Why do you join a national organization?

All the way back to Charles Taylor, aircraft mechanics have worked on aircraft for low pay and little recognition, if any. Our satisfaction comes from working on complicated machines that are fast and sleek. Most of all they fly! We keep them that way. One of the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association’s (PAMA) purpose in this is to be an advocate for the aircraft mechanic — often in ways that you do not see every day or produce immediate results.

So, you ask, what value is any organization to you?

Face time: There is still immense value in meeting with people face to face. Online tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., have drawn us all a bit closer online, but it is still no substitute for real, live interaction. Online social interaction takes away non-verbal cues, as well as much of the human element out of everyday communication.

A reason to get out: We all seem to be chained to our routines. Whether you sit at a desk or have a more active job, you get in a rut. By attending a professional meeting or seminar, you are getting out of the work place. That small change of pace can be an amazing release.

New People: This Charles “Tremendous” Jones quote says a lot to us: “The only things in life that will change you are the books you read and the people you meet!” Whether you are an independent owner who works alone or in a hangar with a few other mechanics, you probably mostly interact with the same small group of people. There’s real value in branching out and having several new conversations. Also, you may quickly learn about the areas in which you (or your organization) are ahead or behind the curve on matters within our industry.

Jobs: Even if you are not looking for a job, the connections you make today could help you down the line. Good people hire good people, not resumes.

Mentoring: A&P students are being educated all over the country. They are learning how to pass the test, as a good friend at the FAA expressed to me once. They are not being taught advanced job skills or things like professionalism, leadership, and respect, as these are not required to be taught in 147 schools. Don’t get me wrong — Some of these schools do address these. But I feel that these things are best learned by following an example of a mentor in an organization.

Invaluable Leadership Experience: Every organization I have been involved with is looking for people to head up committees and perform other functions like updating a website, managing a LinkedIn group, lining up speakers, starting a chapter, etc. Perhaps you are a person who needs to prove to your managers that you are leadership material. Or perhaps you simply want the valuable experience of working within a leadership group. You will also gain insight into financial aspects, politics, and other areas that are possibly not part of your regular experience as a leader in an organization.

Industry Connections: A past regional director of PAMA, Mark Russo, wrote this from his perspective as a vendor many years ago. It holds very true today. “OEMs, FBOs, Repair Stations, and individual vendors commit time and resources to providing training courses and technical presentations for local PAMA chapters across the nation. ‘Good Will’ is what they all like to say we do this for, but I can tell you that justifying spending scarce company resources for good will alone won’t fly! Their bosses ask the same question…’where’s the value?’ Consider the real cost for any company or individual to bring an eight-hour training course or one-hour presentation to a local chapter in another state. There are often hours of preparation, cost to ship materials or training aids, airfare, rental car, hotel, meals, and sponsorship fees. The ‘value’ or ‘benefits’ of these events are obviously appreciated by the local PAMA chapter membership (especially when there’s at no charge). The obvious reason for any company to justify this expense is the opportunity to connect with existing and potential customers. This makes it more likely for presenters to participate in unfamiliar territories. When someone asks if you can sponsor a meeting and give a technical presentation to a PAMA chapter, you know pretty much what to expect and what you need to do.”

Ray Larkin, our Long Island chapter president and ICG Regional Sales Director, says at all the chapter events he attends: “The reason we’re here is because YOU’RE here. And the reason you are here is because PAMA is here.”

Although individual chapters have their own personalities, the industry recognizes the PAMA chapter “standard” anywhere in the nation, which creates a comfort zone for most presenters.

Networking Opportunities: These are an inherent quality of a national organization. Without it, local chapters might be missing out on the support from companies and individual vendors. Industry connections gained at these events are an invaluable asset to an individual as a resource in their profession.

Communication Tools: Organizations have websites, newsletters, magazines, and emails to make it easy for the industry to locate chapters and learn what their interests and concerns are. PAMA has its website, General Aviation News, Aviation Maintenance Magazine, Air Maintenance Update magazine, Facebook, LinkedIn, and email, to name a few. Something I have learned over the years is as aviation maintenance professionals we are all very similar types that hold to common personality traits that make us this way. We are a confident group, leaders, or “Lions” as Gary Smalley uses to describe his use of a personality profile. The second trait we display is attention to detail, meticulous, or a “Beaver” to quote Smalley again. We are a confident group that know what we are doing, how to do it, and we will tell you so. We have to for safety!

If we were not this way we probably wouldn’t work on aircraft. In order to sleep at night we have to have the confidence of a job well done. That confidence is supported by the knowledge we used to complete the job. This pride and confidence is also why we continue to have strong differences of opinion in our industry. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish as fools.” It holds true for the aviation maintenance professional as well.

On a national level we cannot even have that frank discussion typed on a forum. With no inflection and possibly with misinterpreted points, we get nowhere. We have to start somewhere and jump in and hold on with both hands. We must choose a common ground we can agree upon and stand together with both feet firmly planted in support of a direction. As a member in a chapter we can openly discuss these issues and formulate opinions. These opinions can then be shared nationally to unify all. I ask you to think about joining PAMA or starting a chapter, to support this common ground that represents all aviation maintenance professionals.

The $49 in dues is just a token towards your profession. PAMA is the only non-profit organization representing you and your profession with this purpose: To work on legal and regulatory affairs, aid in continued learning, increase safety and increase recognition of the value of the AMT. Others give the illusion that they are representatives, but their motive is to sell magazine subscriptions or get paid attendees to events as a marketing tool. Too many in our industry are taken advantage of by this ploy.

So do you see and touch all the benefits of a national organization? No. But as an AMT do you need PAMA to continue and be around in its mission? I hope the reasons above solidify your decisions when considering any national organization.

 Dale Forton is president of the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA). Find out more about PAMA at PAMA.org





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