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Graduates Pursue a Bright Career in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering
  • “Aircraft maintenance engineers play an important role as the guardian of aviation safety.”
  • “Aircraft maintenance engineers play an important role as the guardian of aviation safety.”
  • “Aircraft maintenance engineers play an important role as the guardian of aviation safety.”
  • “Aircraft maintenance engineers play an important role as the guardian of aviation safety.”

“Aircraft maintenance engineers play an important role as the guardian of aviation safety.”

Dec 2013

Airplanes have always been objects of fantasy for many, and it is no wonder that a recent television drama that centred on the aviation industry became an instant hit. While pilots and flight attendants often come to mind at the mention of aeroplanes, aircraft maintenance engineers also play an important role as the guardian of aviation safety.

Aircraft maintenance engineering has different branches. The television series mainly portrayed the job of line maintenance engineering personnel, but it only showed segments of the actual work they do. “Line maintenance engineers need to conduct regular inspections on transiting aircraft, so they come into contact with pilots and the cabin crew more frequently,” said Thomas Chan, Head of Section (training schemes and license) of Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company (HAECO). Besides running safety check-ups and maintenance before take-off or after landing, line maintenance engineers also need to make sure the cabin, including lighting and in-flight entertainment systems, function normally.

Not all aircraft maintenance engineers of HAECO are based at the passenger terminal. Airframe maintenance engineers, responsible for larger-scale maintenance and repairs, work at its airframe maintenance facility in Chek Lap Kok, a 61,000-square-metre complex which boasts three maintenance hangars. In addition to that, some of HAECO’s engineers and technicians are sent to Tseung Kwan O, where HAECO has a 10,000-square-metre facility built for component overhauls.

As aircraft maintenance is indispensable to air traffic safety, the Civil Aviation Department has laid out strict requirements for engineers specialising in line or airframe maintenance. All of them can only be granted a Category B license after going through 13 examination modules and completing an essay, for which the passing grade is set at 75 percent. Besides the license, aircraft maintenance engineers-to-be also need to sit for type trainings and examinations designated for different aircraft, in order to ensure that they have the professional knowledge to determine if the aircraft are fit for flying.

HAECO’s trainee programmes, which are designed for candidates of different education levels, are good starting points to launch a career in aircraft engineering, as the company, the city’s largest maintenance, repair and operations service provider, can provide all-rounded on-the-job training. But Mr. Chan noted that a higher diploma in aircraft maintenance engineering offered by IVE would help graduates get ahead in their careers: “The programme totally fulfils the requirements of our internal training system. Graduates can be exempted from certain examination modules if they have already passed them during their studies at IVE.” With several years of training, they can become aircraft maintenance engineers relatively quickly – and their qualifications are recognised internationally.

Alex Ang and Danson Chan, who graduated from IVE in 2006 and 2008 respectively, acquired the engineer license from the Civil Aviation Department in about five years. Both of them agreed that the IVE training was tough and demanding, but the efforts have paid off. “It was a lot more difficult than I thought,” said Mr. Ang, an airframe maintenance engineer at HAECO. “I attended lectures from day to night, and I had to undergo training in Guangzhou. There were summer courses, too.” Mr. Chan, who is now a line maintenance engineer, said the academic training at IVE has deepened his interests in aviation: “You have learnt the theories behind the components, so you feel more satisfied if you succeed in repairing them.”

Even though the work can be very challenging at times, Mr. Thomas Chan stressed that aircraft engineering is a career with concrete goals and long-term prospects. “Hong Kong has become an important aviation hub in Asia-Pacific especially since the opening of the then new Hong Kong International Airport in 1998. Despite competitions from other cities, Hong Kong enjoys its own edge as it has well-established infrastructure and logistics networks. More importantly, it is a gateway to China,” said Mr. Chan. “Against the backdrop of rapid development in the region, aircraft technicians and engineers are amongst the most sought-after talents in the coming years. A report by the Boeing Company predicted that the Asia-Pacific region alone will need an additional 210,000 aircraft maintenance worker in the next two decades.”

Any tips for students interested in pursuing a career in aircraft maintenance engineering? “They have to be eager learners, as there are always breakthroughs in aviation technologies,” Mr. Chan said. He also highlighted a good command of English as an essential quality, as engineers need to familiarise themselves with maintenance manuals written in English, and communicate with pilots and cabin crew from around the world. However, nothing is more important than honesty. “If they make mistakes, they have to report them,” Mr. Chan said. “They have to learn and stop making the same mistakes again.” Otherwise, it might lead to grave consequences, and endanger the safety of passengers.

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