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Standardization in an Ever-changing World

Decisions, decisions, decisions! We make them every day, usually without giving them too much thought. However, every once in a while we need to make what we would call an important decision. You know, where a fairly decent amount of money is going to be spent on something, and it would be nice to have some help and guidance along the way to make a good sound informed decision. 

 I recently wanted to buy a new camera to take on vacation. I knew what I was looking for as to camera capability, lens focal length, camera power source and a few other key points that I won’t bore you with. Our friend in the digital age to the rescue — the Internet! I logged on to one of my favorite search engines and entered my criteria (not all at once) and I was off and running. Two hours later, I had not only decided on what camera I would buy, but also where I would buy it and why I would buy it from that particular vendor. Life is good.

If you are currently working as an aircraft avionics technician, or are thinking about becoming one and want to start or advance your education in that field, there are many questions that come to mind. What school should I attend? Where is the school located? What is the cost? Are they accredited? Do they offer the skills and curriculum I need to compete in the workplace? It would be nice if like the Internet, we had a place to look for some answers to those questions- — a place that was unbiased, a third party if you will. Enter the National Center for Aerospace & Transportation Technologies (NCATT).

NCATT has been facilitating the industry’s development of standards and certifications since 1999. It is through this partnership that NCATT has been able to meet the industry’s goal of establishing an independent third party, certifying body and portal for standards and certification development.

NCATT’s mission is “to provide a forum through which subject matter experts from industry, government and education develop technical knowledge and skill standards.” Its vision is to be recognized as the premier resource for the aerospace and transportation industries in the facilitation and development of:

• Knowledge and skill standards

• Certifications

• Accreditations for training providers

• Outreach activities

Sounds good so far, but you might ask what it does for you, the aviation/avionics maintenance technician. Some of the benefits are:

• Certifications provide a career ladder with long-term professional development and advancement.

• Certification demonstrates competency in industry identified knowledge standards.

• Certification provides recognition among colleagues.

• Certification enhances the image of the professional aviation/avionics maintenance technician.

 The benefits to be gained are not just for the aviation/avionics technician, but also for the employer. Certification is based on industry-identified competencies and employers are involved in setting relevant training standards. Certification provides increased technician credibility and education. Training resources can be more focused. Certification provides a basis for continuing professional development of technicians, as well as providing a new level of quality assurance through continuing education. In this highly-competitive market place, the ability to promote a workforce that is not only highly skilled and effective, but also credentialed to an industry standard, demonstrates an ongoing commitment to the customer.

NCATT standards are developed utilizing Occupational Analysis Workshops. The content of the standard is then validated by the NCATT Standards and Curriculum Committee. Finally the standards are approved by Subject Matter Experts (SME). OK, so far we have identified the benefits for the aviation/avionics technician and his or her employer. We have also learned that the NCATT standards are identified through a series of Occupational Analysis Workshops. Sounds impressive, but how is this accomplished?

NCATT Occupational Analysis Workshop

The first task is to identify the occupation (job) description/occupation title. The SME participants identify and define the what, how and why of the occupation (job). They define the occupation with a single sentence and provide an occupational title. When appropriate, a career ladder or occupational structure is defined and charted by the SME participants.

 Next, the general areas of competence or job duties are outlined. (Duties are broad areas of the job responsibilities.) Utilizing brainstorming sessions, the SME participants describe general responsibilities. These are known as duties that technicians must perform or understand within the job. Once the duties have been identified, they must be validated. The SME participants analyze the identified data, separating mixed duties and tasks. Duties are agreed upon and validated. A duty statement for each duty is developed. The SME participants focus on each duty and duty statement. Within each duty/duty statement are meaningful units of work known as tasks. The tasks, steps and knowledge that are required to complete the tasks are the technician knowledge and skill standards that NCATT will evaluate through testing.

NCATT Instructional Levels

For each task and knowledge requirement, the SME participants are required to assign a training standard level. The training standard level is adopted directly from the training standard levels used by the United States Air Force. Following a brief review of the entire analysis chart that has been developed, the SME participants examine the original definition developed at the beginning of day one. Revisions are made as required. NCATT facilitators now identify and list all acronyms used in the analysis workshop, ensuring that for each acronym there is consensus on the definition of the acronym. The facilitators also generate a list of tools, equipment, supplies and materials that are appropriate to the occupation. The outcomes from this workshop are the basis for NCATT standards. This is the foundation for the development of the educational resources and accreditation requirements, as well as the certification exams. 

Certification exams are the tools used to measure NCATT standards. Development of these exams is based on subject matter expert input, psychometric analysis tools and extensive beta testing. The certification exams are then offered worldwide through secure, computer-based facilitation and proctored testing centers. These certification exams are also reviewed by the NCATT Test and Measurements Sub-Committee.

PSI/LaserGrade is NCATT’s contracted testing provider in the United States and Canada. Exams are scheduled by individual technicians with a local PSI/LaserGrade Testing Center. 

Kryterion Inc. provides testing worldwide. Again, exams are scheduled by individual technicians with a local Kryterion Testing Center online.

Current exam offerings are listed below:

Certification Exams Offered

• Aircraft electronics technician (AET)

• Foreign object elimination (FOE) — elements of basic awareness

AET Endorsement Exams Offered

• Radio communication systems (RCS)

• Dependent navigation systems (DNS)

• Onboard communications and safety systems (OCS)

• Autonomous navigation systems (ANS)

AET Endorsement Exams in Development

• Avionics installation — mechanical

• Avionics installation — electrical

Aircraft Electronics/Avionics Standards

As of this writing, the following standards have been approved:

• Aircraft electronic technician (AET)

• Radio communication systems (RCS)

• Onboard communications and safety systems (OCS)

• Autonomous navigation systems (ANS)

• Dependent navigation systems (DNS)

• Installation/integration

Standards that are in development:

• Autoflight control systems

• Flight management systems

• Instruments

Future standards:

Advanced Digital

• Air traffic surveillance and warning systems

• Bench

• Datalink communication systems

• Enhanced vision

• In-flight entertainment

• Power generation/distribution

• Weather and terrain awareness

 In an ever-changing world, NCATT brings a level of standardization to our industry. In looking to increase your knowledge in the aviation/avionics environment, it is encouraging to know that an ever-growing number of schools and employers are turning to NCATT to set the standards, not only for curriculum and content, but also for their exams.

For more information on what NCATT can do for you, visit www.ncatt.org or call (817) 984-4738.