You’re a hiring manager looking to add depth to your maintenance squad in a Part 91 business aviation flight department. You’ve got one position to fill, and one shot to bring in the right type of person to make an immediate and lasting impact on the team.

What qualifications are you looking for, and how do you rank the Inspection Authorization (IA) amongst a myriad of specialized certifications you might find on a maintenance resume?

At a minimum, the qualified candidate must possess an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certificate. (Bonus points for any aircraft type-specific experience they bring to the table). Up until recently, when it came to qualifying maintenance candidates, the FAA had only one differentiator to enhance an A&P: the Inspection Authorization (IA).

Scarce are the situations in a Part 91 flight department where you would need to exercise the privileges of an IA—especially those that inspect their aircraft in accordance with 91.409 (F) option 3: a current inspection program recommended by the manufacturer. You will not be signing off annual inspections, and you will most likely not be performing major repairs or alterations to the aircraft with your in-house maintenance team. It’s unlikely that someone on your maintenance staff will be called upon to sign an FAA Form 337 in a department that operates expensive jets with long warranty periods, maintained in accordance with manufacture recommendations.

So is the IA still valuable?

Employing IA holders is critical in an operation where it is necessary to perform annual and 100-hour inspections. Or, when major repairs/alterations are the norm. Many entry-level, labor intense maintenance positions offer these opportunities and may provide the impetus for newly minted technicians to endeavor for the IA when they become eligible.

However, within the context of the modern flight department it is appropriate to wonder about the weight and value of the IA. With limited training budget resources, should it remain a priority, or are there more applicable benchmarks that can be achieved?

Following are two non-FAA certifications that are moving the goalposts in terms of how we value maintenance technician experience. Both the AET and AERO IT certifications assess the knowledge and skills required to maintain the highly advanced computer networks that are modern jet aircraft.

Hiring? Consider an AET-certified mechanic

The ASTM NCATT Aircraft Electronics Technician Certification demonstrates competency in the areas of avionics and aircraft electronics. Coursework covers everything from basic electricity, electronic concepts and modern avionics design. The certification requires the technician to pass a rigorous test, with many industry-accepted training options available. Also, the technician is required to keep active status by renewing this certificate every five years. There are also endorsements available to add-on to this certificate, specializing in different navigation and radio communication systems.

In 2019, the FAA added bona fide clout to the already legitimate AET certification by approving it to satisfy the “formal training” requirement for obtaining an FAA Repairman Certificate (FAR PART 65.101 (a)(5)(ii)). Obtaining the AET plus one endorsement can now formally satisfy this training requirement. The Aircraft Electronics Association website contains even more information.

Clearly, an AET-certified technician who can prove knowledge and experience in avionics and aircraft electronics may be able to offer more value to a flight department than one who walks through the door with the traditional A&P IA combo.

Connectivity is key as is the AERO IT certification

Except for food service and lavatory functionality, few things affect passenger satisfaction as much as the internet connectivity in the cabin. Perhaps more importantly, most modern flight decks also rely on satcom systems for the delivery of safety services and ATC communication.

A technician that can prove aptitude in troubleshooting and repairing these complex connectivity systems should be sought after by every flight department. Satcom Direct has been innovating training solutions in this area for years and has developed the now well-recognized Aero IT Certification.

To obtain Aero IT Certification, a technician must successfully complete the comprehensive coursework and pass a written examination. This certification must be renewed every three years, providing the necessity for the technician to maintain up to date competence. Satellite and computer network troubleshooting and maintenance skills are now extremely valuable. These connectivity systems require routine updates as well as monitoring and repair. A resume showing Aero IT Certification should rise to the top of the pile for any flight department hiring manager.

These are two examples of skill certification that are helping to evolve how we describe aircraft technicians. Avionics, electronics, computer networking and internet connectivity were once niche, nice to have skills. They are now an absolute necessity, highly valuable and sought after. The question becomes, what do we do with the Inspection Authorization, while it neither measures nor indicates training in these areas? Does it still have value in the context of a flight department that will never need to exercise its privileges? I say it absolutely does when we recognize the experience and training that it takes to be certified.

What an IA tells us about a Maintenance Technician

Whenever you meet an A&P technician with IA privileges, you immediately know a few things about their experience and commitment. At a minimum, you know that this technician meets the qualifications specified in this partial list of the requirements detailed in FAR 65.91:
They currently hold both an airframe and powerplant rating.

  • The A and the P have both been current and active for at least three years.
  • They have been actively engaged in maintaining aircraft for at least two out of those three years.
  • They care enough about their craft to study for and pass a written test on the topic of returning aircraft to service after maintenance in accordance with part 43.

If a technician has held the IA for more than a two-year period, then you also can determine that they are willing and able to comply with the IA renewal standards detailed in Part 65.93. In general, they’ll have renewed according to work history, coursework, or re-testing requirements.

Aside from knowledge and experience interpreting the FAR’s, carrying an IA indicates that a technician is interested in self-improvement. Within the framework of musty Part 65, this is the only level-up option for a standard A&P. The work experience, study, and expense involved in passing the IA test should not be underestimated. It shows that a technician is driven and willing to work to achieve a goal.

Once achieved, an IA certification also indicates that the technician is willing to accept a higher level of responsibility and accountability for their work. This professionalism adds value to a flight department and helps hiring managers distinguish between equally experienced candidates.

In summary

As new technology continues to drive innovation in corporate jets, intangible qualities and seriousness of purpose are helpful (e.g., right attitude and professionalism). but may no longer be the most effective metric identifying a skilled and qualified maintenance technician. As a true performance indicator, the IA, has been eclipsed by the more poignant and current industry certifications mentioned above.

Maintenance managers will positively evolve into the future if they prioritize certs like the ASTM NCATT AET and SATCOM DIRECT AERO IT for all potential hires as well as current team members.

In the meantime, let’s all acknowledge that the Inspection Authorization remains absolutely critical in some genres of aircraft maintenance. Let’s also appreciate the IA as an experience marker, with a nod of deep respect to previous generations in corporate flight departments.

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