The whole world seemed like a toy box full of things (that needed to be fixed) to Spandan Dhar. This fascination with gadgets led to a career in aviation. “I was a naughty kid who was always intrigued by how things work. I used to open up everything at home, from television sets to my brand new toys, although the outcome used to be ­disastrous,” he says.
Though being an aircraft maintenance engineer (AME) was not Dhar’s first preference, he has no regrets. “I always wanted to become a pilot but the high price of pursuing my dream was beyond my means. So I thought why not get to know how these birds fly and what goes on behind the scenes to keep these huge metal birds aloft. And I started focusing on AME,” he adds.
Dhar works with the line maintenance department at Indigo. “I work on airbus aircrafts. While working on these ­aircrafts, security checks, time and cost are vital. The ­workload is ­overwhelming. AMEs ­typically work on ­rotating shifts — two morning shifts ­followed by two afternoon shifts and two night shifts and then one gets two days off — this varies from airline to airline. Despite bad weather conditions with ­temperature as high as 45 degrees down to three degrees and even torrential downpour, I have to stand on a trestle as high as 40 metres for hours at a stretch troubleshooting a snag. If it takes too much time to fix the glitch, then the flight has to be cancelled as the lives of the ­passengers cannot be compromised at any cost. A small goof-up can cost you your job as well as the licence. But the amount of satisfaction I get when an aircraft takes to the skies is beyond words,” he says.
After finishing Class 12, Dhar pursued a three-year AME licence training course from the Indian Institute of Aeronautics. “Unlike other streams, this is not a degree course. The course makes one eligible for a certificate called a basic AME certificate. Training is imparted for servicing and maintenance of aircraft. After completing the course and passing an internal exam, one has to clear the licensing exam conducted by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Government of India,” he says.
Talking about his training days, Dhar says, “There are mixed emotions about those days — dreams soaring high, desperate need to prove yourself, pressure of high expectations and feelings of despair and desolation. Given the market scenario, I was not sure whether I would ever be able to realise my goals.”
However, the licence or certificate doesn’t guarantee a job in this field. “After graduating from college, I was greeted with a stagnant industry, with absolutely no room for a fresher. That’s why I turned to general aviation jobs. I worked for a non-scheduled operator to gain some experience. In order to appear for the DGCA exams, one needs practical experience on aircraft, but most airlines would turn you down unless you had cleared these exams. Of late, the situation has improved as most of the institutes help students find internships in various organisations which enables them to sit for DGCA exams,” he says.
Sharing some advice, Dhar says that there is no room for mediocrity and impatience in this field. “You need a lot of perseverance, experience and knowledge to excel. If you are not disciplined and have the zeal, then this is not your cup of tea.”
Sky is the limit
To do well, one must work very hard and continue upgrading one’s skills
Rs. I take home
A trainee gets around Rs. 5,000 as stipend. Starting salary is Rs. 15,000 which can go up to Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 1.6 lakh with experience
I love my job because...
It offers me an exciting life, a lot of travelling with free tickets and a handsome salary to take home
At times, it might take an entire day to find out why an aircraft is going ­haywire. Hence, patience is necessary
All you need to know about a career as an aircraft maintenance engineer
An aircraft maintenance ­engineer (AME) is a person licenced to ensure the ­airworthiness of an ­aircraft in accordance with local and ­international aviation ­standards. All AMEs must carry a valid ­certificate to be legally allowed to fly and are required to undergo short-term training ­programmes that are conducted by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation
With 50% marks in physics and maths in Class 12, you can get into an AME course in a DGCA-approved institute. One must clear the DGCA exam to obtain the licence. The DGCA gives four papers which test your knowledge of aviation rules and regulations, engineering and maintenance practices. After qualifying, join an airline to work on an aircraft. Then, sit for the final exam. your AME licence
Skills and traits
# Disciplined, able to work hard
# Be aware of your ­responsibilities as a small ­mistake can lead to a disaster
# Willing to travel as you might have to shift stations often
# Technically inclined
# Patience holds the key as you might have to struggle initally as there are not many job openings