American Airlines' Tulsa team who is competing in the 2017 AMC. Lee Ann Shay/Aviation Week

Preparing for the Olympics of MRO

No one team has the experience and skills to shine in every one of the 26 categories, but all work extra hours to accord themselves honorably, leading to a tight race.

Printed headline: The Olympics of MRO

They qualify for the team, train for months honing skills, and then compete head-to-head. And in the end, mere seconds separate first- and second-place winners.

In an intense two days, 56 five-member teams from around the world will compete in 26 events at the Aerospace Maintenance Competition (AMC), to be held April 25-27 in conjunction with Aviation Week Network’s MRO Americas—the Olympics of MRO. It tests the knowledge and skills necessary to maintain different types of aircraft with evolving technology and tools.

Events range from rigging cables to troubleshooting automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast systems, finding cracks with nondestructive testing, repairing composites, taking off a wheel and brake assembly and removing a pneumatic drive unit on an engine, and solving weight and balance problems. Each skills event takes 15 min.

But unlike Olympic hopefuls, it’s impossible for aviation maintenance technicians (AMT) to get hands-on training in every task covered. AMTs can read the event criteria and practice on equipment in their hangars, but none of them has access to gear needed for all 26 tests. It’s like asking a triathlete to compete using somebody else’s goggles, bike and running shoes. 

For instance, engine tests are performed on a Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan and on a JT9D. Few airlines or MROs operate or perform maintenance on both.

The logic of incorporating new and existing technologies—from fiber optics to wire-harness troubleshooting—is to focus the craft on maintaining next-generation and proven technology, says Ken MacTiernan, AMC chairman—because in reality, that’s what’s in the field.

For AMTs, it makes it tricky to train. Take American Airlines’ Tulsa-based team—one of three of the carrier’s teams participating in the AMC. The Tulsa team, which won sixth place last year in its division, meets on Saturdays to hone skills. Each of the five AMTs will compete in seven competitions, with all of them participating in one—the cockpit and wing sealant event. 

The Tulsa team has more confidence going into this year’s AMC because it knows what to expect, but the reality is that American doesn’t operate JT9Ds or PW1000Gs—nor does it operate some of the newer test equipment used in the AMC, so it is hard to practice some tasks. But the team, having finished sixth, aims to finish first this year, says Jason Yoder, an avionics AMT, who views the AMC as a global stage on which to promote his profession.

After this year, American Airlines plans to start rotating a few team members and to use the AMC preparations as a mentoring tool.

Through the AMC, “we are promoting our whole craft,” says MacTiernan, and “shining the light of recognition on those men and women.”

He says “the level of competitiveness ratchets up each year,” because organizations send “the best of their best, which just enhances the competition.”

AMC teams are set up in six categories: commercial aviation, general aviation, space, education, military and repair/manufacturing.

For colleges and technical schools that send teams, their students are close to earning their A&P [airframe and powerplant] licenses, so the AMC is a great networking event, as well.

—Lee Ann Shay


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