Mindset Difference: Aircraft Mechanic vs. Managers of Aviation Operations

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Aircraft Mechanic vs. Managers of Aviation Operations


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides aircraft mechanics with authority to perform maintenance of aircrafts to ensure their safety. This includes rejection of managers’ decisions if they jeopardize safety unethically. Although managers can override mechanics’ decisions, mechanics are ultimately responsible for aircraft safety. This authority is a source of conflict, which could create miscommunication between managers and mechanics. The purpose of this research paper is to explore the responsibilities and functions of mechanics and managers. How do mechanics and managers think in different scenarios? How do their mindsets differ due to the nature of their jobs? How can they accommodate each other’s viewpoints?

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The paper also discusses whether Bachelor in Aviation Maintenance programs at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University can change mechanics’ viewpoint in such a way that they will be concerned not only with aircraft maintenance but also management without compromising their primary goals? However, the critical issue of training is central to the development of aviation career besides promoting integration among the diverse players of the aviation sector. The disparity between aviation operations managers and mechanics is discussed in-depth in this paper.

Aircraft Mechanic vs. Managers of Aviation Operations

Statement of the Project

This project will explore mindset differences between aircraft mechanics and aviation operations managers. A student of Embry – Riddle Aeronautical University holding Bachelor degree in Aviation Maintenance and specializing in management will demonstrate the knowledge obtained from the program. The problem of professional disparity between the two groups is quite eminent and plays a paramount role in defining the business goal of an aviation body or an airline.


The job of an aircraft maintenance technician is to ensure safety of an aircraft; and the job of an aviation operations manager is to ensure the aircraft is flying as often as possible. The contradiction between the two is obvious, aircraft mechanics want aircrafts to fly but they are willing to ground the aircrafts anytime if they believe that the aircrafts are not safe. This often frustrates aviation operations managers. Not all aviation operations managers have the knowledge of aircraft maintenance and flight safety. This often causes many miscommunications and misunderstandings between mechanics and managers. Having completed the Aviation Maintenance program at Embry – Riddle Aeronautical University, mechanics will expand and explore their vision, which will allow them to have a better understanding of managers’ decisions and responsibilities.

The pilot and other flight operations managers are relatively independent. Indeed, most companies promote leadership qualities worldwide ranging from maintenance of a track to the responsibility of heading flight departments. For instance, in the contemporary business environment, Home Depo, Baxter and Gannett Companies among other major global companies have constituted directors of maintenance departments to take full charge of the flight department (Chapel, 1946).

Basically, there are many reasons as to why most companies select specific people to take up specific jobs within these organizations. However, this varies from one organization to another. For instance, according to the director of flight operation at PepsiCo, Archie Walker, as the demand rises in the flight department, the company decided to employ full-time management personnel with the skills necessary for the job. Besides, the Pepsi Company required the flight department manager to be a pilot while the maintenance manager had to be responsible for reporting to the corporation’s chief financial officer. Following the change of the senior management at PepsiCo, the executives opted to work with one manager at the airport on a full time basis. This led to the creation of a new opportunity for Walker, who already had been responsible for most of flight operations (A career as an aircraft mechanic, 2002).

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Indeed, Walker made several purchasing decisions like the type of aircraft to operate as well as a specific charter operator to use. Indeed, Walker was chosen since he had all the skills and expertise needed to perform the job. Indeed, one of the critical factors that most organizations are using while identifying and commissioning a manager is whether a person is willing to remain at the hangar and eschew flying. For instance, for a pilot hanging up the wings and flying a desk are perhaps some of the most difficult tasks. For instance, Jim Cannon, former Home Depot Flight Department director, said that he was stressed when he had to commit to a full day for the first time. He compares it to the first football practice of the year (Buydos & Library of Congress, 2000).

The managerial criterion is a critical area of selection. Essentially, before selecting the head of a flight department, a company requires an in-depth understanding of the actual responsibilities of the aforementioned position. Usually, the manager must always keep the costs reasonable besides ensuring that the aircraft can takeoff more often. Furthermore, he/she must be able to motivate, counsel and lead pilots and other technical and administrative personnel. However, for the managers to accomplish the previous two major tasks, they must be able to manage the maintenance of the aircraft (Drake, 1948).

Indeed, according to Brian Finnegan, president of the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA), an efficient flight department is perceived to have a manager who can time the ordering of parts with required maintenance. This implies a person should have the aircraft maintenance background, should be used to working with vendors and should have a subset of skills and expertise that can be applied to solve issues that arise within the flight department. Indeed, the most prevalent issue in the flight department is basically maintenance of a safe and cost-effective aircraft or flight operation, which can consume a lot of time of the departmental manager. In normal circumstances, there are many costs attributed to the operations of any business. For instance, apart from fuel expenses, aircraft maintenance costs can account for about 50% of the total aviation budget. Indeed, within the maintenance cost structure, control of aircraft part repair as well as the subsequent replacement is perhaps the most crucial skill a manager should possess. Indeed, a thorough understanding of the system is essential to minimize the correct use of aircraft parts which can result in downtime thus making the flight department more cost-effective (A career as an aircraft mechanic, 2002).

Besides, selection of the correct flight equipment as well as the subsequent selection of the right cost-saving measures is perhaps the main tasks that are best suited for an unbiased person. When the chief pilot (mechanic) visits the maintenance board, the board has to focus on the cost and safety perspectives but not the pilot’s viewpoint. This process also considers scheduling as well as crew costs (A career as an aircraft mechanic, 2002).

Technician Hurdles

In practice, most organizations globally take too long to promote maintenance personnel from their current positions to senior management positions. Indeed, the main factor is business aviation’s adherence to military traditions. Typically, the military often incorporates college-educated personnel for management and the senior-enlisted technicians as subordinate, lower-rank managers. In the military maintenance hierarchy, the aviation maintenance person is often a pilot, who is responsible for supervision of a team of technicians led by a chief maintenance officer (Bull & Lax, 1997).

As a matter of fact, this structure has been transferred over to the civilian world perhaps because the majority of flight departments comprise former military personnel. Today, the maintenance officer is relegated to paperwork while at the same time trying to keep up with maintenance issues when not flying. With the evolution of aviation, it happened that military programs were highly integrated towards various segments of the aircraft maintenance and general practices. Indeed, there has been a scaling rise in the number of military officers within the aviation industry. The management also placed most of these persons in the management positions. According to this early prejudice, pilots perceive mechanics as personnel who cannot be good managers. Indeed, a lot has changed in aviation perhaps due to the emergence of a more knowledgeable shop force and increased aircraft complexities. In the contemporary world, technicians are perceived and attributed to effective maintenance as well as good resource management (Bull & Lax, 1997).

Indeed, personnel, especially technicians, are promoted to leadership positions because they display an ability to lead an organization into future prosperity. According to McBride, best leaders generate a pool of efficient directors. Finally, a technician has to possess necessary skills and substantial education. In the historical perspective, the pilots have had more education particularly in management. Additionally, most companies placed a degree requirement for the flight department manager position. However, in the contemporary world, most companies realized that a degree doesn`t guarantee that a person will have needed managerial skills and competence. As a result, organizations have consistently learnt the main pillars of the flight department (Healey, 1938).

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Future for Technicians

Undoubtedly, most flight departments have been working towards maximization of their efficiency. Indeed, most companies are concerned with flight safety though expecting a high level of productivity, good work environment as well as a profit-oriented aviation program. Consequently, those technicians who want to hold management positions have to be well educated. Indeed, there are many opportunities for individuals who need to work on aircraft. However, according to Allen Paulson, former CEO of Gulfstream, with advancement in education, one can climb to become a manager, leader or even president of a company. However, according to the general perception of most flight department managers, the prospects of becoming a manager must always begin with desire of becoming a super-great mechanic. Indeed, general business leadership skills could be effectively learned on the shops floor. Indeed, one of the most important aspects of effective management is the capacity to work in a team (Drake, 1947).

For instance, pilots often work and learn in a cockpit but mechanics have studied it before. Besides, technicians must also develop good communication and writing skills. This ensures that in order to command respect within a company a person should effectively communicate with other people. Technicians must also try to learn about finances and financial knowhow. Most managers actually deal with financial matters. Indeed, most human resource departments provide an in-house financial training program for managers. In this regard, when a company places a technician in charge of flight crews, the overall values and prolonged traditions may be overturned; an aspect that may cause upsets within the ranks. Therefore, this takes a strong leader rather than a mere proficient mechanic to take charge. However, with the right personality, interpersonal skills and vision, a technician developing into a manager may be quite effective in transforming an already good flight unit into even a better one (Drake, 1947).

Quantitative Reasoning

Typically, mistakes appear when performing aircraft inspection and maintenance procedures which have to be followed consistently. As a result, such errors have been subject to flight emergencies and deadly aircraft accidents. In this regard, the most common cause of fatal accidents is system failure which is spread out across numerous segments of General Aviation. Furthermore, there are other accidents which are highly related to previous accidents. This implies that a number of mechanics do not learn from the lessons attributed to the occurrence of such tragedies that would be essential in preventing a recurrent event of such tragic incidences. The study of such events by managers with the help of mechanics is perhaps one of the crucial elements need to enhance preventative measures. Moreover, managers have to use rigorous structures to enhance safety and to work in collaboration with mechanics (United States, 1981).

Perception of Experienced Technicians

Ideally, despite the importance attached to the highly motivated and experienced technicians, the latter can also make mistake. Indeed, the prospects of learning and subsequent adherence to risk management practices could be pivotal in preventing common mistakes which may be subject to tragic consequences. Indeed, mechanics should draw up and define certain safety hazards that would assist managers in laying down a structure aimed at enhancing safe aircraft operation. In particular, this may entail clogging up of safety hazards as a result of human fatigue and striving to eliminate the factors that contribute to one`s fatigue. Indeed, fatigue is often attributable to poor decision making, low vigilance and overall ability to work safely. When estimating the role of mechanics, managers also pay attention to both safety and security of items which are subject to maintenance and any other components which have to be disconnected during the maintenance process (Institute for Career Research, 2006).

In this regard, the management should consider all these factors that aim at consolidating the aviation business. In other cases, following manufacturer’s instructions is required to complete the job in accordance with the stipulated specifications. For instance, there is a need to focus on the most recent or up-to-date information in maintenance and typical management practices. Rather than that, the management recognizes contribution of the most qualified persons apart from whose who are responsible for maintenance and inspection of both security and general safety of the main items under maintenance. The management with leadership qualities also ensures thoroughness when executing routine inspections. For instance, one may ensure that items that require immediate attention are immediately inspected. Both education and training are essential in promotion of safety in General Aviation.

Information and Scientific Literacy

Ideally, mechanical reasoning tests often measure the knowledge of exact mechanical and material concepts. Indeed, such tests do not measure the in-depth mechanical knowledge similar to the abstract reasoning interrogations that measure one’s inner intellectual capacity. For instance, one can sit for an abstract reasoning test for the first time and achieve a reasonable score. On the contrary, mechanical knowledge often depends upon one’s knowledge of certain objects as: levers, gears, pulley systems and shop arithmetic among others (the United States, 1981).

On the other hand, aviation managers are often required to have a number of preferred tasks and skills. In particular, managers should have knowledge in the aviation sector and be familiar with mechanical knowhow. However, the leadership skills and expertise in team management are of major importance. Typically, aviation managers have an extensive knowledge in transportation, administration and management, communication and other major segments. Knowledge of business environment and strategic planning procedures, efficient allocation of resources and the overall human resource modeling is quite essential managerial skills in aviation. Furthermore, customer and personalized services are essential in provision of customer services to the highly diversified customer base (National Research Council U.S., 2012).

Aviation managers should be able to manipulate public safety and security. Indeed, knowledge and ability to manipulate pertinent equipment, strategies and policies with a view of promoting regional or state security operations in order to protect people, properties and the data are vital if one wants to work in aviation. Extensive knowledge of the legal procedures, codes and precedents and the government regulations and the overall political process is also necessary if one wants to become a manager working in the aviation sphere. Geographical knowledge and the ability to describe land, sea resources and the air masses are also essential. A manager should also have enough knowledge in economics and accounting. This would ensure the maximum utilization of financial resource of an organization which is paramount when running daily activities of the organization. Education and training are also significant in resource mobilization and utilization. Managers must have enough knowledge of curriculum methods and training designs and must be able to give instructions to other people and measure the effect of training on performance. As to the latter, it is clear that managers must have an extensive knowledge of virtually all fields and must be able to estimate contribution of all the players in the field. Due to the social and scientific disparities between managers and mechanics, there are numerous methods used in conflict resolution.

Conflict Resolution Methods

In general, conflicts in any organization and in aviation, in particular, are inevitable. At times, conflicts may yield positive results in an organization while sometimes conflicts may be fatal to the performance of the organization. Conflict is based upon various impediments to growth and success of a department and an organization in general. For instance, it may be based on resources allocation and interests of individuals. Managers have extensive interpersonal skills that mechanics may not have. Furthermore, managers may be more focused on profit maximization, unlike mechanics. Taking into consideration previous causes of aeronautical breakages, managers may be more determined than mechanics in minimizing causal substances and objects that would lead to incurrence of further losses. In general, there are five major approaches to conflict resolutions as identified by Ralph Kilmann and Kenneth Thomas in the 1970s namely: Collaborative, Accommodating, Avoiding, Competitive and Compromising. However, using of the different styles of conflict resolution and recognition of various styles of effective communication also promote effective conflict resolution (Hoppe, 2011).

Cultural Literacy

The aviation sector is enriched with a strong culture of wide cultural values that have been attributable to improvement in aviation safety and organizational alignment. Basically, mechanics have been entrusted with the responsibility of enhancing safety of airplanes and their equipment in order to enhance their efficiency. Historically, aircraft mechanics were required to have higher education. This implies the significant role that such personnel had been entrusted with. Thus, aviation mechanics are able to repair and overhaul aircraft components and equipment. However, due to the technical advances, the role of aviation mechanics has changed. This aspect has led to the growth of aviation culture that has been defined by technology. Technological knowhow therefore promotes the overall performance of aviation personnel (United States Employment Service, 1947).

Besides, there has been a clear distinction between two types of aircraft mechanics. However, mechanics in general aviation may be working with either huge or small piston engine aircrafts. On the other hand, aviation managers often have an exclusively wide range of skills (A career as an aircraft mechanic, 2002).

As a matter of fact, management personnel evolve with the evolving human resource culture driven by organizational interests and cultures. Knowledge of aviation culture enhances the prospects of the management to maintain a smooth flow of operations and decrease time needed to improve service delivery in the aviation sector. The overall proposed mechanisms of controlling flights relate to the strict flights schedule. Historically, the proposed plans of fuel consumption and other flight-related costs largely depended on aircraft mechanics, since they had to control aircrafts manually. However, advanced technology has led to the emergence of automated devices able to check and analyze the components and flight necessities of aircrafts. This aspect has led to a condition of improved accuracy and the minimal collision between mechanics and managers. However, aircraft mechanics and managers are still interdependent. The main reason is their diverging views on the proactive capacity of the automated devices with little human (mechanics’) participation (A career as an aircraft mechanic, 2002).

Lifelong Personal Growth

Ideally, career in aviation is a life-long path characterized with a momentous growth. Indeed, the aviation sector is subject to change due to the recurrent changes in technology and innovations that lead to appearance of new models of aircrafts. As a result, the continuous advancement in technology constantly influences the development of the aviation industry. ‘Old’ technology used in training institutions often becomes less invaluable in the event of discovery of new and proficient technology. As a matter of fact, the career path of a professional pilot starts after completion of an aviation course. Consequently, students face two broad alternatives: to work as a flight instructor or to use his/her commercial multi-engine license to begin working in charters or other flying jobs such as banner-towing. The latter stage provides most students with the requisite job experience that further enhances their future prospects in the aviation industry. Consequently, such experience enables such individuals to work for an airline and get a considerably high pay. In particular, most airlines seek job candidates with a sustainable experience of about 1,000 hours of flight experience though there have been some exceptions. Thus, after studies students can work as aeronautical engineers or pilots. However, other than airlines, persons in the aviation sector may also develop other piloting prospects outside the major airlines. For instance, someone may become a regional pilot to fly from relatively big airports to smaller ones or a corporate pilot charged with the responsibility of flying executives and staff members of a company or other corporate bodies.

With a great experience in flights and mechanics, a person may hold other important positions such as managerial positions in aviation. Knowledge of the basic business managerial skills is essential for business management. However, knowledge of aircraft mechanics is essential if one wants to hold a position of an aviation manager. However, good mechanics require minimal if any managerial skills.

General Aviation Operations

General aviation often includes non-scheduled civil flying, both private and commercial. General aviation includes air charter, ballooning, parachuting and aerial photography among others. There is an acute difference in the manner in which each country regulates its aviation. These regulations depend on either private or commercial basis and the form of equipment involved thereon. Most manufacturers of small aircrafts focus on general aviation market with a focus on both flight training and private aviation. Recently, many small aircrafts were introduced with advanced avionics such as GPS which were previously found only in large airliners. Furthermore, with respect to general aviation, there has been the introduction of composite materials to make small aircrafts lighter and faster (A career as an aircraft mechanic, 2002).

Indeed, both ultralight and the homebuilt aircrafts have been increasingly popular in the industry for recreation use since in most countries they are relatively cheap and require minimal regulations. Antonov An-225 is perhaps the largest aircraft to be built. The Aircraft comes from Ukraine and was first introduced into the market in the 1980s. General aviation therefore encompasses a multi-agency scope with respect to players in the industries and aircraft equipment and personnel. As a result, the aircraft management is highly multi-tasked since it has to oversee the overall operations of the aircrafts. Aircraft mechanics therefore need a wide range of skills. On the other hand, aviation operations managers coordinate the performance of the aircrafts with a view of maximizing profits and minimizing the costs therefore selecting the most cost-effective mechanical options as per the human capital supply (Bull & Lax, 1997).

Airframe Operations and Powerplant Technology

Knowledge of aircrafts in Airframe Operations and Powerplant technology is an important aspect that can make someone decide to obtain certification as an aircraft mechanic. Typically, the Airframe Operations and Powerplant technology enable a person to undertake many professional activities. It is important for the long term growth. Indeed, these operations enhance safety of airlines. Furthermore, the personnel are responsible for repairing and maintaining the jets. Additionally, they perform a thorough inspection of all the components of aircrafts with a view of identifying and rectifying a problem for a safe take off and landing of the aircrafts. Besides, Airframe operators listen to typical and special descriptions of aircraft problems, establish the causative agents and finally repair them (National Research Council U.S., 2012).

These functions concur with those of aircraft mechanics. At the completion of A&P course, a person is able to perform as an aircraft mechanics though a further certification may be a prerequisite. Among the main concept of A&P course are: Corrosion controls, Powerplant Inspection, Cabin Control Systems and Turbine engines among others. Besides, the person engaging in this career also learns the important regulations as per the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) (National Research Council U.S., 2012).

Aviation Operations Management

Aviations Operations Management is quite essential for the running of an airline in the sense that it helps in transporting both people and commodities to their respective destinations. Basically, both airlines and other major avionics equipment use sophisticated components which call for highly trained professionals. Additionally, such equipment also requires efficient control and maintenance for effective operations. Indeed, effective management of the avionics equipment is pivotal for ensuring that such equipment is run safely and timely. As a result, the management team in the aviation industry comprises of a unique group of individuals who have extensive training in a number of areas, often called the multi-disciplinary training. These training segments include: mechanics and aviation maintenance; traffic control and piloting trainings among others. Aviation Operations Management basically requires some special skills which enhance the safety of customers. Consequently, this field is regulated by the FAA (Bull & Lax, 1997).

Aviation Operations Safety

The Aviation Operations Safety is a major concern of the aircraft services practitioners. Basically, the essentials of any business are the creation of a good customer rapport with a view of creating a sound customers’ loyalty. According to s statistical study by Heinrich, it is estimated that about 1 fatal accident occurs in the event that 300 incidences take place. This study was reinforced by Frank Byrd who found that for every 600 incidences there is 1 fatal accident. The Management deals with the Figures presented by the studies to pressurize the technical panel to act in such a way that would help to reduce incidences of fatalities to the minimum level possible (National Research Council U.S., 2012).

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also set up safety standards among the personnel in the workplace. In this regard, it is clear that some people suffer from fatal incidences due to information gap concerning the presence and the level of fatality of the hazards in the workplace; these regulations are manifested in about 25 countries across the globe. For instance, the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is most frequently used (Bull & Lax, 1997). Finally, managers can also constitute an internal framework that may enhance safety of both aircraft operations and the entire organization.

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