U.S. Forest Service offers apprentice mechanic options for new contracts

Starting in the next firefighting contract season, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is offering an additional option for helicopter operators to meet maintenance experience requirements for airframe and powerplant (A&P) mechanics, the USFS announced in November at the HAI Aerial Firefighting Safety Conference.

The USFS has announced a change that will help helicopter operators to meet maintenance experience requirements for airframe and powerplant mechanics. Sheldon Cohen Photo
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Prior to this change, mechanics were required to have their A&P for two years before being eligible to maintain a helicopter under field conditions during the awarded contract period.

Under the new option, an apprentice mechanic who has held an A&P license for one year and received factory field maintenance school training for the aircraft can perform routine maintenance on that aircraft in the field. The apprentice is limited to routine maintenance including preflight/daily inspections, recurring airworthiness directives, non-flight critical component changes, and aircraft inspections up to but excluding 100-hour inspections.

This work does not need to be supervised by a fully carded mechanic. A fully carded mechanic, with two years as an A&P and meeting the additional requirements of the contract, must perform or supervise flight critical component changes and all inspections from 100 hours and above.

This change is effective for both future and current existing contracts. A modification will be issued by a contracting officer for current contracts.

The USFS initiated this change in direct response to industry concerns over the current and future anticipated shortage of A&P mechanics. The additional maintenance option is the USFS’s effort to assist the helicopter industry in efficiently executing contract work in addition to developing field mechanics for USFS/Department of Interior (DOI) helicopter contracts, said USFS Spokesperson Stanton Florea.

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Additional changes operators will see in the new season include some restructuring of the contract language. In order to help clarify the solicitation process and expectations from the USFS, and to assist the helicopter program in managing costs, the USFS’s helicopter contract sections were reorganized to reflect Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) part 12. This was to develop consistency between the USFS and the DOI. Additionally, the “Schedule of Items” were restructured to meet FAR part 4 requirements, Florea said.

“HAI applauds the USFS for their proactive stance,” said HAI vice president of operations Chris Martino. “By offering flexible options such as this to helicopter service providers, the USFS is providing alternative means for operators to get the job done safely as well as train their future mechanics/engineers. This will go a long way toward helping the helicopter industry support the USFS.”

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