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Engineering Failure Analysis 82 (2017) 687–694

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Engineering Failure Analysis


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/engfailanal

Improving aircraft safety and reliability by aircraft maintenance MARK


technician training
Serdar Dalkilic1
Anadolu University Faculty of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Eskisehir, Turkey

AR TI CLE I NF O AB S T R A CT

Keywords: Aircraft maintenance is one of the primary causes or contributing factors in aircraft accidents. It
Aircraft maintenance is clear that proper training of Aircraft Maintenance Technicians (AMTs) will avoid failures,
Safety reduce maintenance related accidents, improve safety and reliability in aviation and provide
Reliability recovery of the increasing demand to qualified AMTs for sustainability of the market growth. In
Training
this study, European Safety Agency (EASA) based AMT licencing system in EU states (and non-EU
states implementing EASA rules) has been analysed and a training model developed in ac-
cordance with EASA Part-66 requirements and delivered by e-learning methods has been in-
troduced. The analysis of the licensing process based on EASA regulations showed that this
process was based on the candidate's demonstration of knowledge and acquisition of experience.
The required experience depends on the training background of the candidate. Field exercise
showed that developed e-learning training model, which overcomes the disadvantages of tradi-
tional face to face training models, succeeded to improve the attendees' theoretical knowledge
level and when combined with the practical trainings given to AMT candidates in maintenance
organisations during their experience periods, will be very successful in improving safety and
reliability in aviation maintenance operations.

1. Introduction

The growing complexity of equipment and systems, as well as the rapidly increasing cost incurred by loss of operation as a
consequence of failures, has brought to the forefront the aspects of reliability, maintainability, availability, and safety. The ex-
pectation today is that complex equipment and systems are not only free from defects and systematic failures at time t = 0 (when
they are put into operation), but also perform the required function failure free for a stated time interval [1]. In case of aviation, this
interval, i.e. the service life of an aircraft may be some decades.
It is evident that reliability will deteriorate by the time. However, it must be prevented that reliability decreases beyond a critical
level and safety is compromised. To provide this, systems and components must be better designed to achieve a higher inherent
reliability and appropriate maintenance actions must be performed. Fig. 1 shows that inherent or built-in reliability (Ri) decreases by
the time but a decrease beyond a critical reliability (Rc) level must be prevented. Hence, preventive maintenance is performed at
times t1 and t2. Nevertheless, it is possible that reliability may decrease to a level well beyond the critical reliability at any time (t3 in
Fig. 1). Failures, accidents and incidents are some examples of this situation. Reliability is restored to inherent reliability level by
means of a corrective maintenance action.
Fig. 1 clearly implies that, in the aviation industry, the lack of maintenance or in the case of improper maintenance, any

E-mail address: sdalkilic@hct.ac.ae.


1
Currently working at Higher Colleges of Technology, Aviation Maintenance Engineering Department, Abu Dhabi Men's College, UAE.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.engfailanal.2017.06.008
Received 1 October 2016; Received in revised form 20 May 2017; Accepted 1 June 2017
Available online 01 June 2017
1350-6307/ © 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
S. Dalkilic Engineering Failure Analysis 82 (2017) 687–694

Fig. 1. Reliability versus time.

component which deteriorates due to use or environmental conditions will fail and compromise whole aircraft airworthiness and
safety. Furthermore, this kind of discrepancy compromise the dispatch reliability of the operator resulting with flight delays and
cancellations which in turn drives many direct and latent costs, such as loss of reputation and competitiveness. Above all; main-
tenance is not only an operational requirement, but also it is a legal obligation. International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO),
European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) all emphasize that it is one of the responsi-
bilities of an air operator to ensure that maintenance of its airplanes is performed for continuing airworthiness.
There are many agents threating aviation safety. Different from others, maintenance errors can be more difficult to detect, and
have potential to affect the safe operation of aircraft for longer periods of time. Technical/maintenance failure emerged as the leading
cause of airline accidents and fatalities, surpassing controlled flight into terrain (CFIT), which had previously been the predominant
cause of airline accidents. US National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) reported that deficient maintenance has been implicated in 7 of
14 (50%) recent airline accidents [2]. NTSB also stated that maintenance problems are on the increase or that, as improvements are
made in aircraft design, pilot training, ATC etc., the proportion of accidents attributable to these factors is lower and the proportion
attributable to poor maintenance consequently higher [3].
There are many studies investigating the effects of maintenance on aviation safety and reliability. Many accident models suggest
that accidents result from a combination of factors and these can be classified into immediate causes and underlying or root causes, or
into active and latent failures (i.g. improperly trained maintenance technicians) [4]. These studies include the contribution of
maintenance errors to accidents, costs of maintenance errors and suggestions to reduce these errors.
In 2007 EASA analysed all worldwide commercial aircraft accidents from 1990 to 2006 and found that in 8% of the accidents, the
primary cause was maintenance [5]. International Air Transport Association (IATA) safety report concludes that maintenance events
counted as an average of 10% of threats that led to 432 aircraft accidents between 2009 and 2013. Maintenance operations including
training systems were found to be a latent condition for 8% of the 338 non-fatal accidents in the same time period [6]. A study
focused on the primary cause of hull accidents and did not include contributing factors which involve more than one category. The
study concludes that flight crew errors comprised the largest percentage of primary cause factors, but maintenance factors were a
very considerable 6%, and takes the third rank [7]. From 2003 to 2008 IATA found that incorrectly performed maintenance was
causal (either as a primary cause or an initial link in the accident chain) in 20–40% of the worldwide aircraft accidents for those years
[8].
Boeing studied 232 commercial jet aircraft accidents and looked at the data from the perspective of accident prevention op-
portunities and found that 20% of the accidents contained maintenance or inspection action [3]. Similarly, Boeing and Airline
Transport Association (ATA) found that maintenance was one factor that contributed to 39 of 264 (15%) commercial jet aircraft hull
loss accidents [9].
According to UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), 10% of events recorded under the requirements of CAA's Mandatory Occurrence
Reporting (MOR) scheme, are maintenance related. Among 3982 maintenance related MORs for the period of 1996 to 2006, 51.1%
were attributed to incorrect maintenance actions, 26.2% to ineffective maintenance control and 20.7% to incomplete maintenance
[10].
Another study focused on the fatality of maintenance related accidents. They found that between 1999 and 2008, 26.7% of all
fatal accidents were maintenance related. Further, while only 4.4% were fatal, 28.6% of maintenance accidents were fatal. That is, a
maintenance related accident was 6.5 times more likely to involve fatalities than accidents in general. In the same time period
maintenance was linked to 27.4 of all aviation fatalities. Recalling that maintenance was involved in only 4.1 of accidents, this
number suggests that maintenance related accidents do tend to have a slightly higher fatality rate than accidents overall [4].
Maintenance errors have not only the safety consequences but also economic losses and they are very costly to aviation industry.
Maintenance errors may require air turn backs, delays in aircraft availability, gate returns, in-flight shut downs, maintenance rework,
damage to maintenance equipment and injury to maintenance personnel. These errors are usually latent errors and have a delayed
effect and are responsible for an estimated 20–30% of engine and equipment in-flight shut downs [11]. It is estimated that main-
tenance errors cause 20–30% of engine in-flight shutdowns at a cost of USD 500,000 per shutdown, 50% of flight delays and flight
cancellations due to engine problems at a cost of USD 9000 per hour and USD 66,000 per cancellation respectively. In the case of a
large aircraft such as a Boeing 747, a flight cancellation can cost the airline around USD 140,000, while a delay at the gate can cost an

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Table 1
New airplane deliveries by regions [14].

Asia Pacific North America Europe Middle East Latin America CIS Africa World

Large 320 40 200 190 0 30 10 790


Twin aisle 3230 1320 1440 1100 340 250 270 7950
Single aisle 7990 5040 5800 1060 2080 700 570 23,240
Regional jets 490 890 320 20 90 160 50 2020
Total 12,030 7290 7760 2370 2510 1140 900 34,000

average of USD 17,000 per hour. One airline estimated between USD 75–100 million per year is wasted on error [2,7,9,12].
As a consequence of global economic growth and increasing urbanization, air travel remains a growing market. The two biggest
commercial aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus market research between 2012 and 2031 predicts a continuing growth. For
example, 20-year world annual traffic growth of 4.7% is forecast by Airbus [13] and 5.0% by Boeing [14]. The number of passengers
travelled by air was above 3 billion in 2011 and is forecast to be above 7.5 billion in 2031. Passenger aircraft fleet (only commercial
aircraft with seats > 100) was 15,555 in 2011 and is predicted to be 32,551 in 2031 which means an increase of 109% [13]. Boeing
reports that aircraft fleet including regional jets and freighters was 19,890 in 2011 and is forecast to be 39,780 in 2031. 34.000 new
aircraft deliveries between 2012 and 2031 are predicted. New airplane deliveries by regions are summarized in the Table 1 below.
As global economies continue to grow and thousands of new aircraft are delivered during the next 20 years, the demand for
personnel to operate these airplanes will be unique. Boeing projects a need for approximately 601,000 new aircraft maintenance
technicians [14]. New technician demand by region has been given in Table 2.
Meeting this demand will require airplane manufacturers and the commercial aviation industry to rely more heavily on new
digital technology to meet the learning requirements of new generation. The growing diversity of aviation personnel also demands
highly qualified, motivated and knowledgeable instructors with cross-cultural and cross-generational skills. Emerging markets that
currently recruit maintenance technicians from outside the region will have to develop a foundation for training qualified personnel
from within the local workforce [14]. Reversely, there has been a continuing decline in both the number of people applying to
training programs for AMTs and the percentage of program graduates who stay in aviation [15].
ICAO reports that the year over year accident statistics indicate an increase in the overall number of accidents as well as the
accident rate. The global accident rate involving scheduled commercial operations increased by 7%, from 2.8 accidents per million
departures in 2013 to 3.0 accidents per million departures in 2014 [16]. It is clear that, even though the accident rate remains
constant for the next decades, the air traffic growth will result in increased number of accidents and fatalities.
Many studies conclude that time pressure, lack of technical knowledge and inadequate training were among the most likely
reasons for the maintenance errors. Better training is one of the elements that maintenance errors can be managed by. Therefore, a
similar event is prevented from occurring in the future, one of the agents leading to major accidents is eliminated and safety and
reliability in aviation is improved [2,12,17,18]. Furthermore, the rapid growth of the market and the increased costs lead MRO
organisations to employ maintenance staff who are not certified (no AMT License) for performing minor maintenance tasks. Training
of AMTs is more important than ever to improve safety and reliability in aviation and for a sustainable growth of the market.

2. Aircraft Maintenance Technician (AMT) licencing system and proposed training model

In this part of the study EASA based AMT licencing system in EU states (and non-EU states implementing EASA rules) is analysed.
This system meets the intent of ICAO Annex I and is not very different from US FAA regulations.
The requirements for initial and continuing airworthiness of aircraft and related products are explained in the European
Commission Regulations. Annex I (Part M) to Commission Regulation No. 2042/2003 states that the owner or lessee is responsible for
continuing airworthiness of an aircraft and the maintenance organisations need to have sufficient aircraft maintenance certifying staff
to issue certificates of release to service of an aircraft or a component after maintenance. These maintenance staff must be qualified in
accordance with Annex III (Part-66) of the same regulation.
An individual who decided to become an AMT (Aircraft Maintenance Licence holder) must demonstrate by examination, a level of
knowledge and must have acquired practical maintenance experience on operating aircraft. The required experience for applicants
with different training backgrounds is listed in Table 3. This experience must be practical and involve maintenance tasks on aircraft.
Thereafter, a basic Aircraft Maintenance Licence (without aircraft type endorsement) in adequate category/subcategory is issued
if the applicant is at least at the age of 18. This basic AML does not alone let its holder to release an aircraft to service in line
maintenance or to work as support staff (to perform particular maintenance tasks) in base maintenance. To provide this, the AML
holder need to have his/her license endorsed with the relevant aircraft ratings. For category A, no rating is required. The endorsement

Table 2
New technicians by region [13].

Regions Asia Pacific Europe North America Middle East Latin America CIS Africa World

Technicians 243,500 129,700 92,500 53,700 47,300 18,100 16,200 601,000

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Table 3
Practical maintenance experience requirement.

Category/sub-category No previous relevant technical training Relevant training Part-147 basic training

A, B1.2, B1.4, B3 3 years 2 years 1 year


B2, B1.1, B1.3 5 years 3 years 2 years

of aircraft type rating requires satisfactory completion of aircraft type training. In addition, the endorsement of the first rating
requires completion of On the Job Training (OJT).
Aircraft type training consists of theoretical training and examination plus practical training and assessment. This training and
examinations can only be conducted by maintenance training organisations approved i.a.w. Annex IV (Part-147) of the regulation.
The objective of the OJT is to gain the required competence and experience in performing safe maintenance and can be conducted
under the control of maintenance organisations approved under Annex II (Part 145).
Upon type rating endorsement into the basic AML and receiving a “certification authorisation” from the Part-145 maintenance
organisation, the license holder becomes a certifying staff to sign certificate of release to service on behalf of the organisation. The
minimum age for certifying staff and support staff is 21 years.
Organisations involved in the training of aircraft maintenance personnel (certifying staff) must be approved i.a.w. Annex IV (Part-
147) of the regulation. The organisations fulfilling the facility, personnel and instructional equipment requirements may apply for
approval to carry out:

• basic training courses to the Part-66 syllabus,


• aircraft type/task training courses,
• the examinations on behalf of the aviation authority,
• the issue of certificates following completion of basic or type training courses and examinations.
Basic training course consists of knowledge training, knowledge examination, practical training and a practical assessment. The
duration of basic training courses is given in Table 4. The practical training covers the practical use of common tools and test
equipment, the disassembly/assembly of aircraft parts and the participation in maintenance activities. The practical assessment
determines whether the student is competent at using tools and equipment and working in accordance with technical documents such
as maintenance manuals.
The complete EASA aircraft maintenance licencing system from beginning with individual's decision to become an AMT is
summarized in Fig. 2.
In many European countries as well as Turkey, vocational training and education is heavily based on national education system.
In this context, this part of the chapter studies the process where 3 candidates in Turkey with different educational backgrounds
intending to become an AMT in B1.1 or B2 category.
Candidate 1 is a high school graduate with no relevant training. Candidate 2 is a vocational high school graduate and his training
is considered as relevant by the aviation authority. Finally, candidate 3 is a high school graduate and wishes to study in a Part-147
approved training organisation (MTO). All candidates are 18 years old (average age of high school graduates). According to EASA
training system described above; candidate 1 must pass examinations and acquire 5 years of experience, candidate 2 must pass
examinations and acquire 3 years of experience while candidate 3 must study for minimum 2400 tuition hours in a Part-147 approved
maintenance training organisation, pass examinations and acquire 2 years of experience. 2400 tuition hours requires approximately
2 years. In Turkey the only MTO approved for category B1.1 and B2 basic training is a University offering a 4 years bachelor's degree
program in aviation maintenance.
Consider that three candidates passed all examinations in the period of experience times. In this case candidate 1 and 2 start to
work in a Part-145 maintenance organisation at 18 years old and become an AMT at 23 and 21 years old respectively. On the other
hand, candidate 3 enters into the industry 4 years later than the others, at 22 years old and becomes an AMT at 24 years old. On the
other hand, candidates 1 and 2 may complete their type and on the job trainings much earlier than candidate 3.
The only weakness of candidate 1 and 2 is that, they have to self-study and may have difficulties in passing examinations.
Furthermore, finding (and funding) appropriate training materials in their language may be an issue.
Above mentioned approved MTO in Turkey accepts 80 students per year and the total number of students to be graduated in the
next four years is 444 (information received from the management of the organisation), which is much less than the number required
by maintenance organisations. On the other hand, ten vocational schools, which have no Part-147 approval but considered as offering
relevant training, are expected to graduate > 1500 students in the next four years. This case let these students become potential

Table 4
Basic training course duration in hours.

Category A1, A3, A4 A2 B1.1, B1.3, B1.4, B2 B1.2 B3

Duration 800 650 2400 2000 1000

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Fig. 2. EASA aircraft maintenance licensing system.

employees for the maintenance organisations. However, their proper training is now much more important not only to support
sustainable growth of the aviation market but also to improve the safety and reliability of the aircraft maintained.
A research study funded by Boeing's Global Corporate Citizenship program and supported by Turkey's Ministry of National
Education has been initiated to search the means to overcome this issue. The field exercise of the study included 77 teachers from
above mentioned vocational schools since improvements in their knowledge levels will result in improvements on the training of
thousands of students.
In order to assess the initial knowledge level of the participants, a questionnaire including complete EASA Part 66 syllabus for
license category B1.1 has been sent to subject schools. The participants were asked to evaluate their readiness to deliver each Part 66
module, where;

• 0 means the participant has no background to teach the subject,


• 1 means the participants needs a refreshment to teach the subject,
• 2 means the participant has enough knowledge to teach the subject,
An example where scores are arbitrary has been given in Table 5.

Table 5
Self-evaluation of participants' readiness.

Module Sub module Score

8-Basic aerodynamics 8.1-Physics of the atmosphere 2


8.2-Aerodynamics 1
8.3-Theory of flight 0
8.4-Flight stability and dynamics 0

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Fig. 3. Example of a training package (original interface in Turkish language).

The results of the questionnaire indicated that the participants has no background around 70% of the syllabus, need a refreshment
on 20% of the syllabus and enough knowledge to teach around 10% of the syllabus. Furthermore a test with multiple choice questions
representing the whole syllabus sent to schools. The test has been prepared by subject matter expert i.a.w. Part 66 requirements
where pass-mark is 75%. Minimum score was 26%, maximum score was 72% and mean score was 53. Both the questionnaire and test
results demonstrated that the participants of the field exercise can be considered as an AMT candidate with no previous aircraft
maintenance training and all course materials have been prepared accordingly.
In the context of the project a software applicable to distance education methods has been developed. The web based software
includes a virtual classroom platform where the instructors uploaded their course materials. The course materials developed by the
academic staff of the above mentioned Part-147 MTO are not limited to some texts; conversely there is an audio visual media such as
schematics, animations, slights etc. Total of 253 training packages has been prepared where a package includes course notes in text
format, audio-visual training material in video format and an end of chapter quiz (Fig. 3). An introduction session has been offered to
participants to familiarize them with the system and interface. The participants, upon signing in to virtual classroom, are able to
reach all the course materials. At the end of each sub-module a quiz was introduced to let the participant self-assess and to provide
progression data to the instructor through a learning management system.
The training models have been designed to cover certain learning outcomes as required by EASA Part-66. At the end of the
complete training the attendant will;

• know the theory of the subject and interrelationships with other subjects,
• be able to give a detailed description of the subject using theoretical fundamentals and specific examples,
• understand and be able to use mathematical formulae related to the subject,
• be able to read, understand and prepare sketches, simple drawings and schematics describing the subject,
• be able to apply his knowledge in a practical manner using manufacturer's instructions,
• be able to interpret results from various sources and measurements and apply corrective action where appropriate.
During the project, the participants received some practical trainings and assessments in an Aircraft Maintenance Organisation. A
post training test was conducted to assess if all these learning outcomes are attained and a questionnaire was send to participants to
receive their responses about training. Minimum score was 70%, maximum score was 96% and mean score was 80.

3. Results and discussion

Aircraft maintenance is one of the primary causes or contributing factors in aircraft accidents. The growth of aviation market
leading to increase the number of flights and number of passengers travelled, may result in increasing number of accidents and
fatalities even though the accident rate remains constant. It is clear that proper training of AMTs will avoid failures, reduce main-
tenance related accidents, improve safety and reliability in aviation and provide recovery of the increasing demand to qualified AMTs
for sustainability of the market growth.
AMT training is governed by international (IATA) and regional or local (EASA and FAA) regulations. But different training models
can be developed in the frame of these regulations. In this paper, AMT licencing process in EU region (and non-EU states im-
plementing EASA rules) is analysed. This process is based on the candidate's demonstration of knowledge and acquisition of ex-
perience. The required experience depends on the training background of the candidate. The graduates of Part-147 approved MTOs

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need to have minimum experience but they need extra time for training and this delays their entrance into the market. The candidates
that have no approved aircraft maintenance training background needs more experience, have to self-study for the examinations but
enter to the market earlier and complete their type and on the job trainings.
Furthermore, the difficulties and costs to fulfil the Part-147 requirements limit the number of Part-147 MTOs and their graduates.
In many countries like Turkey, AMT training heavily relies on national education system which increases the training duration. In this
case, maintenance organisations start to employ staff without any approved aircraft maintenance training background. These staffs
are entering to knowledge examinations while acquiring the required experience in the maintenance organisations. Now their
training is much more important to make them ready for the examinations, to make some behavioural changes and to improve their
awareness for the safety and reliability of the aircraft that they are working on.
On the other hand, companies may not prefer to organize a training course for their employees since they will lose labour while
the employees are attending to a course rather than working and an outsourced training will have a cost to the company. This will
lead the candidate to self-study and in this case he/she may face difficulties in finding appropriate training materials in own lan-
guage. Funding of the training materials would be another demotivating issue.
The complete EASA Part 66 syllabus for A, B1.1 and B2 category AMT licenses have been transferred to developed distance
education platform. The developed software and the training model showed that AMT trainings can be delivered to public by e-
learning methods. Costly times of people and companies/public institutions will not be spent by traditional face to face training.
People will be able to receive their own required training whenever and wherever they want.
Field exercise covered 77 teachers from vocational schools offering aircraft maintenance training and showed that developed e-
learning training model succeeded to improve their theoretical knowledge level. All participants agreed that the training model gave
them flexibility to decide when to and how much to study any subject. They also emphasized that diversity of the training materials
was very useful. For example the material in text format was very suitable in an office environment while audio-visual material let the
participants to study using their smart phones on the way to office and home. The participants were satisfied with the navigating in
the web based system, content delivery and interface. They implied that practical trainings in between theoretical training was very
useful to consolidate the theoretical knowledge gained but the periods could be longer.
This training model can cover the students of this kind of schools, the employees of maintenance organisations preparing for
knowledge examinations and shortly anybody aiming to become an AMT.
This kind of training model developed in accordance with Part-66 requirements and delivered by distance education (e-learning)
methods would be very successful when combined with the practical trainings given to candidates in maintenance organisations
during their experience periods.

4. Conclusions

The literature search in the scope of this paper points the importance of training of Aircraft Maintenance Technicians (AMTs) to
reduce the number of accidents due to maintenance errors. It is emphasized that training of AMTs is vital to reduce failures, improve
safety and reliability in aviation and recovery of the increasing demand to qualified AMTs in the growing aviation market.
The analysis of the licencing process based on European Aviation Safety Agency regulations concludes that this process is based on
the candidate's demonstration of knowledge and acquisition of experience. The required experience depends on the training back-
ground of the candidate. The graduates of Part-147 approved MTOs need to have minimum experience but they need extra time for
training and this delays their entrance into the market. The candidates that have no approved aircraft maintenance training back-
ground needs more experience, have to self-study for the examinations but enter to the market earlier and complete their type and on
the job trainings.
In countries where AMT training heavily relies on national education system, the training duration is increased and maintenance
organisations start to employ staff without any approved aircraft maintenance training background.
This paper offers a training model developed in accordance with Part-66 requirements and delivered by distance education (e-
learning) methods to overcome the disadvantages of face to face training. It is concluded that this model when combined with the
practical trainings given to AMT candidates in maintenance organisations during their experience periods, will be very successful in
improving safety and reliability in aviation maintenance operations.

Acknowledgements

This study was supported by Global Corporate Citizenship program of The Boeing Company under grant number 16117843.

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