View Full Version : British Aircraft Maintenance On The Decline

23rd Oct 2010, 21:40
After a recent spate of MRO's making employees redundant within the past year,and another major swiss MRO having set up a maintenance facility in Malta, i cannot help but feel that the cost of the British Engineer has either become an expensive commodity or that these so called MRO's Value our Cheaper Foreign National Counter parts.

I am not saying the British are the worlds best Aircraft Engineers by no means, but the level of training an individual has to go through to obtain the basic licence and then jump through various hoops within an UK145 organisation too maintain ones approval and keep recency are perhaps some of the most demanding within the Q.A world.

It was reported in the Independent News Paper that certain individuals employed at the Maltese Maintenance Facility were ex and current Dock Yard Workers, and others from Non-Specific Aviation background.

And it is very obvious that the cost base may determine a companies decision too move out of the U.K, but that does'nt make it right.

Perhaps it is just me complaining and having a moan, but when costs have been cut too the bone and the Company wants more cost savings..

.......................................would you be willing too compromise safety.

This is not a Nationalistic Swipe at our European Brothers/Sisters, just i am interested in peoples views on the decline on yet another British Institution..That being the British Engineer.

Alber Ratman
23rd Oct 2010, 23:31
Time will tell, when subsquent inspections, accidents or other things show the levels of competance not to be as good..

23rd Oct 2010, 23:53
I'm grateful that I'm nearing the end of my career.

24th Oct 2010, 06:15
It's not so much the cost of the engineer but the reduced costs of the others, in this case the dockyard workers. When I was at ASTA they employed ex car workers etc, some basic training, and away they went. When I was at BAMC they employed ex mine and car workers, some training and away they went.

The basic engineering skills were there, with some specific training they were let loose on a/c under the supervision of the engineers. Of course these people were employed on a lot less than the experienced mechanic/technician. So the cost base was reduced.

Don't get me wrong some of these guys were very skilled indeed. Those that weren't were in the seat shop etc.

So is the cost of an engineer proportional to the safety level, quite possibly only time and a few major incidents will tell.

Would I be willing to compromise on safety, absolutely not and never will or have done knowingly. I've made mistakes of course as I am human, and you learn from them.

Krystal n chips
24th Oct 2010, 09:12
Employing cheap, in comparison to aircraft trained personnel that is, staff is fine...in theory... and is far from exclusive to the company or location mentioned.

The problem that arises however is one of cost when it all goes rather wrong....see paintstrippers in Shannon I seem to recall....and "how to scrap a Tornado...or two..or three...etc" at St.Athan as a couple of classic examples.

24th Oct 2010, 11:39
Unfortunately EASA & most of the NAA's (including the CAA) are gutless,commercially led arbiters of not a lot.Having seen examples of serious safety non compliance issues highlighted & not acted upon I have no faith.
The bottom line is cost & while you must have profit to have a job,its gone to far - Knowing the cost & not the value springs to mind.
Have a search on google about the stink regarding the quality of 'of shore' maintenance on QANTAS aircraft.

Safety Concerns
24th Oct 2010, 12:18
And just as EASA may be gutless so are engineers. Gutless bunch of prima donna's chasing their own pot of gold rather than presenting a common front.

Who signs off all these below par aircraft?

Your finished, the end is near and still you don't grasp the bigger picture.

24th Oct 2010, 12:52
Dang I always get discouraged everytime I read threads as such and I'm just at the begining of my career.
Can't you be a bit more positive guys?
Why don't you mention the bright side of aircrafts engineering instead of pulling the wool over our eyes.:bored:

24th Oct 2010, 13:09
No wool being pulled me old,its a great career,I've had a ball & the potential is still there.The regulators lacks of balls has always been a perennial 'Elephant In The Room'.As regulatory entities I don't think EASA or the NAA's do enough,but have friends in both who are good people.

I don't know what Safety Concern is on about,he appears to have gone off on a recipricol,mind you it's handy he know's every single engineer in the industry & has reviewed all the releases they've ever signed,so is able to give us the benefit of his 'informed' opinion.

Safety Concerns
24th Oct 2010, 13:24
you see woptb you are part of the problem.

you all gob off about how bad it is, how things are going down the drain, how nobody has balls except you. All engineers are doing the job properly, you even mention some rubbish in Australia.

Yet just answer the question. Who signed off the poor standards you mentioned in your post?

24th Oct 2010, 15:27
This post was fielded out there into the big blue yonder (woptb) just too appreciate the feedback from various other engineers doing what he or she does on a daily basis. I have no axe to grind and only have interest in the industry as a whole.

And well what i meant by safety concerns is that as profits become so much more important, does this mean safety may be compromised.

I used too work for an airline that shipped the big white birds down to GAMCO too undergo maintenance including lists of ADD's for a scheduled clean up, but the poor beast came out with Same ADD's and not all of the work being completed...But the Aircraft was still signed off, now there's a suprise.

I don't claim too represent any other opinion other than my own, and i may not claim too have all the facts but i do have a very accurate source, that being somebody on the inside of a recent new maintenance facility and so kind of trust my source.

Again this thread is just too get a feel of how it really is out there.

For all the newcomers coming into the industry, do not be put off by this post at all, i have been in the industry for only 10 years, not long by anybody's standards, but i can vouch as many others may, that i do not regret one day, and have a passion for what i do, and i hope you guys and girls feel the same.

I suppose the common theme too this thread is perhaps not just aircraft related but in essence a global problem within all industries, i.e. when the going gets tough, foreign owned companies pull away from the U.K due to the high labour cost, Protectionism, which our previous Administrators and the current two vowed would not allow such events to happen, by way of delegation and negotiation within the business world.

On a Final note it is good to so far gauge the general consensus is that some are not willing too compromise themselves with respect to safety and quite right too, and to those individuals i thank you for maintaining the professionalism and integrity within the industry.

Safety Concerns
24th Oct 2010, 15:35
I don't claim too represent any other opinion other than my own, and i may not claim too have all the facts but i do have a very accurate source, that being somebody on the inside of a recent new maintenance facility and so kind of trust my source.

So what are you claiming that your good trustful source has helped you with?

Based on the post itself you seem to be claiming that standards have dropped but when pushed back off.


24th Oct 2010, 15:37
There is a clue???!! b1&b2 engineer how many jobs has he/she taken???,also has his/her wages gone-up as much or the equivalent of a,c ,x,r???:ouch:,

Sailor Alan ex Brat
24th Oct 2010, 16:26
You might like to see my post on BA Maintenance!

Safety Concerns
24th Oct 2010, 16:42
are we supposed to guess where your post is?

24th Oct 2010, 17:39
Safety Concerns is either a failed engineer or works in Operations!;)

Safety Concerns
24th Oct 2010, 18:41
It is very simple. Either there is an issue or there isn't. If there isn't what are you posting?

If there is, spill your heart out, we are here to help.

24th Oct 2010, 18:57
I thought i would never De-base my level too that of Safety Concerns, but Flightmech. Well Put, Dear Chap! Well put:D:D

This individual Obviously does not have the capacity to involve themselves in intelligent debate without using purile comments that do not assist in anyway what so ever..

Please Safety Concerns Take your childish Comments and go seek Professional help!!

That way when you feel you might add something constructive too the thread, then maybe people might want too listen.

Again you are entitled too your opinion, but dear chap, please do Pprune a favour and other members on this site and keep your niave narrow minded opinion of yours inside that Purile venomous mind that god gave you to use for more intelligent debate ( Which you clearly cannot grasp the idea of just yet, but i do look forward too maybe something intelligent soon).

I thank you.

Safety Concerns
24th Oct 2010, 19:09
Well we got an answer. The whole thing was about nothing.
Typical engineer. Mountains out of molehills.

As a person having both relatives and colleagues in Malta I find your original post offensive. You want to suggest that the organisations in question are not up to scratch but you haven't got the backbone to say it. Now you are determined to wander off topic.

Then comes woptb with Having seen examples of serious safety non compliance issues highlighted & not acted upon I have no faith.

Why can't you answer the question you pillars of safety. Who signed these things off?

Sailor Alan ex Brat
24th Oct 2010, 19:25

Please posess your soul in patience, as I am having to.

I posted and await the webmaster's clearance before it appears.

When it does, you will see that it is appropriate and, Mea Culpa, I now realise that it should have been added here instead of starting a new thread.

Regards to all,

24th Oct 2010, 20:32
Safety Concerns

"Typical Engineer"

From that statement I'm leading towards Operations:E

One Outsider
24th Oct 2010, 20:48
Everybody knows the answer to Safety Concern's question. Which is why nobody wants to answer it.

Log and own eye springs to mind.

24th Oct 2010, 23:25
The truth is that there is no formal standard for an unlicenced 'fitter' to work in MROs - only supervisors need to have "proper" qualifications and in some MROs they somehow get around having what I would like to see as a "fair" amount of B1/B2 guys.

So it doesn't matter, EASA-wise, what the fitters' background is, and if they have local training to give him/her an idea of what is required, whats the issue?

Yes, there is a money-wise background to MRO contracts, but we're all out here to make money first. We are paid to do what we do as safely as possible, and that opinion of safety varies in different peoples minds.

25th Oct 2010, 01:31
Everybody knows the answer to Safety Concern's question. Which is why nobody wants to answer it.

Log and own eye springs to mind

Fill me in on the answer & while your at it enlighten me as to what your last sentence means?

PS.I hope Safety Concerns is on a wind up,if not he'll need an awful lot of Sarsons to put on his chips.

Gas Bags
25th Oct 2010, 14:17

Just read Safety Concerns previous posts and all will come to light. You hit the nail on the head.....He is good at what he does!


25th Oct 2010, 15:51
All a bit airmech-ish this isn't it.

Safety concerns does have a point though, even though I would have advocated in a different way!

Let me educate you on the position engineers are in. Poachers turned gamekeepers like yourself are part of a top heavy management structure making often poor decisions. We are over-ruled and under represented, we cannot make a stand because we do not have the resources. The spanner turners are not interested in climbing the ladders, but we are small in numbers.

Failures are everywhere. From the regulation structure, airlines, managers, and engineers.


My companies quality manager wanted to bring in the unlicensed company approved CRS holder.
The authorities have sanctioned a management performance related pay structure for CRS holders with operational key indicators!
The engineers that took this supervisors role signed a half written t&cs contract!

Who needs enemies when you have friends like that!! Until a solidarity culture is employed from the top, a bit of respect is seen from all sides, we are in a sticky situation. These are some of the views from someone with 30 odd years until retirement.

Unfortunately the bean counter will always prevail!

25th Oct 2010, 19:41
Unfortunately as a group,engineers have handed the stick to management with which they can beat us. The 'Can'Do' ethos seems to be part of our DNA,it can be a great thing,but habitually we continue to get the job done minus large elements of support,which should be in place.
We underrate our importance,we don't seem capable of presenting a united front.

25th Oct 2010, 20:46
I'm sorry!!! I am not an aircraft engineer so maybe should not be posting here. However, I have been in the Aviation Business for 23 years looking after the maintenace records and making sure the aircraft that you guys work on is fat dumb and happy as far as it's maintenance and paperwork is concerned.
I take a great deal of concern in insuring that maintenance is called up and done on time. If it isn't I crawl all over the engineers. However, now in Business management, my belief is that, you might be able to afford a great big lump of metal, but that is not all there is to it. Owners, from my opinion, and it is only my opinion, fail to realise that their aircraft need maintenance. My biggest bug bear is that there seems to be a huge lack of understanding within the rest of the unit ie: operations that the aircraft MUST BE ON THE GROUND FOR MAINTENANCE!!!!.

25th Oct 2010, 20:49
Nice theory SM.

How long does this take to achieve in practice?

Has Shell already managed to do this?

Or... is Shell just being told this is done?

25th Oct 2010, 22:37
My biggest bug bear is that there seems to be a huge lack of understanding within the rest of the unit ie: operations that the aircraft MUST BE ON THE GROUND FOR MAINTENANCE!!!!.

You will never get that message through.
Engineers are stuck on Earth, Pilots live up in the clouds & Ops people live on Pluto - so remote you just have to wonder!

25th Oct 2010, 22:58
I totally agree with you woptb, the management do beat the Engineers with a rather large wooden stick, demanding more for less, and as you put it we all have that can do attitude, no matter what, well within reason.
It is true that us Engineers should unite and band together but for some unknown reason,we don't.

Now i think it was only recent that a rather large exclusive airline had a vote too enable the ALAE too become their political voice, but there was'nt enough proportional representation too allow this too go ahead, please do correct me if i have got my facts wrong, as this was gleamed from a colleague, and well rumour network as anybody knows is an active zone.

I mean the Pilots have BALPA, and, ok from reading a few of the posts from some of the Bus Drivers,(No Offense any pilots reading this) on their thread, their union does have quite a strong political voice.

It would be interesting if some bright spark could actually forge interest in a national unionised body that Licensed and unlicensed Engineers would feel a benefit of joining, that also would include drumming up support for the current ALAE. As currently i talk too some of my work colleagues some are in favour and some are'nt of joining a union.

But all in all i have read some interesting replies and beeline you actually too spoke of home truths within the industry.


26th Oct 2010, 00:06
Shell Management,some interesting points raised in the presentation you linked to.
HF training is compulsory within 145 organisation,as is an errror reporting/management system but, the training is useless without a Just Culture. At its most basic if people can't put their hands up to error its a dead duck,likewise Maintenance Resource Management can work,but only with management who buy into its ethos.
Whilst engineers are viewed purely as a cost rather than an assett,management philosophy will remain short termist,problems will keep repeating themselves & we are condemned continually to re-inventing the wheel.
Its my experience that compliance is a fiction & will remain so until the bean counters realise 'it' (compliance), error management & effective reporting systems make sense both in terms of safety but,(more importantly to the bean counters) commercially.
The Commercial imperative blindly drives non-compliance.Until there is a real awareness of the dangers,metaphorically they'll continue to fiddle while Rome burns.

29th Oct 2010, 19:32
If by compliance monitoring, you mean process/procedure monitoring, then unfortunately you’re missing a trick.
There is very often (nearer to always!) a gap between what procedures & processes require & what actually happens. If you did relieve all non-compliant engineers of certification privileges; you’d have very few maintainers!
The majority of violations (Rule Breaking) are system induced (around 80%).You have to understand why they aren’t following procedure; Very often procedures aren’t fit for purpose, whether they be too prescriptive, confusing or often just plain wrong. Is the organisation (metaphorically) giving them the tools to carry out tasks safely, timely & effectively, what’s the work environment like?
I wouldn’t say a Just Culture is important it’s vital; we HAVE to understand why people violate, the behaviours & particularly the intent (very few people set out to do a bad job). If the organisation’s are 145's or if they operate under your 145, they’re required to have a reporting system or use yours, do they? High levels of (MEMS) reporting are a mark of high reliability organisations. If they don’t have high reporting levels you need to find out why, you need to know what type of culture they have.
There have been many so called ‘Quality Assured’ aircraft accidents, procedures/processes on paper can appear perfect, but do they work in the real world?

Sailor Alan ex Brat
29th Oct 2010, 20:13
""There is very often (nearer to always!) a gap between what procedures & processes require & what actually happns" writes woptb

As a long-retired Quality Assurance Manager, the first page of the quality manual which I wrote, and audited against, quoted what I was taught as an apprentice "Work to the procedures or get them changed if they are unworkable or wrong"

If you dont, then it is tantamount to saying "There are potholes in the road so I will drive on the pavement [sidewalk for the benefit of our transatlantic cousins!].

Maybe because we, as groundcrew ,very often flew in the aircraft we maintained we had a slightly stricter view of getting it right. Also, if the aircraft is carring things that go bang [as ours were] this also concentrated the mind somewhat.......

29th Oct 2010, 21:20
I love the pot holes in the road/pavement analogy.I agree wth everything you say,bye the bye,I'm also ex mil now civvy,but really can you truely say you 'always' followed procedures throughout your career?;
Fair play if you did,although I'd say you're in a tiny minority.
I like to think I was a safe engineer when on the tools - I look back on my career & if the truth be known,I've increased risk,'at the time' & for lots of different reasons-I thought it was the right thing to do,but I was wrong.Some of the stuff I did it makes my hair curl!
I've worked with some truely exceptional engineers over the years & I know they didn't always work to procedure.

Sailor Alan ex Brat
30th Oct 2010, 08:18
You may gather, from my log-in name, where I started.

To the best of my knowlege I did obey the rules.

Incidentally, it seems that the post I referred to way back in this thread was not passed by the webmaster. Possibly because I name the airline. In essence I said that if the sevicing of the electronics in the cabin was the same as that on the flight deck, then I was worried!

4th Nov 2010, 12:36
Why do these threads always descend into a "let's knock the foreigners/management/pilots" theme? Why does it have to be somebody else's fault? Anybody's fault? The world is changing, and aviation has been largely responsible by making it a smaller place. We have to move with that world.

The traditional mindset was "we must maintain our own airplanes". That was fine as long as the costs could be passed on to the customers. Trouble is, customers don't want to pay them any more, so air transport providers are pushed to reduce costs which in turn means looking at different ways of working. Unsurprisingly when aircraft can be flown to a country where labour rates are half of their home base rates, it makes economic sense to position larger checks in the cheaper location where the cost of the journey is offset by the labour savings, and keep only small jobs close to home.

I can understand we might not like this, but the economic imperatives are so strong what is the point of arguing about it? Operators who don't reduce their costs will lose money and go out of business. What of UK jobs then?

I can't understand though, why people seem to insist on equating low wage economies with unskilled labour. EASA through its various rules provides a framework to control maintenance organisations, their staff skills and the ratio of skilled to unskilled staff. If you guys feel this is not being addressed is that simply an issue of oversight? Or just sour grapes?

4th Nov 2010, 14:17
is that simply an issue of oversight?


I've seen time and time again over the years substandard work from certain parts of the world where labour may be cheap. I'm not saying that every British engineer is perfect but outsourced cheap labour can sometimes be cheap for a reason.

These lads abroad may be more than capable with the right training and experience but an MRO with a tight contract will pile on the pressure to get the job done for its customer to a set standard rather than to a high standard.

Having seen some very poor wiring repairs, swarf left all over the stringers after skin repairs and corrosion conveniently not seen on c-checks when it blatantly would have been obvious it does seem apparent that some corners are being cut.

It's not all bad from these places but I think most of us would like to see standards all round lifted rather than constantly lowered with MROs outbidding each other to the bottom whereby they can't afford to employ the right staff to do the work.

15th Nov 2010, 12:08
Your on the money with your comments.The regulators have the regulations,but NOT the will to enforce them,unfortunately it comes back to money/economics.Their role is to maintain safe flight,nothing more - there must be political will to give them the impetus,this is missing. The European airlines are a powerful economic lobby & it seems the regulators are powerless to resist.

19th Nov 2010, 21:13
Well heres my two pennorth.

In the past working in the gulf I have seen some horrendous practices. very high pressure was applied to the mechanics in particular, i.e. say 'no' and you might not have a job. A carefull licensed engineer soon learned to check everything for his own protection nevermind that of the passengers. I saw one or two grisly accidents based on using poorly trained staff under minimal supervision.
Back here in the UK I percive things as beginning to move down the same road. Too many people running engineering departments have no real understanding of the operational environment, as some one has already said they know the cost but not the value. secondly too many licensed engineers do not have the courage to stand their ground. I have enjoyed every minute of it but I'll be glad to be out of it.

1st Dec 2010, 05:35
Personally, I think that it is cyclic.

The economy is hurting everything, especially the British licenced engineer. The British engineer will turn out a quality product, because his/her standards are significantly higher than his/her Eastern European, Asian, African or American counterparts.


1. Language. The language of aviation is English. A native English speaker immediately has the advantage during theory and classwork. Is able to assimilate and gain knowledge quicker if one does not need to translate it first.

2. Apprenticeships and colleges. Most instructors immediately instil the belief that the British Engineer's licence is probably the hardest of all to obtain and once it is earned, you have risen to the status of a true professional. This professionalism stays with one throughout one's career. It takes an average of seven years to become a fully qualified B1 or B2 with a couple of type ratings.

3. British aviation history. Apart from the USA, Britain has (or used to have) one of the most advanced aviation manufacturing industries in the world.

4. Regulation. The UK CAA has consistently maintained the level of standards for a licensed engineer at the top tier of all the other European agencies. Corruption or impropriety would never be associated within the establishment.

5. Law. A licenced engineer is always reminded that it is his/her licence on the line every time a CRS is signed. There are very few institutions that would support someone who was prosecuted for negligence.

However this quality product that the British engineer produces, comes at a price. And too right it should!

Unfortunately Airlines are run by accountants who cannot quantify this quality in pounds, euros or dollars. All they see is the bottom line.

However, I believe that when they realise that poor workmanship performed at a cheaper establishment will turn out to be a false economy. Aircraft will start becoming unreliable, and heaven forbid, possibly a few accidents will happen. Or the regulators will clamp down.

The accountants will be forced to look for quality engineers (and I don't mean QA). The experts will be back in demand.

All you have to do is look at some MROs in the Far East or Middle East. All the top blokes are Brits!

Hi Lok
7th Dec 2010, 21:18

8th Dec 2010, 11:36
Wnglit I agree with many of your comments,but your statement;

" The British engineer will turn out a quality product, because his/her standards are significantly higher than his/her Eastern European, Asian, African or American counterparts."

Is patent nonsense.Have you worked with ALL the engineers from all the areas you list & at all the maintenance facilities.Being bitter about the way things are is understandable.
The idea that if English isn't your mother tongue that your a lesser engineer is ludicrous. Having worked all over the world,it's been my experience that the engineers & organisations (particularly in N America & the Far East) have standards similar & (in some cases) higher to those in the UK.I've worked with Muppets of many nationalities & they weren't all from outside the UK!
Don't start slating fellow engineers without some genuine basis to do so.

8th Dec 2010, 14:42
I agree with woptb, having working many engineers from all over the world it really isn't fair to say unless you are English you are not as good. During 40 some years one of the best engineer I worked for was from Khartoum and another from Spain. Its like saying all Americans are fat all Aussies big headed take everyone as you find them the world does not center around LHR as we found out when the world cup draw was made :mad:

8th Dec 2010, 14:48
Of course woptb, that's your opinion and you're entitled to it. I was just expressing mine which happens to be slightly different.

I didn't expect to post it without upsetting someone! It is very un-PC and very un-British!

However I stand by my comment. I too have worked all over the world. In fact I currently live overseas and work as an Overseas Station Engineer for a UK airline. I hold UK B1/B2, FAA A&P with IA and Canadian AME. The British one was by far the most difficult to earn, and is the most strictest one to maintain with all my type ratings.

8th Dec 2010, 18:44
I found the A&P easy,a lot depended on who set your oral & practical,likewise there were UK surveyors under the old BCAR system who could give you a hard & others a relatively easy time.I found the CASA exams more difficult,but the OZ guys were no more 'stellar' as engineers than Brits I worked with.
To mangle an old saying,"licence doth not maketh man".Whilst at BA in the 90's there were guys wth tickets & approvals up the Ying Yang who couldn't walk & chew bubble gum! I've met many who could never pass the essay questions & others who got tongue tied & could never pass the oral,they weren't lesser engineers than me.
What you say doesn't annoy me ,it's just odd that someone whose demonstrated the 'Noble Laureate like' levels of intelligence required to become a UK licenced engineer,isn't able to comprehend that nationality, or where your licence was issued has much bearing ,on your capabilities as an aircraft engineer.

8th Dec 2010, 19:46
You are correct.
As a non native english speaker i agree, english speaking people might have an advantage, in understanding what is written.
But one´s mechanical understanding does not have anything to do with whether your british, finnish, polish or any other nationality.
The culture you grow up in on the other hand definitely has an influence in the way you approach things, and perceive as correct, and/or orderly.
Hence the fact that mr.winglit probably has not written "western europe" in his thread.
I would have a hard time imagining the Germans, the Austrians, the Swiss, and the Scandinavians just to mention a few, as having subpar standards to the british.
And he is quite correct in using past tense albeit in brackets as well, in regards to the comment about british aviation history. I think a lot of countries have caught up and in many cases surpassed said country in aviation manufacturing, and this even by countries with supposedly inferior qualifications and standards.

Alber Ratman
8th Dec 2010, 20:08
Polish wirelocking is mostly awful...:E

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