Aviation - School of learning

Behind the Scenes: Aircraft Maintenance Engineers

The aviation industry operates on a massive scale especially in terms of finance and manpower. To get an airplane from point A to point B involves dozens of people and a lot of dollars. “Behind the scenes” will be a series of articles that touch some of the people that work to ensure you and your loved ones reach safely and on time. The first person I want to talk about in this series is known as the Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) in most of the world. In the U.S.A under FAA rules, the person is known as AMT as Aircraft Maintenance Technician. The nature of the job however, remains the same. Without further delay, let’s briefly go over who an aircraft maintenance engineer is and what he does.

Credits: Envoy Air

Who is an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer?

To give a very simple definition, an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer or AME is a licensed person who certifies airplanes for their technical safety. In some cases, therefore, they are called L-AME for Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer. The AME is a skilled person who has undergone theoretical training and thorough practical training to understand technical aspects of aircraft. The training is always carried out with an intense focus on safety. In the aviation industry, room for error is zero. If a car breaks down, it may stop by the side of the road and wait for a tow truck. But if an airplane breaks down in the middle of the sky, gravity, lack of oxygen and negative temperatures will make sure to invite as much trouble as possible.

In short, airplanes have to be technically sound to perform flights. Which is why maintenance in the aviation industry is different than the other industries.

The people who make sure that airplanes are at that level of safety are Aircraft Maintenance Engineers. They work in teams, each having different responsibilities in different systems.

What do Aircraft Maintenance Engineers do?

Each sub-heading in this article could be turned into a separate one-thousand-word article, but I will go briefly over what they do and how they do it.

To start, I will define the term “maintenance”.

Maintenance: “A combination of all technical and administrative measures during the operating life of a subject matter for the preservation of a functional state or the return to that state so that it can fulfill the required function”

In our case, the subject matter being the airplane. When it is manufactured, it is designed at a certain level of ‘perfection’. When the airplane rolls out of the factory, keeping it at that level of perfection is the job of aircraft maintenance engineers throughout the airplane’s life. Each rivet, each screw is kept track of.

Reiterating that maintenance in aviation is different, I will elaborate on it as well. In aviation, if we divide it into basic two categories, maintenance is either:

  1. Proactive
  2. Reactive

In aviation, most of the maintenance is proactive. Meaning, most parts and systems are time-monitored and have operating limits. They are replaced or inspected even if they don’t show problems. These tasks are called “scheduled maintenance tasks”. Remember that airplanes can’t just stop mid-air? Yeah that is why everything is monitored. From the smallest rivets and screws to the huge wings and engines. The frequency and intensity of different checks and inspections vary. Starting from checks before and after every flight, to daily checks to weekly checks and so on.

Of course, reactive maintenance or repair is also carried out should a part fail or be damaged before its life limit.

Aircraft Maintenance Engineers, thus have specified training to thoroughly inspect the areas of their responsibility. They are also skilled to repair or replace any damaged part if it is required. And they have to perform all of it to perfection with zero errors. All of this, under a time pressure because, when an airplane is on the ground, it costs companies a lot of dollars. A flying airplane is a profitable airplane and that’s what AME’s have to do. Keep them flying.

When all maintenance is carried out on the airplane, the lead certifying engineer “releases the airplane to service”. By his or her signature, the airplane is now safe to fly.

“Pilots have heroes too, they are called Aircraft Maintenance Engineers”

Maintenance of airplanes is required by law. And thus, with every flying machine, a maintenance team is attached. Around the world, for the thousands of flights that take place, these individuals work behind the scenes to make sure that engine doesn’t blow up mid-flight or the wings don’t come off.

Date: 02 September 2019    Comments: 20

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