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What’s In a Title? What do we call ourselves? Is it important?

Consider this – I am a part owner of Helicopter Maintenance magazine. I also am in charge of the editorial content of the magazine. If you look at the masthead in the table of contents or my business card, it says my title is “Owner/Editorial Director.” It could just as easily be “Co-founder/Vice President of Editorial,” “Founding Partner/Executive Editor,” or just “Editor at Large.” (Fred likes to say that I need to change his title from “Editor” to “Editor at Extra-large.”)

Now let’s take a look at aviation. What do we call the person who flies the aircraft? Simple – a pilot. What do we call the person who fixes the aircraft? This is not so simple.

The discussion on what we call ourselves came up during a dinner with the Helicopter Maintenance magazine editorial advisory board while we were at HAI HELI-EXPO2014. A few of the board volunteers on my side of the table were part of the discussion. One person said, “I like ‘technician.’ It better represents the level of technical expertise we have.” Another chimed in, “I prefer mechanic. To me, a technician is someone trained on a specific task. An X-ray technician, for example.” We discussed the topic for around 10 minutes, with no resolution at the end of the discussion. We agreed to disagree.

I would like to continue the discussion. What should we call ourselves?

Some say we are aircraft mechanics. This is in line with the FAA regulations. 14CFR Part 65 discusses certification of “mechanics.” Ratings issued under a mechanic certificate include airframe and/or powerplant. The term “A&P” has been used for a long time to mean an FAA-certified mechanic with airframe and powerplant ratings.

Some say we are AMTs. In the late 1990s, the FAA proposed a new regulation – 14CFR Part 66. This was an attempt to revamp the long-standing mechanic certification regulations. New titles were introduced – aircraft maintenance technician (AMT), and aircraft maintenance technician, transport (AMT(T)). There were so many comments to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking when it came out that the FAA never published the final rule. Even though the FAA still certifies mechanics, not AMTs, some in the industry have adopted the term AMT as a title. (Ironically, 14CFR Part 147 is titled “Aviation Maintenance Technician Schools” even though there is no such thing at this time as an AMT certificate.)

There are even more splintered opinions. Some want to be called technicians. Others feel we should be called engineers like our counterparts in Canada (aircraft maintenance engineer (AME)) or Australia (licensed aircraft maintenance engineer (LAME).

A lot of the discussion and dissention about what we should call ourselves revolves around how others perceive us. The argument is that mechanics are perceived as “grease monkeys.” Changing our title will change how others perceive us. The character Lowell from the 1990s TV sitcom “Wings” is often brought up as an example of the negative stigma attached to “mechanic.”

In my opinion, the problem with the negative perception we suffer from isn’t from our titles. It’s because of how some of our peers present themselves. How can we expect to be treated as professionals when we spew obscenities any time a job frustrates us? We don’t wear blazers to work with fancy epaulets like pilots do, but that doesn’t mean we have to dress like slobs.

If we want to be treated as professionals, we need to present ourselves as professionals. Only then will we get the respect we desire.

What are your thoughts on this subject? We’d like to hear from you. You can email me at jescobar@helicoptermaintenancemagazine.com.

Thanks for reading!

— Joe Escobar, A&P mechanic/editor