New U.S. Mechanic Training Standards Finalized

Credit: Lindsay Bjerregaard/Aviation Week

A years-long push to update decades-old standards that U.S. maintenance technician schools must follow officially ended May 24 as the FAA published its long-awaited final rule updating its Part 147 regulations.

The new requirements, which go into effect in 120 days, "introduces a performance-based regulation that will massively change the way FAA approves and oversees aviation technical programs,” said the Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC), one of the industry leaders in advocating for the updated standards. Among the myriad changes: the FAA will no longer approve education-specific aspects of FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician schools (AMTS), such as curriculums, grading systems, or the methods or locations where classes are held. These and related aspects of the schools will now fall under Dept. of Education accreditors.  

Schools also are freed up to develop competency-based training, not programs that are focused on a student’s time in class.

“Under the watchful eye of national accrediting bodies, AMTS will assess educational outcomes in lieu of meeting seat time mandates—aligning aviation maintenance education with common practice in other technical-related programs,” ATEC said.

The FAA will retain oversight of facilities, equipment and instructor qualifications as well as the airmen certification standards (ACS) that schools use to develop curriculum.

“And most importantly for aviation safety, the FAA will retain the ultimate decision-making authority when it comes to issuing mechanic certificates, which it only does after thorough assessment of an individual’s skill and knowledge,” ATEC said.

Revised ACS developed as part of the rulemaking will ensure newly trained mechanics are better prepared for current industry technology. The ACS is made up of general subjects, such as cleaning and corrosion control, with related subtopics, such as corrosion identification and inspection.

A Part 147 update has been in the works for years. The current standards have changed little since 1970. The new rule follows an April 2019 supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking, which addressed several industry concerns with a November 2015 draft rule. Among them were expanding competency-based training standards that would allow deviations from a fixed set of hours to teach skills.  

The FAA released a preview of the final rule in March.

An industry push to finalize the changes led Congress to order the FAA to bypass any further draft rule stages and publish a final rule. The mandate was wrapped into the wide-ranging Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act that became law in December 2020.

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.