculum at aviation maintenance technician schools does not fully prepare A&P mechanics to work on commonly Curriculum Does Not Fully flown, technologically advanced commercial aircraft. Those officials told Prepare Mechanics to Work us that today’s modern aircraft require A&P mechanics to have a different on Commonly Flown set of skills than those being taught at aviation maintenance technician Aircraft and Have Added schools. Since A&P mechanics that are newly graduated from aviation Training maintenance technician schools lack the skills to work on modern aircraft, officials at some major airlines said they are reluctant to hire them directly from school. In response to concerns about the curriculum, FAA officials said that while the schools provide some practical “hands-on” experiences, the agency does not require candidates for certification to develop a level of skill to work on or repair all the various aircraft, systems, and engines that exist. FAA officials concluded that the current A&P curriculum provides students with basic and theoretical knowledge of engines, aircraft structures, and other items that are necessary to make them eligible for FAA certifications. FAA’s descriptions of the aviation schools’ curriculum and mission generally echo those of some in the aviation industry, who also believe that the curriculum provides students with basic knowledge of some aircraft systems and structures. However, some commercial aviation industry officials are concerned that the basic courses are outdated and the systems and structures being taught to prospective A&P mechanics are for aircraft that do not transport the majority of the flying public. Page 21 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety The stakeholder panel and most of the employers that we interviewed identified several courses or technologies that they believe should be part of the aviation maintenance technician schools’ A&P curriculum. Many of the panelists indicated that computer-related subjects should receive greater emphasis within the current curriculum. Other courses and technologies suggested by some officials with the commercial air carriers that we interviewed include composites,26 repair of turbine engines, basic and technical writing, and reading comprehension. Officials frequently mentioned the need for training in composites. For example, aviation mechanics from BF Goodrich reported that the increasing use of composites in both the frames and engines of aircraft requires time- consuming and exacting techniques. They believed that mechanics need specialized training for working with composites, but it is not part of the required curriculum at aviation maintenance technician schools. Officials from several commercial air carriers said that their suggestions were based on interactions with graduates of aviation maintenance technician schools and the lack of fundamental skills that they perceived from the schools’ graduates. For example, a representative of one major commercial air carrier said that 75 percent of their newly hired A&P mechanics that graduated from aviation maintenance technician schools failed the air carrier’s basic skills assessment test for mechanics. The representatives of the major commercial airlines that we interviewed reported that some form of additional training was needed for newly hired A&P mechanics before they are allowed to work on aircraft, and none of the representatives indicated a problem with this approach. The airlines’ practice has not changed since we initially reported it in a May 1991 report. At that time, we reported that representatives of the major airlines told us that their mechanics need 2 to 3 years of on-the-job training under close supervision, in addition to experience derived in an aviation maintenance school, to be fully productive.27 Representatives of several major air carriers told us the training they provide is generally job and aircraft 26 Composites are a blend of materials used for the shell of aircraft. Composites replaced other types of materials, such as wood, aluminum, and dope and fabric, that were used to build aircraft because they were lighter, stronger, and more flexible than those other materials. 27 U.S. General Accounting Office, Aircraft Maintenance: Additional FAA Oversight Needed of Aging Aircraft Repairs (Vol. 1), GAO/RCED-91-91A (Washington, D.C.: May 24, 1991). Page 22 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety specific. For example, Delta requires new hires to participate in classes that provide an introduction to commercial jets, instruction in basic maintenance, and safety rules. In addition, selected A&P mechanics also receive specialized training in hangar environments, aircraft systems, and troubleshooting for the specific types of aircraft in their fleet, as well as in other areas that may not be addressed by the aviation maintenance technician school curriculum. FAA officials stated that airlines have specific air carrier maintenance training requirements to ensure that aircraft maintenance personnel are competent. In addition to initial training programs, many commercial airlines provide some form of ongoing or recurrent training to their mechanics, regardless of their level of experience. The airlines consider this additional training necessary, since aircraft equipment and components are constantly evolving as new technologies and maintenance techniques are developed. For example, Alaska Airlines reported that each mechanic typically receives at least 100 hours of formal company training each year in order to become familiar with new equipment and aircraft. However, while companies may voluntarily give ongoing training to their mechanics, it is encouraged but not required under current FAA regulations. Since many major commercial carriers already require ongoing training, such a requirement would have little impact on their mechanics. Conclusions FAA is responsible for setting the minimum requirements for the A&P mechanics’ core curriculum, making sure that students are trained sufficiently to ensure aircraft safety, and reflecting the curriculum requirements in the mechanics’ certification examination. However, the agency has made few substantive changes to the curriculum in decades. The required A&P curriculum at FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician schools is outdated and primarily geared to smaller less complex aircraft that do not transport significant numbers of passengers and, according to many in the aviation industry, not relevant to most of the aircraft flown today. Basic courses that train students to maintain and repair the body and engines of modern commercial aircraft are limited. FAA requires the schools to provide instruction on the repair of aircraft made from dope and fabric, while guidance on repairing aircraft made of composites and having sophisticated computer systems is limited. There are about 4,000 dope and fabric aircraft, many of them crop dusters, compared to tens of thousands of modern aircraft that transport millions of passengers and cargo in the United States. Page 23 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Recommendations for We recommend that the Secretary of Transportation direct the FAA Administrator to review the minimum A&P curriculum required for FAA- Executive Action approved aviation maintenance technician schools and identify courses that do not reflect widely used aircraft technology and materials on commonly flown major commercial aircraft. These courses should be de- emphasized or replaced with courses that address current conditions. We also recommend that the Secretary direct the Administrator to ensure that changes to the A&P school curriculum are reflected on the mechanic’s certification examination, thus ensuring that all candidates for the A&P certificate meet the same standards. Agency Comments We provided a draft of this report to the Departments of Transportation, Labor, and Defense for review and comment. FAA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Regulation and Certification and BLS’s Assistant Commissioner, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections provided oral comments; the Department of Defense did not provide comments. FAA agreed to consider our recommendations and indicated it would work with the aviation community’s ongoing efforts to review current and future skill requirements for aviation mechanics for commercial and general aviation. FAA noted that part of this review includes identifying skill requirements that may need to be revised. BLS indicated that the employment data used in this report and the description of their projection process were generally accurate. Both FAA and BLS provided clarifying comments and technical corrections, which we incorporated as appropriate. As agreed with your office, unless you announce the contents of this report earlier, we plan no further distribution until 10 days from the report date. At that time, we will send copies of this report to other congressional committees; the Secretaries of the Departments of Transportation, Defense, and Labor; and the Administrator, FAA. Copies will also be Page 24 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety available to others upon request and at no cost on GAO’s Website at www.gao.gov. If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please call me at (202) 512-3650. Major contributors to this report are listed in appendix IV. Sincerely yours, Gerald L. Dillingham Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues Page 25 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix I Objectives, Scope, and Methodology AA ppp ep ned n x id e x Iis Our report focuses on the future supply and quality of training of aircraft mechanics. We addressed the following research questions: (1) How many aircraft mechanics and service technicians does the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) project will be employed in 2010, and how reasonable is that projection? (2) What are the sources that supply and train A&P mechanics and the likelihood that they will provide a sufficient number of mechanics through 2010? and (3) What is being done by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the aviation industry to ensure that the skills of A&P mechanics are sufficient to work on technologically advanced aircraft? To determine BLS’ projected employment of aircraft mechanics and service technicians in 2010, we obtained the most recent projection reported by BLS, which was in December 2001. BLS developed this estimate as part of its biennial projection of nationwide employment in various occupations. BLS does not make separate employment projections for A&P mechanics. Rather, it uses the category “aircraft mechanics and service technicians” for people who are employed in the maintenance and repair of aircraft. To determine the reasonableness of the projection, we reviewed the process, methodology, and sources of information used by BLS to make the projection. We discussed this information in detail with BLS staff responsible for making the occupational projection. We did not verify the data that BLS collects and uses, and we did not evaluate the assumed values it uses for forecasting key economic and demographic factors. To identify the sources that supply A&P mechanics and determine whether they would be able to provide a sufficient number of mechanics through 2010, we used a modified Delphi technique1 to survey representatives of aviation maintenance technician schools and aviation mechanics’ organizations and businesses; conducted case study work at several locations; and interviewed FAA and military officials. The modified Delphi technique we used involved getting the commitment of representatives of 17 government and industry organizations to serve on a stakeholder panel and developing and distributing 2 self-administered questionnaires to panel members. The 17 organizations represented on the panel are listed in table 4. Results from the first questionnaire were summarized in the second survey and used to develop additional questions. Fifteen panelists 1 We used a two-stage process in which initially, panelists are surveyed individually and are subsequently asked to respond to group’s comments. Page 26 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix I Objectives, Scope, and Methodology responded to the first questionnaire and 13 to the second. Panelists’ responses to the questionnaires are shown in appendixes II and III. Table 4: Organizations Represented on the Stakeholder Panel Segment of aviation industry represented Organization Federal government Federal Aviation Administration Aviation maintenance technician Aviation High School schools Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics Purdue University Westwood College of Aviation Umbrella organization for aviation Aviation Technician Education Council maintenance technician schools Trade associations and unions for Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association aviation mechanics Association for Women in Aviation Professional Aviation Maintenance Association International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers International Brotherhood of Teamsters Industry groups whose members Aeronautical Repair Station Association employ or use aviation mechanics Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Air Transport Association National Air Transportation Association National Business Aviation Association, Inc. Regional Airline Association Source: GAO. To better understand the role of the U.S. military as a source of aviation mechanics, we obtained data on the current number of aviation mechanics for the Coast Guard, Navy, Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps. We also interviewed military and civilian officials at Fort Eustis, VA, and the Pentagon to obtain information on DOD initiatives to assist military aviation mechanics in pursuing A&P certification. We obtained and analyzed information and data on A&P and repairmen’s certifications and the aviation maintenance technician schools’ curriculum from FAA’s headquarters and FAA’s Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City. In addition to the locations cited above, we also obtained information and data on aviation mechanics on visits to six locations: Atlanta, GA; Dallas, TX; Orlando and Daytona Beach, FL; Seattle, WA; Oklahoma City, OK; and Ft. Eustis, VA. We chose Atlanta, Dallas, and Seattle to obtain geographical Page 27 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix I Objectives, Scope, and Methodology diversity, and because located in each city are FAA field offices, aviation maintenance technician schools, commercial and regional airlines, repair stations, and fixed-based operations that we wanted to contact. Orlando and Daytona Beach were selected because they have an FAA field office and prominent aviation maintenance school, respectively. Oklahoma City is the location of FAA’s A&P certification database and FAA-managed computer-based training program for military aviation mechanics. The cities and organizations where we conducted our work are shown in table 5. Table 5: Interview Locations and Organizations Location Type of organization Participant Atlanta, GA Commercial air carrier Delta Airlines Regional air carrier Atlantic Southeast Airlines Federal government FAA’s Atlanta field office Fixed-base operation Epps Aviation Repair station Raytheon Aircraft Services School Atlanta Technical College Dallas, TX Commercial air carrier American Airlines Regional air carrier American Eagle Airlines Federal government FAA’s Dallas field office Fixed-base operation Hank’s Corporate Maintenance, Inc. Repair station Texas Pneumatic Systems, Inc. School Aviation Maintenance Training, Inc. Training facility Bombardier Fort Eustis, VA Federal government U.S. Army Aviation Logistics School Oklahoma City, OK Federal government FAA’s Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center Orlando, FL Federal government FAA’s Orlando field office Daytona, FL School Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Seattle, WA Commercial air carrier Alaska Airlines Regional air carrier Horizon Airlines Federal government FAA’s Seattle field office Fixed-base operation Galvin Flying Services Repair station Goodrich Aviation Technical Service, Inc. School South Seattle Community College Training facility Boeing Source: GAO. Page 28 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix I Objectives, Scope, and Methodology To obtain information on the adequacy of the supply of mechanics through 2010, we conducted interviews with representatives from eight major commercial air carriers: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, Federal Express, Inc., Northwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines. We obtained information and data on their A&P mechanics, salaries, perceptions of their ability to hire qualified mechanics in the future, and other issues relevant to this assignment. In addition, we obtained information on employment issues from PlaneTechs Aircraft Maintenance and AirMate, companies that provide contract mechanics to employers. We also interviewed a representative of the Aircraft Electronics Association, to obtain information on the future supply of aviation mechanics. We also obtained and analyzed numerous articles on the supply of aviation mechanics and the supply and demand principles for the overall employment market. To obtain information on the likelihood that there will be a sufficient number of qualified mechanics through 2010, we also developed questionnaires for A&P students and A&P mechanics that asked about their immediate and long-term career plans in aviation mechanics. We distributed the questionnaires for A&P students at the aviation maintenance technician schools that we visited in Dallas, Atlanta, and Seattle to a few students. We also asked the officials of the commercial and regional carriers, repair stations, and fixed-based operations that we visited in those cities to make the questionnaire available to their A&P mechanics for completion. We received 121 and 53 responses from the students and mechanics, respectively. This information is anecdotal and cannot be generalized to other students and mechanics. The responses to these questionnaires are shown in appendixes IV and V. To obtain information about the effect that a shortage of skilled aviation mechanics would have on aviation safety, we met with representatives of the National Transportation Safety Board. In addition, we talked with staff from the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General, about their previous investigation of designated mechanic examiner violations and about current efforts under way to study the issue. To identify government and private sector initiatives to impact the quality and supply of aviation mechanics, we obtained information from the stakeholder panel. We also interviewed FAA and DOD officials, and aviation industry representatives, particularly employers, to determine their agencies’ plans to promote interest in the aviation field. In addition, we analyzed the federal regulations that govern the certification of A&P Page 29 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix I Objectives, Scope, and Methodology mechanics and repairmen, and give FAA authority to approve aviation maintenance technician schools and establish their curriculum. We conducted a comprehensive literature search and analyzed various reports addressing aviation maintenance issues and their recommendations. We conducted our review from October 2001 through February 2003 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Page 30 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix II Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—Overall Responses to Survey Questions Appendx Ii Page 31 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix II Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—Overall Responses to Survey Questions Page 32 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix II Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—Overall Responses to Survey Questions Page 33 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix II Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—Overall Responses to Survey Questions Page 34 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix II Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—Overall Responses to Survey Questions Page 35 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix II Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—Overall Responses to Survey Questions Page 36 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix II Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—Overall Responses to Survey Questions Page 37 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix II Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—Overall Responses to Survey Questions Page 38 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix II Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—Overall Responses to Survey Questions Page 39 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix II Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—Overall Responses to Survey Questions Page 40 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix II Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—Overall Responses to Survey Questions Page 41 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix II Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—Overall Responses to Survey Questions Page 42 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix III Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—2nd Round Appendx iI Page 43 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix III Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—2nd Round Page 44 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix III Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—2nd Round Page 45 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix III Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—2nd Round Page 46 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix III Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—2nd Round Page 47 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix III Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—2nd Round Page 48 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix III Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—2nd Round Page 49 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix III Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—2nd Round Page 50 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix III Survey of Aviation Mechanics Stakeholder Panel—2nd Round Page 51 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix IV Responses from A&P Mechanics Appendx iIV Page 52 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix IV Responses from A&P Mechanics Page 53 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix V Responses from Aviation Mechanics Students Append x i V Page 54 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix V Responses from Aviation Mechanics Students Page 55 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety Appendix VI GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments Appendx iVI GAO Contacts Gerald L. Dillingham (202) 512-3650 Teresa F. Spisak (202) 512-3952 Staff In addition to the above, Nancy Boardman, Michael Bollinger, Carolyn Boyce, Timothy Carr, Jay Cherlow, Colin Fallon, Samantha Goodman, Acknowledgments David Hooper, Phillis Riley, and Lisa Vojta made key contributions to this report. (540021) Page 56 GAO-03-317 Aviation Safety GAO’s Mission The General Accounting Office, the audit, evaluation and investigative arm of Congress, exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and accountability of the federal government for the American people. GAO examines the use of public funds; evaluates federal programs and policies; and provides analyses, recommendations, and other assistance to help Congress make informed oversight, policy, and funding decisions. GAO’s commitment to good government is reflected in its core values of accountability, integrity, and reliability. 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Aviation Safety: FAA Needs to Update Curriculum and Certification Requirements for Aviation Mechanics
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-03-06.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)