Aircraft Maintenance Engineering: Spiralling demand for aircraft engineers

With the winds of privatisation and competition beginning to blow through civil aviation, the demand for aircraft maintenance personnel is rising
They are the behind-the-scene people without whose say-so no aircraft can be cleared for take off —aircraft maintenance engineers. Well-qualified contemporary aircraft maintenance engineers can take apart an airplane to its skeleton and put it back together within a matter of days. The job requires special skills, a degree of sophistication and mandatory training in a recognised and approved aircraft maintenance training school. And it can be a rewarding career for engineers who are interested in aviation but arent crazy about flying. The Indian governments open sky policy is attracting a swarm of airlines into Indian air space, creating huge opportunities for aircraft maintenance engineers (AMEs).

Civil or commercial (cf. defence services) aviation offers great career opportunities in three principal areas: commercial, operations (flying), and maintenance (servicing and overhauling). International Aviation and Travel Authority (IATA) schools in all major cities prepare students for commercial careers; flying clubs prepare them to fly airplanes while maintenance schools train them to repair the magnificent machines which ply the global skies.

In India, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is the regulatory authority which sanctions all licences, approvals, permits to pilots, engineers, training schools, maintenance facilities etc. Also, maintenance activities like servicing, overhauling, inspection, testing, rigging, installation etc may be provided only by licensed engineers at a recognised, approved, and duly licensed aircraft maintenance facility.

The basic qualification required to become an AME is Plus Two with mathematics and physics. This academic qualification permits you to sign up with any aircraft maintenance school in the nearest city for a three-year diploma programme in aircraft maintenance. The programme requires each student to spend the last six months of the study course as an apprentice at an aircraft maintenance facility of a major airline such as Indian, Air India etc. These schools prepare students to write the Basic Aircraft Maintenance Engineers Certificate (BAMEC) examination. The BAMEC examination is conducted three times a year in February, June, and October.

Some of the reputed AME schools are:

School of Aviation Science & Technology, Delhi Flying Club, New Delhi

Indian Institute of Aeronautical Engineering, Dehradun, Uttarakhand

Indian Institute of Aeronautical Science, Sonari Aerodrome, Jamshedpur

Hindustan Institute of Aeronautics, Bhopal

Bharat Institute of Aeronautics, Patna

Indian Institute of Aeronautical Science, Kolkata, New Delhi and Jamshedpur

Hindustan Institute of Engineering Technology, Chennai

Indian Institute of Aerospace and Engineering, Navi Mumbai

Indian Institute of Aircraft Engineering, New Delhi

Indraprasth Institute of Aeronautics, Gurgaon

A detailed list of recognised institutes offering the AME programme is available on the DGCA website (www.dgca.nic.in).

Attractive scholarships to the tune of Rs.60,000 per annum to deserving and meritorious students as well as rebates in fees and other amenities for women candidates are on offer to attract young people into this career.

STUDY PROGRAMMES. The BAMEC study programme is divided into three capsules. BAMEC-I covers legalities like licensing rules and regulations in civil aviation; BAMEC-II tests general technical knowledge; and BAMEC-III imparts knowledge of specific systems related to avionics (instruments, radios, electrical systems), airframe (hydraulics, fuel systems, landing gear etc), and engines (jet, fuel feed etc).

On successfully completing all the three study capsules the trainee is ready to acquire hands-on experience on a ‘type aircraft (e.g Airbus A 320, Boeing 747 etc). He/she must now acquire a minimal two-year familiarity on the ‘type aircraft to become eligible to write the BAMEC-IV (licence exam). This exam tests the aspiring maintenance engineers ability and skill to troubleshoot a snag on a type aircraft. This practical exposure is available only to those who join airlines which have their own maintenance facilities. After completion of the licence exam, a certificate is granted by the DGCA and the awardee is a licensed engineer qualified to certify and sign out an airplane out of its hangar. The rigorous apprenticeship is worth the effort because AMEs who clear the DGCA exam command Rs.20,000–40,000 per month as start-up pay which could go up to Rs.120,000 per month.

I had always wanted to work in a sophisticated technical environment. Aviation, aerospace, and medicine are professions on cutting-edge technology. Most technological breakthroughs are first applied to spacecraft, aircraft, and in operation theatres. Every engineer would like an opportunity to work in such environments,” says M.S. Suresh (44), an aircraft maintenance engineer whos been an instructor at Air Indias technical training centre for the past 14 years.

Suresh began his career as a lecturer coaching diploma and degree students in several aircraft maintenance schools. My spare time after class was spent in designing niche products for a private firm. Teaching helped me to acquire useful insights into technical subjects and to keep abreast of developments in the aviation industry,” recalls Suresh.

A career in aircraft maintenance, Suresh believes is a rewarding profession offering glamour, sizeable pay packets, and attractive perquisites. However, in India our aviation policy is still evolving and not many corporates are into air fleet maintenance which is potentially a big time business. But currently career opportunities are restricted to three or four airlines

However, with the winds of privatisation and genuine competition beginning to blow through the civil aviation industry, Suresh foresees a sea change. Air India is on the brink of privatisation and several other airlines are flying Indian skies. All the survey forecasts indicate that there is tremendous growth potential in the civil aviation business, especially in the Asia Pacific region. Consequently, a large number of foreign airlines, which are planning major forays into this region, are likely to establish their maintenance facilities in India. If this happens as is likely, the demand for airline personnel and especially for AMEs will spiral with pay packets following suit,” predicts Suresh.

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