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Where Are the Maintenance Managers of Tomorrow?

In his editors column this month, Fred brings up some interesting points. He questions where the A&P mechanics of tomorrow will come from. I have heard of increasing difficulty some companies are having finding qualified candidates. But I would pose another question: where are the maintenance managers of tomorrow?

See if you recognize this situation. Bob the mechanic has worked at ACME Helicopters for five years. He started working at ACME right out of A&P school. Bob has great technical ability. His attitude is positive and he has taken the advice of Dave the director of maintenance (DOM) and listened and learned as much as he could. He is now the best mechanic on the floor.

Low and behold, Dave the DOM (who has been working at ACME for more than 40 years) decides it is time to retire and tour the country in his new RV. Before retiring, he assists the management team at ACME in selecting his replacement. Amongst the interviewees, Bob stands out above the rest. He has proven himself as a good mechanic and everyone thinks he deserves the DOM job.

Bob proudly accepts the job of DOM. It is the happiest day of his career. It is quickly followed by the toughest month of his career. You see, Bob had grown very comfortable wearing his helicopter mechanic hat. Unfortunately, the skills that were necessary to successfully wear that helicopter mechanic hat (working independently, following instructions, being technically skilled, etc.) aren’t the skills he needs to be a good DOM. Bob quickly realized that as ACME Helicopter’s DOM, he now had a whole rack full of hats he needed to wear. He had to lead and direct a diverse team of individuals. Sometimes he had to put on his human resources hat as he gave performance reviews, had the responsibility for pay raises and bonuses, and had to deal with personal issues his employees had.

He had an accounting hat he wore because he was now in charge of the P&L for a multimillion dollar budget for the maintenance department. He had a project manager hat he had to wear because he was responsible for scheduling maintenance activities and ensuring appropriate resources including personnel, parts and equipment are available. He put on a sales and marketing hat when he attended trade shows to promote ACME to potential customers. He put on his accountable manager hat when he had to deal with the FAA.

It was all overwhelming because Bob the DOM never had any formal training on how to be a good manager. Just as being a good listener helped him to learn the skills necessary to be a good helicopter mechanic, he started seeking out the advice of his peers. He talked to other DOMs on the field. It was a tough transition, but he eventually settled in and became a good DOM.

So where will the maintenance managers of tomorrow come from? How will current mechanics gain the knowledge they will need to be successful without having to go through a baptism by fire like Bob did? How can current managers learn additional skills to help them be better managers and leaders?

I would start by recommending reading Director of Maintenance (D.O.M.) magazine (a sister publication to HeliMx). Each issue of D.O.M. provides aviation maintenance managers the information they need to hone their supervisory and leadership skills. It is also a good resource for mechanics who want to move up the ranks. You can visit www.DOMmagazine.com to learn more and subscribe for free.

In addition, there are several events focused on advancing aircraft mechanics’ management skills. For example, I was at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Maintenance Management Conference (MMC) in early May. Each year, NBAA MMC provides attendees with two and a half days packed full of information they need to excel in their careers as maintenance managers.

Another event that is coming up soon is Conklin & de Decker’s Helicopter Maintenance Management Seminar which will be held June 4-6 in Irving, Texas. The three-day seminar will provide helicopter maintenance managers the necessary tools they need to master their challenging position. Subjects will include principles of management, financial management, inventory, information systems and regulatory issues. See our events listing on page 44 to learn more or visit www.HeliMx .com and click on the “Events” tab.

Thanks for reading! 

Joe Escobar  |  Editorial Director