There is strength in numbers. Often aircraft mechanics are on an island, left to their own devices to work, inspect, and return to service aircraft and components. Most prefer it that way, and unless you work for a major airline or maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) organization, chances are you will perform maintenance-related tasks alone.
Solo work is not so terrible; some mechanics like to work alone. Even so, there comes a time when you need to commune with your own kind. I fondly remember hanging out behind the line shack, late-night cruises through the terminals in the crew truck, and playing baseball with shop rags wrapped in duct tape.
While those activities are essential, there are more formal ways to connect with fellow aviation maintenance types. One of the best ways to facilitate this is to join an organization. While this is not an exhaustive list, it is a good representation of what is out there. I chose the following organizations because I have personally been involved with each in some capacity in my career:
National Business Aviation Association (NBAA)
I first became aware of the NBAA in the early 1990s when I worked for a parts distributor for corporate aircraft. We supported the Beechcraft King Air platform and dealt with Cessna Citation and LearJet components. My first experience was at the NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE). If you have not attended one, words cannot describe the magnitude. The 2023 event will be in October at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Bring another suitcase to haul away all that swag.
Earlier this year, NBAA hosted a leadership conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. While the lineup was impressive, and the topics relevant for modern corporate aviation, there is another event the NBAA recently conducted that directly benefits aircraft maintenance professionals.
In May, the NBAA’s maintenance conference in Hartford, Connecticut, featured scheduled programs ranging from aircraft maintenance liability to hiring practices and cyber security. Andy Papathanassiou, NASCAR pit crew coach, delivered the keynote speech focused on team building. This conference will be a cannot miss for me in 2024.
Many airframe and powerplant (A&P) mechanics came up through the military or attended a trade school to obtain their license. I have the benefit of both. Alumni associations are a great way to stay connected and find common ground with others.
I am an Eagle, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has one of the more robust alumni networks in the nation. Life has been fairly hectic recently, so I am not quite as active as I would like. One arena I do mingle in is the school’s Eagle Authors club.
Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA)
Although technically for MRO businesses, the Aeronautical Repair Station Association is an excellent resource for anyone in the aviation business, maintenance or otherwise. It hosts events, conducts advocacy work, and provides intel on careers, among other things. As with other organizations, it also hosts an annual conference. For 2024, the dates are March 12-15, so start planning now if you wish to attend.
Most worthy organizations will have membership dues associated with joining. ARSA may seem pricey at first glance, but the benefit outweighs the cost if your maintenance department is a decent size. Its regulatory work alone is enough to validate the need. Trust me, aircraft maintenance could use a strong voice in Washington.
ARSA works to elevate the image of aviation maintenance professionals everywhere, regardless of work function. Its information site describes the industry while discussing careers, safety, and resources for mechanics. Give it a look, and seriously consider signing up you and your crew for a membership.
This is a mere snapshot of the aerospace associates you can align with. Networking is another benefit that does not receive enough attention. According to FinancesOnline.com, “Networking is important because 70 percent of all jobs are not advertised on job sites.”
Involvement in external organizations can be beneficial even if you are not actively in the job market. The camaraderie of like-minded individuals can help strengthen your job skills, build morale, and give you a sense of belonging and inclusion in today’s challenging career market.