According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards, aircraft must undergo a comprehensive inspection on a regular basis in order to ensure they are mechanically sound and safe to fly. These inspections will differ from plane to plane depending on the specific and unique guidelines of individual aircraft manufacturers. When completing these inspections and handling any necessary repairs or routine service, aviation maintenance safety is an absolute must.
The First Step Toward Aircraft Maintenance Safety is Quality Training
In addition to keeping pilots and passengers safe in the air, quality aviation maintenance technology training programs, such as the one offered by Spartan College of Aeronautics & Technology, will train you to stay safe while working on a range of aircraft with a targeted focus on their various and unique elements, equipment, and systems. Key courses in the Spartan College maintenance curriculum include:
- Metallic Structures
- Hydraulic & Landing Gear Systems
- Airframe Systems
- Turbine Engine Fundamentals
- Reciprocating Engines
A key feature in all of these courses is how to conduct service and repairs safely and without error. In other words, you’ll not only learn about the operational standards and mechanical features of various aircraft components, but you’ll learn to optimize your own actions to promote universal safety.
Important Safety Protocols in Aviation Maintenance
At Spartan College, you can get a solid education in aspects of aircraft structure, equipment, and systems. As part of this education, you will gain a firm understanding of relevant safety protocols in the following areas and more:
- Turbine Engine Systems – The most common and potentially dangerous maintenance errors associated with turbine engine systems include improper maintenance procedures. Items such as improper tightening procedures on hardware and improper inspection processes. Following the manufacturers maintenance and inspection data will all but eliminate these errors.
- Reciprocating Engine Systems – Trained and qualified aviation mechanics can quite readily repair a reciprocating piston aircraft engine. During any disassembly process the mechanic will dispose of all safety devices as they remove them and re-install new ones upon reassembly. These devises include safety wire (lock wire), locking nuts and cotter pins.
- Aircraft Electrical Systems – Due in large part to safety concerns, common electrical repairs and maintenance procedures requires the oversight of a licensed mechanic. In addition to ensuring that the entire electrical system is disconnected before engaging in maintenance, mechanics must wear the recommended eye and skin protective gear when working with aircraft lead-acid batteries that contain poisonous and corrosive materials.
- Propellers – With their rapidly spinning blades, propellers obviously present a serious safety risk. To ensure proper operation both on the ground and in the air, mechanics must check diligently for oil leaks and failed fasteners in the propeller hub. Propellers must also be balanced on a regular basis, particularly after major overhauls of the engine.
- Landing Gear – At the end of a flight, the proper function of landing gear is essential. However, malfunctioning landing gear can prove just as dangerous during maintenance procedures on the ground. To these ends, when performing routine inspections or working in aircraft wheel well areas, all ground safety locks must be firmly engaged.
- Aircraft Flight Controls – In the words of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, “one could argue that the integrity of an aircraft’s control system is even more critical to safety than keeping the engine running.” While pilots are generally trained to glide without an operating engine, they don’t have many options when they move the yoke (aka the control wheel) and absolutely nothing happens. Key elements of aircraft flight control care, such as routine control cable maintenance, must be completed and signed-off by a licensed A&P mechanic.
The Human Element
Although aviation maintenance and safety require wide-ranging and in-depth knowledge of all aircraft structure, equipment, components, and systems, it is important to realize that the most important piece of the maintenance and safety puzzle is the mechanic themself.
No matter how diligent and precise an aircraft mechanic happens to be, human errors are inevitable. The key to controlling human error lies with an understanding of what leads to these errors. The study of human factors in aviation has become a large part of the training received by both pilots and mechanics and how to mitigate these errors in all aspects of aviation.
Common aircraft maintenance human factors (also known as the dirty dozen) to consider include the following:
- Lack of Knowledge – A fundamental base of mechanical knowledge is the foundation upon which efficient and effective human action must be based.
- Lack of Communication – All verbal directions and reports must be conveyed clearly and completely.
- Complacency – It is easy to fall into a bit of a trance when you are performing tasks that have become routine, so it is important to remain focused even if you are an expert in your field.
- Distractions – Often going hand in hand with complacency, distractions encompass everything beyond the task at hand that might command your attention.
- Lack of Teamwork – In order to avoid human error, team members must share common goals, respect one another, and trust that everyone is doing his or her job to the best of his or her ability.
- Fatigue – In the hustle and bustle of the modern world, exhaustion is commonplace, but when aviation maintenance professionals work tired, their performance tends to suffer.
- Lack of Resources – If you don’t have the proper material resources (for example, the right equipment and tools) or human resources (for example, adequate staffing and competent management), mistakes are more likely to occur.
- Pressure – Workers under extreme pressure (as well as workers who feel as if they are under extreme pressure) rarely perform up to their full potential and commonly make errors.
- Lack of Assertiveness – To prevent costly mistakes, team members must be encouraged to speak up and/or document relevant concerns in order to draw attention to improper actions and clarify instructions that may be unclear.
- Lack of Awareness – Before team members can address a workplace problem, they must be able to identify that problem.
- Stress – Stress carried over from a worker’s personal life is just as likely as stress caused by workplace issues when it comes to negatively impacting work performance and contributing to workplace mistakes.
- Norms – Unlike official rules (which can be carefully crafted and specifically delineated), workplace norms (in other words, unwritten but expected codes of conduct) can often contribute to negative attitudes and habits. Strive to shape norms so they don’t contribute to costly errors.
Harmonizing the Mechanical with the Human
In order to keep things safe in the maintenance bay and in the air, a good aircraft mechanic must have a solid technical understanding of aviation equipment, components, and systems. However, they must also carefully consider the far less consistent human factor in all that they do.
The best aviation maintenance programs will take a broad approach to instruction that embraces both technical know-how and conscientious attention to detail. Contact Spartan College today for more information about how we promote aircraft maintenance safety by blending mechanical expertise with a diligent defense against error.