At the recently concluded Seminar of the Society of Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers of Nigeria (SLAMEN) in Lagos, the Director General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Capt. Usman Muhtar in his keynote address to the participants said:
”During the early days of aviation, maintenance was performed as necessary and the machines often required several hours of maintenance time for every hour of flying time. The major maintenance activities were overhauling of almost everything on the aircraft on a periodic basis. Even though aircraft and their associated systems were quite simple at that time, maintenance carried out in this manner was very expensive. With the increased complexity of aircraft systems the expenses also increased accordingly.
In the aviation industry unlike in other modes of transportation, we cannot pull off the road to fix a problem whenever an issue crops up. Accordingly, regulations have developed to ensure that all maintenance requirements must be met before an aircraft can be released into service.
There are many challenges in aviation maintenance. The challenge of finding , training and keeping qualified personnel in the aviation industry is very high. Most organisations struggle with the challenge of maintaining ageing aircraft while staying abreast with evolving aircraft, system, avionics and test equipment technology. Organisations feel the pinch of providing fair wages and benefit while trying to control the cost of every man-hour involved in maintenance. They struggle to minimize the cost of mistakes and maximize in a continuing manner, aircraft, workers and passenger safety.
The greatest challenge is, however, the need to maintain professionalism and personal integrity in the face of enormous pressure as the responsibility of flying passengers safely is huge. Every Aircraft Maintenance Engineer faces a situation they have to decide whether to release an aircraft for flight by ticking all the boxes or to hold it back for some additional maintenance that may not be needed immediately but can cause trouble later and also cause them extra expense and delay.
How an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer deals with this constitutes the greatest challenge of all. It does determine the level of professionalism and integrity in the long run and also is a measure of the overall personal satisfaction from the career of an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer. Workers must be internally as well as externally motivated to ”do the right thing” that includes attitudes and behaviors on topics like uncompromised compliance with company procedure and technical documentation; understanding and adherence to fitness for duty requirements with particular regard for fatigue issues; sensitivity to culture and the importance of workplace communication among diverse ages and nationalities and other non-technical and technical behavioral patterns and performance. Again, like safety culture, professionalism is contagious.
However recent reports have attributed 18% of all accidents to maintenance factors. The aircraft inspection/maintenance system is a complex one with many interrelated human and machine components. The linchpin of the system is however, the human. Since it is difficult to eliminate error altogether, continuing emphasis must be placed on developing interventions to make inspection and maintenance more reliable and/or more error tolerant”.