An Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) is responsible for maintaining an aircraft. Prachi Rege tracks the scope of the career and the course that qualifies you for the job
If you have a technical bent of mind and a passion for aircrafts, then you must look at making a career as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME). Good news on the job market comes from the findings of the Boeing Commercial Airplanes report. It states that India is expected to witness a demand of 1,600 airplanes in next 20 years and the commercial aviation fleet is estimated to grow more than five times during the period.
"A new wave of expansion has been ushered in by low-cost carriers, modern airports, foreign direct investments in domestic airlines. For sustainable growth, we will need skilled manpower," says Vishwanath Singh, director, Bharat Institute of Aeronautics, Patna.
Consultancy firm KPMG and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), reports that India’s civil aviation sector, albeit with minor hiccups, shows high growth trajectory and could be number one globally by 2030.
"On an average an airline company owns at least 70 to 80 aircrafts. At least 12 to 15 engineers are required to maintain each of these aircrafts and certify them fit to fly," mentions Pradeep Kumar, professor, Indian Aerospace and Engineering Institute, Mumbai. Rajiv Kumar Misra, principal, JRN Institute of Aviation Technology, New Delhi, suggests, "With new companies like Air Asia and Tata Singapore airlines in the pipeline and new Maintenance, Overhaul and Repair (MRO) ventures opening up, trained manpower will always be in demand."
A airline company employs a licensed AME in two kinds of job roles. A line maintenance engineer, who carries out light checks done just a day or few hours before the airplane`s take-off. A base maintenance engineer, whose job focuses on bigger aircraft maintenance projects (or heavy checks). He carries out the checks at the hangar over a number of days or weeks. Modifications and installations in the aircraft are also a part of his job.
"Like you need an MBBS degree to qualify as a doctor, you need AME licence from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to certify the air worthiness of an aircraft. No aircrafts can fly without a `certificate release to service` from a senior AME," explains Singh.
Basic license to become an airplane technican is given within first six months of on-the-job training. However, it takes at least five to six years of work experience and approval from the DGCA to procure a type rated licence which allows you to certify a particular class of aircrafts. "You will also need to maintain `recency` on type in order to continue working on any particular type of aircraft. If you lose recency (i.e, you stop working on a type of aircraft for over 2 years), you may be required to take a familiarisation course before you can again be licensed on type," says Singh. This can vary from one airline to another and the civil aviation authority (country/ region) you wish to work within. "The company will recommend only those engineers who have excellent technical skills for the senior AME license exam which is conducted by the DGCA. One gets three chances to pass the exam," says Kumar.
AME course prepares a candidate for maintenance, servicing and certifying an aircraft. With a minimum of 50 per cent score in Class XII (Physics, Chemistry and Maths) one can qualify for the four year degree programme offered by DGCA approved 50 odd colleges in the country (see box 1). "The DGCA regulated courses adhere to international standards stipulated by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)," points out Singh.
The programme is divided into two streams—Mechanical and Avionics. The curriculum constitutes of Light Aeroplanes (LA), Heavy Aeroplanes (HA), Piston Engine (PE), Jet Engine (JE), and Helicopters - Rotary Wing Aircrafts (RA) and radio navigation and instrumentation system designed in an aircraft. "There is no entrance test to qualify for this programme. Most colleges conduct the DGCA approved apptitude tests, followed by scholarship exams for those who want to apply for the same," says Kumar, who teaches radio navigation and electronic systems at his institute.
Misra believes that when it comes to the aviation industry youngsters look for careers only as pilots or air hostess. What they fail to realise is that the quantum of opportunities is more for technical workforce. Each aircraft under operations usually needs 2-4 pilots, 10-12 cabin crew members, 25-30 AMEs, and 50-60 ground staff. Experts warn that joining the course, however, is not a guarantee to a successful career. You need to have determination, dedication and perseverance to gradually take off.
1) Thakur Institute of Aviation Technology (TIAT), Mumbai
2) Hindustan Aviation Academy, Bangalore
3) Hindustan Aerospace and Engineering., Baner, Pune
4) Star Aviation Academy (Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Institute - AME), Delhi
5) Air Technical Training Institute, Kolkata
The list is only indicative
1) Stipend for internship - Rs 4000 to 5000/ month
2) Junior airplane technican - Rs 25,000
3) Senior AME – Rs 60,000
4) Licensed AME – Rs 1,50,000 onwards
Certification privileges Aircraft Maintenance Engineers` licence
1) Certification of fitness for flight (issue of flight release) of an aircraft
2) Certification as to the safety for flight of public transport aircraft.
3) Certification in the log book of work done under approved maintenance schedules.
4) Certification in the log book of repairs, approved minor repairs.
5) Certification in the log book of modifications approved as minor modifications.
6) Certification in the log book of replacement of approved components and parts.