If you have had the privilege of being involved in a large STC project, you probably experienced one of the most satisfying and, at the same time, most frustrating times of your life. As the project engineer in these large STC projects, it could be even more frustrating due to the many moving parts involved. You are not just in a technical support role. You also get to be a part time logistics and full-time certification expert, at least you are to everyone else at the Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) facility. Whether you’ve been through these many times or you’re about to experience your first one, (Hopefully you didn’t get sent by yourself!) here are a few tips that might help you.
Coordinate with your program manager. Always be aware of the schedule and make sure that the technical issues are not impacting it. If you’re lucky enough to have both the program manager and project engineer roles, make sure you remain cognizant of the program issues and tasks. This is sometimes very hard when you are in the midst of several engineering issues that are happening, but if you’re stuck with doing both roles you have to track your program milestones periodically. If things get to be too much, don’t be afraid to ask your PM or leadership for help.
Get to know the maintenance staff at the MRO. Whether the MRO is a supplier or a company one, you need to get to know not just the leadership, but also the technicians working on your project. Building a rapport with everyone involved with your project really helps, especially when things get difficult. People are more willing to work with you rather than leaving you to solve every problem that comes up. Find out what the work shifts are, and which shift will do the most work. This will help you schedule your time (or if you’re lucky, your staff’s time) to where it is the most efficient.
Get to know the MRO’s engineering staff. Depending on which MRO you go to, you may or may not have to work with an onsite engineering staff. Usually an onsite engineering staff will be mainly concerned with issues that pertain to the type of routine maintenance like a C Check. They deal with structural damages, electrical and avionics testing, and issues with the engineering paperwork. They normally welcome a dedicated engineer supporting an STC modification. You will still need to work with them as there is usually a process that the technicians and installers use to address engineering issues. They have to be part of the process, but they would rather you do the support work for your mod instead of them.
Get to know the regulatory folks that are approving the different phases of your modification. Have a plan to coordinate their arrival with having the right paperwork and information ready for them when they get there. Find out who will sign the Form 337 within the MRO. In the world of ODA’s and Unit Members, pretty much all of these folks are going to work with you as long as you are prepared. Keep in mind that their schedules are tight, so it is very important that you are in constant contact with them about deviations and schedules changes. This is key at the end of the modification when you are running around making sure that the rest of the certification paperwork is finished. Remember, the work isn’t done until the paperwork is signed off.