Aviation maintenance takes center stage

Features - Maintenance

Professional aviation maintenance technicians and aspiring students gear up for the 2022 Aerospace Maintenance Competition Presented by Snap-on.

February 24, 2022

A recent Aerospace Maintenance Competition (AMC) Presented by Snap-on.
All photos courtesy Snap-on

In the mad scramble of teams frantically trying to complete 25 different maintenance tasks successfully and as fast as possible, John Goglia watches.

He watches the mentoring between judges and students as they learn insights on new ways to approach maintenance tasks. He watches how the pros, the ones who have been doing it for years, take collegiate teams under their wings and show them what it takes to succeed in the profession. He watches how students begin to believe in themselves – that after two days of competition, they see they have what it takes to be an aircraft maintenance technician (AMT).

For Goglia, watching is the best part of the Aerospace Maintenance Competition (AMC) Presented by Snap-on.

“The greatest satisfaction for me is the mentoring students receive at the AMC,” says Goglia, a former National Transportation Safety Board member. “Everything we do here is for the students. Seeing the pros take time to talk with students; give them valuable first-hand advice on how to complete the challenges, but also share their knowledge, skill, and integrity on what it takes to be a successful AMT – that is so rewarding to all of us.

“If you haven’t been here to see the AMC in action, you’re missing out.”

The competition

Kicking off April 25, 2022, at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas, the AMC is the brainchild of Goglia and Ken MacTiernan, a San Diego, California-based technician for American Airlines. They created an event described as the Super Bowl for the aviation maintenance industry, attracting up to 90 professional and collegiate maintenance teams from around the world to come together in friendly competition, test their skills, and give a loud shout-out of their presence in the industry.

“Technicians are always behind the scenes. At times it seems like passengers don’t realize how their airplanes are fixed because they don’t see the men and women who are responsible for that. The AMC puts those technicians on a stage with a spotlight to be recognized,” MacTiernan says.

Tulsa Tech students compete at the previous AMC.

This year’s event expects to attract more than 70 teams from across North America. Those five-person teams compete to see who’s best in six divisions: Commercial Aviation, General Aviation, Space, Military, MRO/OEM, and School, which attracts teams from the country’s top airframe and powerplant (A&P) schools. Events include a range of tasks technicians face every day, including safety wiring, composite repair, electrical troubleshooting, and turbine engines. Each event has a 15-minute time limit; the action is exciting, fast-paced, and great to watch.

Teams chase the top prize in aviation maintenance: The William F. “Bill” O’Brien Award for Excellence in Aircraft Maintenance. Presented by Snap-on, the O’Brien Award is presented to the team with the best overall winning score, and they get to display the 5ft-tall trophy in their facility for a year. Snap-on is also awarding more than $75,000 in tools and equipment as prizes to the top finishers. The AMC was canceled the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For the past nine years, Snap-on has worked well with Ken, John, and the entire leadership team to position the AMC as the foremost competition for aviation maintenance,” says Scott Steward, business development manager for aerospace/aviation, Snap-on Industrial. “We look forward to building upon the AMC brand and wish everyone the best of luck in Dallas as they vie for the O’Brien Award.”

“Snap-on is a perfect match for the AMC in that they share our same vision of what we try to accomplish every year,” Goglia says. “Skills, knowledge, and ability are three hallmarks that define the AMC, and Snap-on brings those same traits in their tools and support to our event.

“This show is sponsor driven; it’s very expensive to put on. We’re very lucky to have not only Snap-on, but also other sponsors such as American Airlines, Pratt & Whitney, and so many others. Without them, we couldn’t do this.”

Ken MacTiernan and John Goglia with the O’Brien Award.
All photos courtesy Snap-on

Focus on aspiring students

Ottumwa, Iowa’s Indian Hills Community College won the AMC’s School category in 2017. While instructor and team captain Andrew Mason is eager for his students to place well this year, he’s hoping they take away a greater view of the industry.

“The benefit to students attending the AMC is great,” Mason says. “When they get to Dallas, they get to be shoulder-to-shoulder with professionals in the industry, with military personnel, with recruiters, and really just see how big the industry is. We belong to a global industry, but it’s still a close-knit community in many ways. They can build upon those connections at an event like the AMC. That’s what I hope our team takes away.”

The AMC places technicians front and center, and that’s a good thing as Mason notes the traveling public typically doesn’t see AMTs unless something is wrong with their flight. But being at the AMC provides a forum to let the public know who they are and the critical roles they play in keeping aircraft flying safe.

Tulsa Tech is another collegiate team making the trek to Dallas. Like their counterparts from Iowa, Tulsa Tech regularly fields a team in the AMC because of the value it brings to students. This year they’re also taking a team of high school juniors and seniors from its Aerospace Academy, which offers technical and academic training in a blended learning environment. High school juniors and seniors can attend Tulsa Tech all day and train in areas that support the college’s aerospace program.

Tulsa Tech students during the AMC.

“For many of our students going to the AMC, they may view a career in aviation maintenance as theoretical, but when they’re on the floor competing, they’re on the same playing field as seasoned professionals. That career they’ve been chasing has suddenly become tangible,” says Sheryl Oxley, aviation program coordinator at Tulsa Tech. “Being able to involve our students in these types of industry events is so valuable. It’s such a wonderful learning experience for students.”

About 20 collegiate schools are expected to compete in the AMC. To help offset the cost of sending aspiring student technicians to Dallas, airlines and other sponsors regularly step up and cover the cost of airfare and other expenses.

For those attending the AMC, be sure to stop by and cheer on the contending men and women working to keep air travel safe and secure.

Aerospace Maintenance Competition (AMC) Presented by Snap-on

Indian Hills Community College

Snap-On Industrial/Aviation

Tulsa Tech

About the author: Steve Staedler, a retired master sergeant from the U.S. Air Force Reserve, where he worked in maintenance and public affairs, has been covering aeronautical maintenance for more than 11 years. He can be reached at steve@lepoidevinmarketing.com; 262.754.9550.

Watch a preview of the 2022 Aerospace Maintenance Competition Presented by Snap-on