When asked to explain his work, Jeremy Mammen, director of aviation safety on Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach, Fla., campus, proudly showed off several glossy blue and white “safety coins” emblazoned with the university logo. He cupped the coins delicately, as if he might be holding the welfare of every Embry-Riddle student-pilot in his hands.
In a sense, he does – along with many other colleagues who are also laser-focused on aviation safety.
Mammen’s role is to serve as an objective, vigilant internal auditor for Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach flight operation and fleet maintenance team. Whenever safety events occur, Mammen and his six-person team independently conduct a thorough investigation, using all available information to identify trends and develop mitigation strategies for preventing any recurrences of the problem.
“I give out these safety coins to mechanics, flight instructors and flight students,” explained Mammen, an Embry-Riddle Worldwide graduate who has more than 15 years of experience in his field. “The idea is to recognize exemplary contributions to aviation safety, which supports our strong safety culture.”
Transparent Communication is Key
Openly reporting aviation safety concerns – without fear of punishment or ridicule – is key to Embry-Riddle’s safety culture, added Mammen.
“Students, faculty and staff can down an aircraft at any time, no questions asked,” he noted. “The caliber of our fleet maintenance efforts is beyond compare, and we fly newer, well-maintained equipment, but if someone spots any discrepancy that makes them uncomfortable, that aircraft’s not going to leave the ground, period.”
Embry-Riddle re-fleets all aircraft approximately every seven years to ensure that students are always flying the latest technology, said Thomas Bruno, director of maintenance for the Daytona Beach fleet.
Exceeding Industry and FAA Standards
Bruno noted that Embry-Riddle operates a Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 145 repair facility, which is not a requirement for a flight training institution and requires many FAA inspections. “That means we use only FAA-certificated men and women to service all aircraft,” he said. “It also means that all of our policies, procedures and even facilities have been approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). While our system is more labor-intensive, it ensures that at least two people review every aircraft before it is placed back into service.”
Across all aspects of its flight and fleet operations, Embry-Riddle adheres to industry-leading best practices. For example, Mammen said, some other operators might rely upon a kind of waiver known as a “minimum equipment list” or MEL. With an authorized minimum equipment list, Mammen noted, an organization can still fly an aircraft with a mechanical problem so long as it is not associated with airworthiness.
In contrast, however, “At Embry-Riddle, we do not allow the use of MELs,” Mammen said. “We require that our aircraft are absolutely perfect before we allow students to fly them.”
Bruno echoed Mammen’s sentiments: “I have three daughters and I maintain each aircraft as if they were going out on the next training flight,” he said. “Everyone in aircraft maintenance at Embry-Riddle takes their job very seriously.”
Going Above and Beyond Requirements
In addition to having a strong internal safety management system, Embry-Riddle is also one of only a few flight training programs of its type that voluntarily participates in the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aviation Safety Action Program, or ASAP. Under this program, any Embry-Riddle pilot, maintenance technician, faculty or staff member who knows of a safety-related event can complete an ASAP report form. “Like Embry-Riddle,” Mammen says, “the FAA wants to document any issues to make sure they never happen again.”
In addition to thorough reporting, Flight Data Monitoring Analysis allows Embry-Riddle to see what’s happening during every moment of a flight. T
His analyses can then be used by Bruno as well as Daytona Beach Flight Chair Ken Byrnes to ensure that the operation is safe and to continuously improve all aspects of flight.
“Safety is our absolute number one priority at Embry-Riddle,” Byrnes said. “We have one of the most robust safety management systems in the flight training community and our people are committed to ensuring safety at the highest level possible.”
As a testament to Embry-Riddle’s safety commitment, the Daytona Beach flight operation, which currently includes a fleet of 61 aircraft, achieved Stage II of an intense safety registration process – the International Standard Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) registration. This was something no other university flight operation had done. The IS-BAO registration is completely voluntary and requires the completion of a rigorous auditing program.
Promoting Educational Excellence
Chuck Horning, chair of Embry-Riddle’s Department of Aviation Maintenance Science, noted that some of the 340 students in his program have played a key role in maintaining the university’s Daytona Beach fleet – “under the close supervision of multiple layers of certificated inspectors.”
Roger Sonnenfeld, a 35-year veteran of Embry-Riddle, teaches a repair station operations class where students gain hands-on experience in working with airworthy engines – not just classroom models or out-of-service parts. “Our aviation maintenance science students are in a unique situation,” he noted. “Being able to work with a real-world, airworthy product adds a level of seriousness to a capstone course that other programs can’t offer.”
All maintenance projects undergo careful supervision by faculty as well as specialists like Reinardo “Rey” De Jesus Jr., an airframe and powerplant (A&P) certificated maintenance technician who graduated from Embry-Riddle this spring and now works in the Aviation Maintenance Science repair station. “We’re just as important as the pilots,” De Jesus said of his role in ensuring aviation safety.
Sonnenfeld agreed. “In aviation maintenance, when we sign off on an engine log book, we’re responsible,” he said. “We’re accountable for all the actions we took to maintain that aircraft.”
Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus offers both an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree in aviation maintenance science. The programs focus on the FAA A&P mechanic’s certification program and encompass 48 credit hours of technical courses in Embry-Riddle’s 48,000-square-foot Emil Buehler Aviation Maintenance Science Building.
“The relationship between Embry-Riddle’s academic program and its fleet maintenance operation is invaluable,” Bruno said. “When we hire certificated A&P mechanics from that program, we know they’ve been trained by the very best.”
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world’s largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, is a nonprofit, independent institution offering more than 80 baccalaureate, master’s and Ph.D. degree programs in its colleges of Arts & Sciences, Aviation, Business, Engineering and Security & Intelligence. Embry-Riddle educates students at residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz., through the Worldwide Campus with more than 125 locations in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and through online programs. The university is a major research center, seeking solutions to real-world problems in partnership with the aerospace industry, other universities and government agencies. For more information, visit erau.edu, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and facebook.com/EmbryRiddleUniversity, and find expert videos at YouTube.com/EmbryRiddleUniv.