With the onboard Wi-Fi revolution firmly underway and becoming increasingly standard on today’s business aircraft, maintenance personnel and connectivity providers are finding that their workloads are becoming more complex. According to NBAA Maintenance Committee Chairman, Jim Sparks, nowhere is this more of an issue than in the business aviation community, with technicians having a different ‘need to know’ than their counterparts in general aviation.
“In business aviation, technicians have a somewhat different ‘need to know,'” said Sparks. “In our case when you talk about an [Airframe and/or Powerplant] A&P you speak of an all-purpose technician — meaning you have to service tires or diagnose slow Internet access. … You get into the world of the airlines [and] yes, in many cases they have the technology and they have the specialists who deal with it. They’re not necessarily A&Ps, they’re more network specialists because they don’t have to have the return to service authority that an A&P technician does.”
Inflight connectivity in the modern business jet has evolved at an astonishing pace. Business passengers are able to operate at 45,000 feet as effectively as they can in their ground-based offices. It is becoming clear, according to Mr Sparks, that training standards have not been as fast to evolve and demand is growing for skilled technicians in the industry.
“The current requirement for the need to know of A&P technicians was established by the FAA and is pretty much based on technology from the 1960s or earlier; it just has not evolved over the years,” said Sparks. “There are some A&P schools, some affiliated with colleges or universities that have stepped it up where they provide more knowledge than is required. But the basic requirements for an A&P, they have not changed. If you go to an A&P school to get an A&P license that’s all you’re going to get, and you’ll have a basic understanding of ‘60s and ‘70s technology equipment.”
The NBAA and the FAA are beginning to work towards to evolution of training standards for A&P technicians. Nextech for NextGen is a program that includes formal development called ‘Project Bootstrap’, providing guidance to the FAA in the revision of basic requirements.
The phases of the program will address the need for filling the gaps in these areas and also for the physical installation and maintenance of advanced IFE systems.