Thank you, Sarah [MacLeod]. Hello everyone. I’m happy to speak with you today, although I hope in the near future we’ll be able to meet in person.
Let me start with the bottom line: the success and safety of the aviation system owes a great deal of credit to Aviation Maintenance Technicians.
You don’t make the headlines. But at the end of the day, your work speaks volumes about pride and professionalism. The honest-to-goodness hard work that doesn’t just get the job done, it gets it done right.
And we must maintain this strong safety culture, as we deal with the many changes and challenges in aviation now.
COVID-19 has shown us just how rapidly things can change. Some airline business models have changed. In some cases, they’ve shifted operations to different airports. Some passenger carriers have gone into cargo. And some airlines are retiring old aircraft and replacing them with a new modern fleet.
These changes can introduce new stressors on the safety of the system. I know that repair stations have taken on added tasks like long-term storage of aircraft. You’ve had to wear PPE on top of your standard protective equipment. And you’ve had to socially distance while also working in teams to get the job done. All of this makes the job more difficult.
Adding on top of that, the tremendous innovation in aerospace. Like drones, rockets, air taxis, and supersonic transport.
As a community, we must strive to stay ahead of these changes.
And we must strive for continuous improvement in reducing safety risk.
As commercial aviation recovers from COVID-19, we’ll be bringing back aircraft into service. In addition to maintaining the current fleet, there will be the added work of bringing back the 737 MAX. We have to make sure that maintenance continues to be performed at an outstandingly safe level.
We have a rulemaking effort underway to expand Safety Management Systems into repair stations. It’s too soon to provide any details until we issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
While we work to implement the new rules, we continue to encourage voluntary adoption of SMS. I want to thank those who have an approved SMS process in place, and those that have submitted applications.
The FAA continues to look for innovative ways to improve our safety processes. Because of COVID-19, we’re making more use of virtual means to conduct certification and surveillance.
For instance, a repair shop in Louisiana wanted to get an additional rating so they could provide a plasma spray service for their commercial aircraft customers.
They made a video of the process. And as long as our inspectors were satisfied with the currency and clarity of the video, they could issue the new rating. Once COVID-19 is over, we anticipate continuing to use remote technologies as part of our safety processes.
The FAA’s Office of Aviation Safety is also putting a big focus on consistency in applying regulations. We know you don’t want an FAA inspector in one part of the country applying the rules differently than an inspector in another part.
To improve consistency, we stress the need for inspectors to exercise critical thinking and consult with each another when they address regulatory issues. We build this focus into our inspector training.
Of course, the safety of MRO’s is a global effort. We continue to work with other States to establish bilateral safety agreements and through ICAO to address safety concerns in the most efficient way.
For repair stations, we have established bilateral agreements with certain member states – Canada, the UK, European Union, Switzerland, Singapore and Brazil – to share surveillance work. This helps reduce the regulatory burden.
There is ongoing work at ICAO to harmonize certification standards for repair stations. The FAA is actively participating in that work. There are many legal and safety issues that still need to be worked out before that can happen.
Future AMT Workforce
With regard to the future workforce, we are concerned about the shortage of AMT’s – a shortage that existed well before COVID-19. I’ve seen estimates that this industry will need as many as 10,000 new technicians each year for the foreseeable future.
The FAA has been assisting the Department of Defense on a program that provides civil aviation maintenance training to service members, veterans and their families. This training can be a springboard to future training to become FAA-certified A&P mechanics.
We also meet with ARSA on a quarterly basis to focus on future workforce strategy. And we’re working with groups like the Aviation Technical Education Council and Helicopter Association International to attract young people to the aviation field. We’ve worked with these partners to streamline the delivery of aviation training and provide focused training in segments like commercial aviation, helicopters, unmanned aircraft, and avionics.
We’re also working with the Choose Aerospace organization to develop aviation maintenance curriculums for high school students. These efforts will encourage students to check out aviation maintenance as a potential career field.
In addition to the overall shortage of AMT’s, there’s a shortage of diversity too. For instance, women are underrepresented in the AMT ranks, as well as other technical ranks in aviation. We want the best, brightest, and most diverse group of people from all walks of life. We want to recruit more women, minorities and people from underserved communities to join us in meeting our aviation safety goals. So let’s continue to put a focus on that.
In closing, I want to express my appreciation again for the pride and professionalism that aviation maintenance technicians demonstrate every single day. And thanks again for collaborating with us to ensure safety and recruit the future AMT workforce. We look forward to continuing our work with you in the years ahead.
Thank you. I’m happy to take a few questions.