The Composite AME

By Sam Longo — August 11, 2014

Modern aircraft utilize a plethora of high tech composite structures. These materials serve to enhance the flight characteristics by making them lighter and stronger, ultimately improving both their fuel range and safety. A composite is defined as being “made up of separate parts,” which leads me to an interesting question. What are the composite qualities and skills that make up a modern AME? What personal abilities are needed to enhance his or her performance in this rapidly changing world of high tech aviation?

The following 10 key areas are what I consider to be the necessary elements to be woven into the composite fabric of every modern AME. You may not agree with them all but they certainly provide some interesting food for thought.
Dexterity: The key ingredient for any mechanic, first and foremost, is to be good with their hands. This is a quality that may be genetically enhanced by past generations but no matter what the starting point, always improves with practice and experience.

Analytical Thinking: This is the ability to troubleshoot. Aircraft are increasingly complex with hundreds of interconnected systems. Being able to focus and decipher the nature of the problem and resolve it takes tenacity and experience—the larger the aircraft, the greater the challenge.

Processing Information Quickly: Modern aircraft manuals are large and comprehensive. Knowing how to navigate them to glean the key information required often takes time. Knowing your ATA chapters well is the obvious first step. When you do find that elusive maintenance procedure, follow it to the letter. Cutting corners can be very dangerous and has often ended in catastrophe.

Situational Awareness: Large commercial aircraft take up a lot of real estate. Knowing what is happening in and around the plane you are working on is critical for your safety and the people you work with. Everything you touch or move has consequences. Whether you are towing, jacking or even energizing a system switch it is imperative you are aware of the big picture around you.

Organizational Ability: This can be as simple as keeping a keen inventory on your tools or as complex as performing a maintenance procedure that requires stripping multiple components from an engine or airframe. The reality is, working in an organized manner almost always results in fewer mistakes, faster completion and a safer operation. Besides, having to do another engine change after it has ingested your 9/16 Snap-On wrench can ruin your whole day!

Navigating the Paper Trail: Dealing with the actual machine is just part of the job. The old adage of the plane being airworthy only once the paperwork outweighs the gross takeoff weight is not so far from the truth. Document compliance is a necessary evil of the world we work in, so learn to do it well. By the way this still includes clear, concise penmanship when filling out forms and logbooks. You can’t fix it if you can’t read it!

Human Factors Awareness: Perhaps one of the greatest improvements in the world of aircraft maintenance is mandatory Human Factors Training. It has improved the safety of the flying public as well as life on the hangar floor. It really boils down to two basic principles. First, understand your human limitations and second, learn from your mistakes. Receiving this training and remaining current is critical. Enhancing the safety of our work environment continues to be a very worthwhile endeavour.

Personality Traits: Yes it is still possible to be a solitary AME working in a deserted hangar far from the maddening crowd. However, most modern AMEs must function well within the confines of a large well-oiled team. (No pun intended.) In the manufacturing and airline sectors you will be assigned to crews. Be aware that you must always pull your weight and get along with your crewmates. Being a loner just doesn’t cut it in the big leagues.

Commitment to Life Long Learning: This is an absolute must in our business. Holding a valid AME licence demands that you be constantly committed to upgrading your skill and knowledge. Whether it means learning about a new aircraft, new technology, new regulations or new soft skill training you must always seek out the most up-to-date information.

Honesty and Integrity: No discussion about the skill set of an AME can be complete without this basic trait. All the work they do must be of the highest possible standard. Shoddy workmanship must never be tolerated and especially never, ever covered up. We are all human but the day that any AME is too proud or headstrong to openly admit a mistake is the day he should surrender his licence. For veterans and novices alike it is a privilege hard won and coveted for life.

As the technology of aircraft moves forward so must the skills and abilities of the people that maintain them. For a safe and secure future for our profession and the flying public, remaining stagnant is not an option. Fortunately, for most diligent AMEs their composite evolving nature, simply won’t allow it.
For more published writing by Sam Longo, please visit

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Sam Longo

Sam enjoys life in Toronto, Ontario. For more published writing by Sam Longo, please visit

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