The advancement of our national resource of properly educated and qualified aircraft and avionics technicians is imperative to our economic and military future. The National Center for Aircraft Technician Training (NCATT) in particular is helping to rejuvenate America’s advantage as the world’s foremost leader in modern aerospace technology.
Based in Fort Worth, Texas, NCATT (www.ncatt.org) offers technician training and certification solutions. Its industry, educational and other partners are identifying and setting training standards for avionics and aviation maintenance technicians. These "standards-based" programs provide the tools through which the individual technician meets or upgrades current and future education, training and certification requirements. The tools include an online training database owned and managed by the technician and open to all training record collections.
NCATT is not a membership-by-payment organization or an industry association. NCATT originated in 1999 through an industry stakeholders group that identified a need to recognize professional accomplishment, education and training of aircraft technicians, with an initial focus on avionics technicians. National Science Foundation funding for the project began in 2001 and continues today through grant funding requests by NCATT utilizing letters of support from industry stakeholders.
NCATT has facilitated the establishment of a series of standards and certifications that encompass the occupation of aircraft electronic technician (AET). These standards have been developed through NCATT workshops attended by educators, the U.S. military’s aircraft electrical technician instructor corps, airlines, aircraft and avionics manufacturers and other parties.
Having attended many of these workshops, I can speak both of the high level of cooperation and record-setting task completions by participants under the facilitation of NCATT staff. The standards are then structured in a format that makes them a useful tool for all to use. Technician certifications and training program accreditations are then established.
Industry certification standards are in use for the AET rating. Future standards have been identified, and include categories such as Advanced Digital, Enhanced/Synthetic Vision, Surveillance, Power Generation/Distribution, Autopilot, Weather Avoidance, Instruments and Inflight Entertainment. Navigation and communication systems certifications will soon be available with Installation/Integration close behind.
The long overdue recognition and certification of avionics technicians is well under way. The AET, or entry-level certification exam, is available in 23 countries at 1,300 testing center locations. More than 150 technicians are certified, with more gaining recognition weekly. Working technicians can receive certification for education previously accomplished in military and civilian education programs, and military technicians can receive a commercial aviation industry recognized certification for their military education prior to separation from service.
Accreditation is a tool to assist students, technicians and employers in locating educational or training programs that meet the NCATT standards. Providers have demonstrated that they meet the technical standards and are fully capable to provide instruction in a professional environment conducive to learning.
A database has been developed by Tarrant County College in Fort Worth to retain data on NCATT certified technicians. Tracking of newly established FAA training requirements for all certified repair stations is incorporated.
NCATT’s first educational program will be the industry-endorsed aircraft electronics technician curriculum to be incorporated into certificate, associate and baccalaureate degrees. As a function of the charter with the National Science Foundation, NCATT will provide academic curriculum free of charge to any educational institution.
As the owner of a FAA-certified radio repair station employing avionics technicians, I believe my company’s continued success depends on a future pool of these uniquely qualified individuals. NCATT provides a positive career advancement path. I strongly encourage the U.S. aviation industry and the National Science Foundation to continue to provide additional support for the NCATT program.
Rick Ochs is president of Spirit Avionics Ltd., Columbus, Ohio.