Undeniable Reason Why A&P Techs Especially Avionics Should Seek The GROL
We all agree that aircraft systems are becoming more technologically advanced. As I was maturing as a mechanic on F-16s and A-10s, I started learning to do simple tasks like using a multimeter and taking out stuck screws. Doing this was against orders of supervision because of other mechs, including myself, have broken aircraft parts and tools (Oooops). In my opinion, not allowing mechanics to expand their skills is the wrong approach. How many of you get upset when a shop pulls up to your jet and tells you to open up a panel? Just thinking about it boils your blood, right? If you plan to work on aircraft after you separate from the service, be aware that civilian mechanics are often testing systems with a multimeter, swapping out avionics boxes, and troubleshooting avionics issues. The divide between mechanics and avionics is slowly disappearing due to advancements in aircraft. While the big airlines and larger flight departments have the luxury of employing mechanics and specialists in avionics most small to midsize flight operations can’t, and they need mechanics who are highly capable and trained in both areas. I’m not sure if you have experienced this or not, but our leadership is results-oriented, whether you like it or not. And the civilian world is all about results as well, and if you don’t deliver you’ll be out of a job and go hungry.
Those who learn to do both mechanical and electronics work become valued team members and have more career opportunities, especially if they master both. Unfortunately, the FAA has no certificate for the avionics specialty and no official plans to implement one. Currently, the FCC General Radio Operator License (GROL) is the most commonly accepted license amongst employers for avionics techs. The Air Force continues to build small teams to cross train maintainers who will have more capabilities which results in saving manpower and time. It’s really great that the USAF is looking to develop talent in the team.
If you’re a crew chief, start learning about fixing broken wires, using a multimeter and back up that knowledge and skills with a cert like a GROL. Then when you’ve separated and job hunting, the hiring manager may filter your resume out of the pile of resumes and move it to the top. Once on the team, you will be more valuable and have a greater chance to be around longer and have more opportunities for promotion and different jobs.
If you’re an avionics troop, start learning the mechanical side like changing tires, and sheet metal and then back it up with an A&P. The rivet gun is not scary as you think and squeezing those rivets with the bucking bar is smooth like butter. And when you go through the A&P course you’ll learn these basic practices as well.
The more I speak to leaders on USAF innovative teams and hiring managers and maintenance managers on the commercial aviation side, the more I hear that technicians are evolving into a hybrid of mechanics and spark chasing techs. As a maintenance leader, you need to ensure your troops receive the training and education to address the future demands of technological aircraft. Encourage your troops to learn, improve, and expand their skills which benefits their careers and the capabilities of your own maintenance teams.