Standardization News

Better Training and Certification Through Standards

Doug Clauson

A new standards developing group is providing a roadmap for aerospace personnel training and certification.

A new ASTM International initiative will help fill the need for highly skilled technical workers in the aerospace industry. Standards developed by ASTM Committee F46 on Aerospace Personnel will guide the training and certification of aviation professionals who work on aircraft from manufacture through all stages of use.

The new committee is bringing together a diverse group of aviation stakeholders to help the industry address projected shortages in its technician workforce and increase its readiness for technological change.

Challenges for the Aviation Workforce

ASTM Committee F46 begins its work at a time of rising instability within the technical workforce of the $2.4 trillion global aviation sector. Industry studies suggest that air transportation demand is set to double by 2030 and, as a result, 650,000 new commercial airline maintenance technicians will be needed to keep the industry moving forward. On the manufacturing side, global leader Boeing forecasts that it will need to hire 28,000 new maintenance technicians a year through 2032.

To meet these staffing forecasts, the aviation industry must overcome several hurdles. Principal among these is the aging of today's personnel. Many older technicians are moving closer to retirement. This issue is part of a broader workforce phenomenon: According to the Boston Consulting Group, there were 0.3 people retiring for each person entering the workforce worldwide in 2010. By 2050, that number is forecast to increase to 0.7.

Attrition within the aviation industry also hinders staffing goals, as younger maintenance professionals find career opportunities in other technical fields.

To remedy these problems, aviation stakeholders believe that the industry must invest in the skills growth of its maintenance workforce and open new doors to career advancement.

Filling the Pipeline of Technical Talent

Although the aviation and aerospace industries are highly complex and integrated sectors that require myriad technical skills by their employees, the only recognized certification for personnel is the Federal Aviation Administration's Airframe and Powerplant License.

To expand opportunities for certification, Committee F46 will develop internationally accepted standards that define the core competencies of aerospace personnel. These will in turn provide a baseline for education, testing and certification through ASTM's National Center for Aerospace and Transportation Technologies, or NCATT. This will enhance recruitment and retention strategies by giving aviation workers new opportunities for career advancement.

F46's broad standards roadmap will be driven through subcommittees in avionics and information technology; airframe, systems and powerplant; and furnishings and equipment. There will also be subcommittees that liaise with regulators, industry and academia.

The committee will develop standards that provide the foundation for aircraft electronics and network technician certifications. In addition, F46 standards will support training and education for aviation professionals across a wide range of non-AET areas such as hazardous materials, advanced composites technology, aircraft assembly, health monitoring, flight attendant certification, airborne hazards awareness and avoidance systems, emerging technologies, and more.

The efforts of Committee F46 will be led by technical experts and business professionals from aviation manufacturing, industry associations, training providers, maintenance facilities, regulatory agencies and academia. Participation on Committee F46 is open to professionals from these and other key stakeholder groups.

"Committee F46 brings together stakeholders across all facets of aviation to share their insights and needs of their segment to continue the work of NCATT and further define tomorrow's technician." says Mike Adamson, vice president, member programs and education, for the Aircraft Electronics Association. "The committee will work to identify knowledge and skill gaps and develop standards that support training and certification programs that appeal to current and aspiring aerospace personnel. With new and relevant certifications in place, the aviation maintenance talent pool is likely to grow in the near term and with future generations."

Keeping Pace with Innovation

Standards developed by Committee F46 will play an important role in efforts to bring aviation personnel in step with technological advancement. "Aviation maintenance principles, practice and technology have evolved significantly over the years; most recently at incredible leaps," says Eli Cotti, director of technical operations at the National Business Aviation Association. "The current way we educate and train technicians is not responsive to today's business environment, nor does it adequately prepare technicians for future change. We need a new approach - one that helps bring technician skill sets in line with the current state of the art in technology and builds their knowledge base of the newest innovations in aviation," adds Cotti.

Aviation technology continues to steam forward at breakneck speed. Each year, companies invest more than $100 million in researching and developing new aerospace technology, according to the Air Transport Action Group. The demand for new, more technologically advanced aircraft is as high as ever. Global carriers are looking to bring greater innovation to their maintenance operations as well.

Examples include companies like Japan Airlines, which is investing in the use of wearable technology for technicians. The company recently completed a trial program involving the use of Google Glass to quickly scan and send information and minimize the possibility of flight delay or cancellation.

"Over the past 50 years, there has been a dramatic change in what aircraft technical personnel need to know," says Jim Sparks, director of maintenance at Richardson Aviation. "Training, education and certification need to keep up. It has become increasingly critical for aircraft technician knowledge and skill standards to evolve in step with the rapid advancement taking hold in the aviation industry." Sparks cites the FAA's Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen initiative, as an example of why Committee F46's work will be crucial in the years ahead.

NextGen is a wide-ranging transformation of the entire U.S. air transportation system aimed at improving air travel and reducing gridlock, both in the sky and at airports.

"The role that information technology now plays in the avionics world is a great example of how innovation will drive the need for enhanced technician skill sets and highly qualified, certified personnel," says Adamson. "One of the benefits of having this industry standards initiative within ASTM is that committee members can move quickly to address new technologies like NextGen and their impact on the ever-evolving world of the aerospace technician."

Industry Recognition and Certification

Committee F46's standards will build upon the efforts of NCATT, which has been providing testing and certification programs for over 15 years. In 2013, NCATT became part of ASTM; this move added a significant aircraft training piece to ASTM's portfolio of personnel certification programs while supporting NCATT's programs with ASTM's range of aviation standards.

"F46 will take the efforts to train and certify aerospace personnel to a new level, advancing NCATT and industry efforts while supporting the broader goals of agencies like the FAA," says Lee Brewster, NCATT program representative for ASTM. "I am confident that the committee will lay a strong foundation of standards to help workers understand what skills they need in many technical areas, while also setting criteria for the certification process. Their efforts will play a key role in training and retaining highly skilled workers in this industry, while also providing new career pathways."

Adamson adds, "Standards developed by Committee F46 will provide maintenance technicians working in aviation today with a greater pathway to industry recognition and portability of their certifications not readily available before. This is significant given the myriad aviation disciplines that go alongside the traditional airframe and powerplant skill sets."

Worldwide Cooperation in Aviation Standards

The formation of Committee F46 builds on years of global industry cooperation on the development of aviation standards under the ASTM umbrella. ASTM's broad portfolio of aviation-related standards includes the work of its existing technical committees F07 on Aerospace and Aircraft, F37 on Light Sport Aircraft, F38 on Unmanned Aircraft Systems, F39 on Aircraft Systems and F44 on General Aviation Aircraft. ASTM has a successful track record working with the aviation industry and the FAA toward the development of voluntary consensus standards that are relied on by manufacturers, pilots and regulators.

"The ASTM process, with its ability to connect global experts in an open and collaborative standards development forum, offers the potential to produce game-changing results for the aviation industry worldwide," says Samuel A. Haycraft, co-founder and executive vice president of West Star Aviation. "ASTM Committee F46 will create globally accepted consensus standards that will provide the foundation to train and certify aerospace professionals around the world."

ASTM and Aviation

Aerospace industries benefit from standards developed by several ASTM technical committees.

  • F07 on Aerospace and Aircraft - Standards for testing aspects of aircraft such as strength of landing gear, cleaning materials and quality of transparent enclosures.
  • F37 on Light Sport Aircraft & F38 on Unmanned Aircraft Systems - Standards for minimum safety, performance and flight proficiency requirements; quality assurance; completed aircraft production acceptance tests and procedures; and baseline plans for continued airworthiness.
  • F39 on Aircraft Systems - Standards for design, certification, production, installation or maintenance.
  • F44 on General Aviation Aircraft - Standards addressing the complexity and performance of the full spectrum of aircraft under 19,000 pounds.


Christine DeJong

ASTM International

tel +1.610.832.9736

ASTM's National Center for Aerospace and Transportation Technologies

NCATT, acquired by ASTM in 2013, provides a forum where subject matter experts from industry, government, and education develop technical knowledge and skill standards. It serves as a resource for the aerospace and transportation industries by facilitating and developing:

  • Knowledge and skill standards,
  • Certifications,
  • Accreditations for training providers, and
  • Outreach activities.


Timothy Brooke

ASTM International

tel +1.610.832.9729

At a Glance - ASTM Committee F46 on Aerospace Personnel

Developing internationally accepted standards for aerospace personnel education, qualification, testing, certification requirements and continuing education in line with technological advancement.

Stakeholders are invited to participate in this standards development effort.

To join Committee F46, contact:

Christine DeJong

ASTM International

tel +1.610.832.9736

Doug Clauson is a freelance writer based in Wynnewood, Pa.
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