The Trouble with Troubleshooting

Can this crucial skill be taught or is it something you’re just born with?

By Charlotte Adams

Troubleshooting or diagnosing problems in complex electrical, airframe and propulsion systems is perhaps the most important skill a maintainer can have. It requires not only a thorough knowledge of a system’s normal operation but also an understanding of the system’s component parts and the interactions between them. It also requires a certain aptitude or gift in addition to training.

In the days when the schools saw a lot of military veterans, the schools’ task was easier because veterans often had a considerable base of experience before entering the maintenance training programs. But schools are seeing a lot fewer veterans these days, and entering students often have little mechanical experience. Many, according to one professor, haven’t even repaired a lawnmower.

Troubleshooting is a very important skill for a mechanic to have, considering that the “reason for a mechanic is usually to fix something or service something,” says William Kamm, a bizav executive. In a sense the schools “narrow the herd down,” he says. The students who make it through the airframe and powerplant (A&P) programs have the basic skills and understanding to work in the industry. So the schools take a person with little or no knowledge of aviation and give them the basics, including troubleshooting. “I think they do a good job for a government-mandated program,” he says.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recognizes the importance of troubleshooting. Part 147 of the Code of Federal Regulations—dealing with aviation maintenance technician schools—cites the word more than 30 times in connection with school facilities as well as the airframe and powerplant curriculums. While this skill is not always required to Level 3, the highest level of proficiency outlined in Part 147, troubleshooting is clearly a critical ability in aviation maintenance. Thus every aviation maintenance school tries to incorporate the process throughout its curriculum.


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