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Australian non-commercial aviation - it has a problem


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The non-commercial side of Australian aviation is moribund. (That's a fancy word for 'at Death's door')

 

Forget about the lack of pilots. They are a dime a dozen. Forget about aircraft availability. There's millions of dollars' worth of airframes sitting idle on airports all over the country.

 

The problem is that there is no one replacing the blokes who keep them flying - the engineers.

 

I'm currently visiting aircraft maintenance facilities on Bankstown and Camden for some auditing work. The story I hear all the time has a common thread. The maintenance engineers are getting to, or have passed retirement age and there are no young people to replace them. Maintenance shops are closing all over the place as these engineers, many of who are Baby Boomers, retire or drop off the perch.

 

As participants in non-commercial aviation we should be gathering together. In one voice, we must demand from those administering the education/training of our young people the promotion of aircraft maintenance as a worthwhile livelihood.

 

The only way to draw attention to this problem is to mount a campaign of correspondence to Members of Parliament in both State and Federal jurisdictions. We must urge them to reconsider the philosophy that all our young people must go to university. Universities are fine for promoting esoteric themes, but are failures in producing the number of people with practical skills that are needed to keep society afloat.

 

We must urge politicians to see the urgency to promote skills education by basing training syllabuses on the practical application of the skills necessary to do the job. Trainees must be provided with an income that supports the trainee at an equal level to the trained persons they work beside and learn from. If that means paying large subsidies to those who employ trainees during their learning years, we must do it.

 

Without remuneration comparable to the rest of society, what incentive is there to learn the theory and skills necessary to keep out aircraft fit to fly? After all, it is the Government through its agent, CASA, that sets the safety standards for the aircraft flying in Australian skies.

 

Old man Emu

 

 

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I know many technical people who have quit the aviation scene and taken their considerable skills elsewhere. Qantas couldn't sack their maintenance people quickly enough. You have to be appreciated and paid to stay in a job.. They have even sacked apprentices in their last year. THAT close to completion. Some have even suicided... Nev

 

 

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RAA could offer an entry path for mechanics, they do it for pilots. the RAA is probably the largest aviation training organisation in australia

The achilles that it would require all maintenance to be paid for.
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I heard an interesting story from an avionics technician sent to fix some cow cocky's C210 in the middle of a paddock.

 

His issue in general was that he was working outside in the weather, on call and basically treated like a TV repair man.

 

Now he does the same work but on simulators for about twice the money.

 

I listened carefully to other stories which made things sound a bit like a cross between the blues brothers and a travelling circus. Except there were no drugs, no groupies and a lot more deaths.

 

The issue that has been continuously highlighted to me and the issue that may go to explain why nobody is hanging around to sign off on work is one of strict liability.

 

Between that, the average pay, grumpy customers and a crushing amount of paperwork not to mention the apprenticeship and exams I think young people listened and voted with their feet.

 

The achilles that it would require all maintenance to be paid for.

Yes. It would. Young people can make more money in easier ways

 

 

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There are not many LAME's left that can do wood inspections. Won't be long and all those aircraft with wood spars etc will be grounded.

 

 

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There were about four or five major university displays at Oshkosh, promoting their US aviation courses, both pilotting I guess, and maintenance careers.

 

FAA says: You must get 18 months of practical experience with either power plants or airframes, or 30 months of practical experience working on both at the same time. As an alternative to this experience requirement, you can graduate from an FAA-Approved Aviation Maintenance Technician School. Look on the FAA website, there are over a hundred colleges where you can do your Airframe & Powerplant training. So two pathways exist to getting a basic licence to start your career. In the USA.

 

But here?053_no.gif.1b075e917db98e3e6efb5417cfec8882.gif

 

 

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I know many technical people who have quit the aviation scene and taken their considerable skills elsewhere. Qantas couldn't sack their maintenance people quickly enough. You have to be appreciated and paid to stay in a job.. They have even sacked apprentices in their last year. THAT close to completion. Some have even suicided... Nev

For fat cats in the corporate world, managing people is a matter of deploying and disposing of assets. Their prime interest is their own career and how much cash they can suck out of the system. Spend an hour in the first class Qantas lounge and you will overhear any quantity of it. There are a few exceptions but the bigger the company, the more disconnected the senior management. (screaming generalisation).

 

 

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There were about four or five major university displays at Oshkosh, promoting their US aviation courses, both pilotting I guess, and maintenance careers.But here?053_no.gif.1b075e917db98e3e6efb5417cfec8882.gif

It is matter of "where to learn the theory?". Australia has a Vocational Education and Training (VET) Quality Framework ( VET Quality Framework | Australian Skills Quality Authority ) which includes a comprehensive syllabus for the theory part of an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer's training. https://training.gov.au/Training/Details/MEA40710 .

 

The problems for a young person interested in this career are:

 

  1. Finding a training facility that offers the course.
     
     
  2. Getting a guarantee that the facility will remain in business for the time required to take the course.
     
     
  3. Finding a maintenance organisation that will take on a student (apprentice is such a medieval term)
     
     
  4. Getting paid a better-than-the-dole wage while undertaking training.
     
     

 

 

Although there is a long list of places certified to deliver the training, there are very few who actually do deliver it. TAFE in Sydney used to provide the course at its Revesby campus, with facilities for practical work at Bankstown Airport, but lack of student numbers killed off the course.

 

And then there is the final insult from CASA. Every other industry in Australia accepts the fact that if a person has successfully completed a VET certified course of training, then the person is qualified for the grant of a licence to practise. However, that does not do for CASA. In order to become a Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) you have to pass a series of CASA developed examinations (of course, not free to sit). An AME is the holder of a Certificate IV. If you want to become a Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (LAME) you have to do further study, https://training.gov.au/Training/Details/MEA50211 which is a Diploma level course.

 

As I said in opening this debate, "In one voice, we must demand from those administering the education/training of our young people the promotion of aircraft maintenance as a worthwhile livelihood."

 

 

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An AME is the holder of a Certificate IV. If you want to become a Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (LAME) you have to do further study

an AME is also a fully qualified ex-RAAF maintenance person who hasn't, or doesn't want to work for a commercial entity. Neither CASA, not RAA really recognises an AME. You can become a L2 because of your background, but nowhere in the documentation does it mention an AME. The paperwork always refers to a LAME.

 

Most RAA owners want to maintain their own aircraft, which is a good thing, but there are L2s out there who do not own a maintenance facility and cannot earn enough to warrant continuing for much longer. Always there to answer questions, but no-one wants to pay for this. Increased liability is one issue, but as long as you only carry out the work you are both qualified and competent to do, there should be no issues.

 

RAA insurance for maintainers? those who are not regularly employed cannot afford the premium for this. Again it has all been put in place for those who have a commercial operation, not the single L2 on his own.

 

Even if RAA conduct the training, you have to have enough people in the area who want you to do the maintenance and are willing to pay you.

 

 

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cars don't need the same amount of care that they used to, there is a lot of innovation in automotive areas that aviation would resist implementing, lots of cars have removed dipsticks and replaced them with level sensors, aviation industry has resisted introducing a lot of electronic devices.

 

 

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cars don't need the same amount of care that they used to, there is a lot of innovation in automotive areas that aviation would resist implementing, lots of cars have removed dipsticks and replaced them with level sensors, aviation industry has resisted introducing a lot of electronic devices.

Tell that to someone whose wipers have just stopped working.

 

 

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cars don't need the same amount of care that they used to, there is a lot of innovation in automotive areas that aviation would resist implementing, lots of cars have removed dipsticks and replaced them with level sensors, aviation industry has resisted introducing a lot of electronic devices.

The electronic monitoring devices are very good and suitable for cars, but you can't simply pull over and stop a plane if the "Check Engine" light goes on but the fault is in the monitor itself. For convenience, it's best to use the KISS principle for for aircraft.

 

Neither CASA, not RAA really recognises an AME. You can become a L2 because of your background, but nowhere in the documentation does it mention an AME. The paperwork always refers to a LAME..

It is clear that the fault lies with the drafting of the paperwork. Also the failure of CASA to be reasonable and accept the VET system.

 

The new descriptors in a person's maintenance engineer's licence are also confusing. I had a LAME who had held his licence for many decades tell me that, although the areas he was licensed to work in were clearly described in his old style licence, he could not make head not tail of the way his new style licence described the same things. In the new style licencing system, you have a licence to be an engineer, but the licence then turns around and lists the things you can't do. It is a licence of exceptions.

 

 

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Regarding post #2

 

Nev,

 

I agree with all of the post. Leigh Clifford was brought on to the QANTAS board in 2008 (AGM was November 2007) after a successful run of union busting at Patrick Stevedores and Rio Tinto among others. Tony Sheldon of the TWU and Steve Purvinas of the ALEA were in the sights of the QANTAS board pretty much from then on.

 

During late 2010 to mid 2012 some really dumb stuff got done and said. Nobody looked good. The unions got the Labour government involved (Sheldon was a mate of Gillard's). Fair Work used the 2009 Act to end the QANTAS Lockout which started 2 days after the 2012 AGM. Sound familiar? Good.

 

Moving on...

 

In May 2012, QANTAS announced it would close Tullamarine workshops in favour of moving heavy maintenance to Brisbane and Avalon. 500 people lost their jobs in that decision which at the time represented 10% of the total QANTAS Engineering head count. Some of these people were apprentices. The engine shop that closed was the one I believe taught Rolls Royce how to suck eggs by designing and implementing a life extension program for the RB-211 which Rolls then took up.

 

For the record neither QANTAS NOR THE ALEA ever mentioned 457 visas as a solution to anything (that's for me yobbo loud mouth mate north of the Tweed). I have to say though that if someone did come to Australia on a skilled visa the local union representatives tend to check their particulars and clue them up on wages and conditions pretty quickly. Yes QANTAS management have a poor relationship with unions. Not with the engineers. More specifically, the apprenticeships are still ticking along in 2018. I am deeply troubled by the treatment the apprentices appear to have received. I also suggest that not everything Steve Purvinas said about it is factually correct. The truth does not matter in this case, it's what people now think about the job. Specifically that career.

 

Unbeknown to the public and the government, QANTAS had suffered badly from a fuel hedge that went the wrong way for them, was deeply in debt, losing money and they needed to get their costs under control. This doesn't excuse management behaviour nor does it explain how QANTAS spent 30% more than Virgin for the same heavy maintenance. QANTAS were angling for a bail out or a buy out. Either way in 2012 they were close to broke.

 

What does this have to do with a broken Pawnee used for glider towing or a Grumman Tiger waiting for an annual?

 

On the surface not much. Unfortunately the bank of mum and dad only hear about "light plane crash this", "union action that", 4 year apprenticeships, getting sued and death ... and crappy wages and conditions. Purvinas may have actually kicked an own goal by making some of this stuff public and because CASA insists on foreigners sitting CASA exams before they can do independent work, they aren't exactly knocking the doors down to work in 'Straya.

 

Nobody hears the good stories. Nobody is celebrating the GA maintenance apprentice of the year. Nobody is glamourising what it's like to "keep em flying". Nobody cares until it's their plane that's busted.

 

Then it's too late.

 

 

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cars don't need the same amount of care that they used to, there is a lot of innovation in automotive areas that aviation would resist implementing, lots of cars have removed dipsticks and replaced them with level sensors, aviation industry has resisted introducing a lot of electronic devices.

I agree 100%, but you gotta deal with the old pilots who dont like change either. On the big equipment we use level sensors - then a secondary low alarm - Then obviously a low pressure sensor ..... Redundancy. This has got to be more reliable then checking the dipstick - Inflight you can be told whats happening with your oil - which gives you options.

 

Cheers

 

 

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Why cant tradies do a conversion course to switch over (I'm not interested in another apprenticeship - auto sparky since 2003)

 

You would have experience from all walks of life and something I would gladly do..... I dont want to do 12hr shifts at the mine forever to make my $100+ k.... I would be happy to go back to $50- 60k a year doing something that interests me. At the end of the day the electrical work is the same, if not the mining MDG15 standard looks even more pedantic then any light plane wiring I have ever seen.

 

 

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What does this have to do with a broken Pawnee used for glider towing or a Grumman Tiger waiting for an annual? Nobody cares until it's their plane that's busted. Then it's too late.

That is the very essence of what I said to start this thread.Let's stop staying off onto parallel paths in this discussion. The point I am making is that unless those involved in the GA/Rec end of aviation don't start making a big noise to get the numbers of young, qualified engineers up to respectable levels, your involvement in aviation will be limited to watching light aircraft corrode at their tie-downs.

 

We should start by picketing the offices of travel agents with signs like:

 

Support Light Aviation Engineer Apprenticeships

 

OR

 

Go to Bali in a boat

 

 

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Fly tornado said that RAAus could do this. All well and good, but there is a lot of complaining about RAAus being too expensive. Would they be able to train mechanics without extra cost.

 

The big problem is that we do not train anyone now. Big business expects overseas trained people to do the job. that means our engineers will come from overseas and so will our pilots. There is no need to train pilots, so why bother teaching people to fly. That is the big end of towns position.

 

I was a motor mechanic way back and as far as I can see it would take very little to transfer from motor mechanic to aircraft mechanic.

 

 

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I was a motor mechanic way back and as far as I can see it would take very little to transfer from motor mechanic to aircraft mechanic.

The same point I was trying to make - but as a sparky.

 

 

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