Hindustan Institute of Engineering and Technology, started in 1968, is the oldest and best known Aircraft Maintenance Engineering School across South India. Having run for 46 years, it has produced 3500 aircraft maintenance engineers, many of whom have risen up the corporate ladder in airlines, both within and outside India, to the positions and roles both of, and similar to, a Vice-President in the organisation.
While many AME schools had sprouted, and shut their shops without running long enough, HIET has stood the test of time, mainly because of the name, its quality, and the strong financial backing of the parent organisation, the Hindustan Group of Institutions, known for their strides and presence in the fields of Technical Education, both formal and informal.
In large part because of the late Dr. KCG Varghese’ vision of starting an institution to cater to technical skilled workforce, HIET is the first institute in the group to cater to aviation.
Of the 51 approved AME schools across the country, HIET is a prominent name. The 46 years over which it has been operational has only made the institute better, every year. Recently, the campus was shifted from St Thomas Mount to the small town of Padappai in the suburbs of Chennai. The move from the heart of the city to a suburb was a necessity: the college needed a larger space to grow and expand.
The HIET campus also houses schools that are responsible for a diploma in various fields, such as Electrical, Mechanical, Civil and computer. But the prominence of aviation in the group is best seen as one enters the campus, with a Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) HT-2 airplane, on static display, painted in a bright red that contrasts the green grass on which it rests.
In the HIET campus, large buildings, and a hangar, are dedicated to the AME School. The building houses classrooms, each with a capacity for 30 students; most of the 20 workshops related to the AME course, a well stacked library, an auditorium, and a computer lab. Few workshops, such as the Welding and Forging shop, and the Machine Shop, are located in another building within the campus, and shared with few streams of polytechnic that offer a Diploma in Engineering.
The workshops that are accessed by AME students are: Hydraulic and Landing Gear, Airframe structure, Composite material, Wheel and Brake, Jet Engine, Propeller, Piston Engine, Pneumatic & Environmental Control, Electrical, Instrument, Avionics, Basic Engineering, Welding and Forging, Machine, and Aerodynamics Lab. The computer lab is accessed by students who have enrolled in a BSc Aviation course, and a Non-Destructive Testing lab is being setup.
The hangar houses two Cessna 152 piston engine airplanes, the fuselage of another Cessna 152, a Robinson R22 piston helicopter, and a turboprop powered Dornier Do228. In addition, the hangar houses few turboprop and turbofan engines and the necessary jigs required for aircraft maintenance. Hangar also houses battery charging shop and bench fitting shop.
According to Mr. Ayyavaru, the Deputy Chief Instructor at HIET’s department of Aircraft Maintenance Engineering, ” Our hangar is sufficiently equipped and as good as one that you may find at a MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) facility”
The workshops, in short “shops” at HIET’s Department of AME have systems, equipment and instruments rarely seen at most other AME schools. In the 46 years of the school, HIET has amassed a large quantity of various systems and instruments, from simple, single engine airplanes to parts from Boeing 747s and Airbus A310 aircraft. This allows students to appreciate the various forms, and functions of the same type of instruments and systems. Some hard to find airborne GPS units, interfaces and the like makes HIET a “treasure trove”.
HIET’s Department of Aircraft Maintenance Engineering caters to non formal technical education. Students are given the necessary theory in classrooms and practical exposure in the workshops to make them eligible to write a set of examinations conducted by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), which comes under the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA).
HIET is approved by the DGCA to impart training for in the Mechanical Stream, which deals with the airplane structure, mechanical systems, and power plant (engines); and the Avionics stream, which deals with electrical systems, aircraft instruments, and radios (communication and navigation). The school has the capacity to admit 120 students per year: 60 for the Mechanical stream, and 60 for Avionics. Statistically, there is a higher demand for the Mechanical stream.
The school works on the semester system. After the first academic year, or the second semester, a student has sufficient theoretical and practical exposure to attempt “Paper I” conducted by the DGCA. Paper – I relates to aircraft rules, regulations, Civil Airworthiness Requirements and the duties and privileges of the AME licence.
After the second academic year, or the fourth semester, a student may appear for “Paper II”, an examination conducted by the DGCA. Paper II (General Engineering) relates to general engineering, workshop practices, knowledge of drawings, elementary knowledge of electricity, theory of flight, power plants, instruments, computer terminologies and various hardware used in aircraft construction, aircraft materials and processes as detailed in the syllabus.
The first two semesters are common to all students enrolled in the department.
From third semester is where the theory and workshops for the mechanical and avionics streams differ. After fifth semester those enrolled in the mechanical stream and Avionics stream are prepared, via theory and practical, to appear for “Paper III”, conducted by the DGCA.
For students enrolled in the Mechanical stream, Paper III-Engines relates to the theory of internal combustion engines and related systems, laws of thermodynamics, functions of various components of the engines, procedures of assessment of power of the engines, ground run procedures etc. as detailed in the syllabus. Separate papers are conducted for piston engines and jet engines, taking the total number of examinations a mechanical student must appear for, to four.
For students enrolled in the Avionics stream, there are three examinations under Paper III: Electrical, Instruments, and Radio Systems, all separate examinations. Paper-III-Electrical Systems relates to basic theory of AC and DC, logic circuits, principles of power generation, batteries and the like. Paper III-Instrument Systems relates to basic theory, principles and functioning of instruments and instrument systems including autopilots. Paper – III Radio Systems relates to theory, principles and functioning of radio communication, navigation and radar systems used in aircraft. These examinations take total number of examinations an avionics students must appear for, to five.
Once avionics and mechanical students pass all relevant examinations under “Paper III”, “Paper II” and “Paper I” the DGCA awards them a BAMEC : Basic Aircraft Maintenance Engineer’s Certificate.
Once done with the 5th semester, students are engaged with an On-Job-Training in the 6th semester. Most students perform their OJT within the group.
The biggest benefit of HIET being part of the size and diversity of Hindustan Group of Institutions is that unlike most other AME schools, students get to work on three types of aircraft over 6 months. Two months are spent within HIET, where students work on the cabin, and systems of a turboprop aircraft: the Dornier Do 228. The next two months are spent working on a Learjet 24D located at the KCG College of Engineering, where students are involved with the jacking, charging of the landing gear oleo, and the engine run up. The last two months are spent at Orient Flight School, where students work on the Cessna 172, 152, and Piper Seneca III, gaining valuable experience with operational, on-line aircraft that have a valid Certificate of Airworthiness, unlike the other two larger serviceable but non-airworthy airplanes.
Additional Bachelor of Science Degree
A BAMEC is a requirement to enter the field of aircraft maintenance engineering, but is not a university degree. This can limit the employment opportunities of students, once they graduate from an AME college. Many multinational aerospace companies with a strong presence in India, such as Safran, UTC, Honeywell, and the like, place significant emphasis on a university degree when considering the employment of a candidate. Having a BSc degree also thrown open opportunities for further studies, including a management degree (MBA), which may serve beneficial in climbing up the corporate ladder at maintenance organisations.
HIET being part of the Hindustan Group of Institutions can award a BSc degree from Hindustan University, in either of two subjects: BSc Aircraft Maintenance Engineering, and BSc Avionics. Being a three year course, it synchronises very well with the AME course, awarding a student essentially a “double qualification” in the same period of three years.
HIET’s location attracts students mostly from Tamil Nadu and Kerala. However, HIET’s reputation attracts some students from north India, and from as far away as the United Kingdom, with most overseas students from Middle East-Asian countries such as Dubai, and Kuwait.
For Mr. Abdul Rehman, a citizen of the United Kingdom but an ethnic Indian, technology has always fascinated him, and feels that an AME course offers better opportunities than an aeronautical engineering degree.
Delhi based Ms. Shefali Jaiswal loves challenges, and has been tinkering with mechanical tools at her father’s workshop, since a kid. Her love for airplanes and tools made a course on aircraft maintenance engineering a perfect fit, and the institute’s location perfect for her self-bestowed challenge of settling in a land with a different set of customs. She’s also opted for the BSc course that runs in parallel with the AME course.
Mr. Rakesh Mahapatra, whose roots trace to Kolkata, completed his Bachelor of Engineering (BE) in Aeronautical Engineering at Sathyabama University, and the final year project at IIT Chennai. The limited scope for aeronautical engineers in India, his desire to learn more, and his want for a more practially oriented education brought him to HIET, after the institute was recommended by his Head of Department, BSM Augustine, who was formerly with Hindustan University. He chose the Avionics stream, to complement his strong understanding of the mechanical aspect of the subject, which was picked up while at university.
Mr. Tejas, who was brought up in the United Arab Emirates, used to frequent the Dubai Airshow, where he got a chance to get real close to a variety of airplanes. His inclination towards the technical aspects of aircraft made him explore a career in aircraft maintenance engineering, which he too feels has better opportunities in India when compared with a university degree in aeronautical engineering. His love for nuts and bolts, and his despise for computers and software made the mechanical stream a natural choice for him.
Life after the college, and beyond the BAMEC: Career & Opportunities
Anyone who is technically inclined towards aviation has two options to choose from, to enter the field: A degree in Aeronautical Engineering, and a course in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering. The difference between the two lies primarily in the nature of the work. An Aeronautical Engineer is involved with design, development and testing, whereas an AME is involved with servicing in-production aircraft.
In India, opportunities are significantly higher in the field of aircraft maintenance, as compared to aircraft design. The employment scope for Aeronautical Engineers in India is limited; most have to leave the country to pursue the field. However, with Aviation sector in India posed for a boom, and airlines either sprouting or increasing their fleet, the scope for AMEs is good, as of today.
However, after obtaining a BAMEC, one joins a maintenance facility, or an airline, as a technician. Salaries today for a technician vary with the organisation, but in India, is typically around INR 15,000 – 25,000 per month. Getting in isn’t as easy, however. At airlines like Jet Airways, getting employed as a technician is on a need basis, and may require at least one year of experience in heavy maintenance. Usually, technicians are made to work on all airplane types in the fleet. After two-three years, a technician may, at the discretion of the organisation, be upgraded to a senior technician, with a small increment in remuneration. After accumulating almost 3 years of “paid experience” in maintenance, and obtaining another licence: Radio Telephony Restricted (RTR-A), to allow him to operate aircraft communication radios, a technician, or a senior technician, is eligible to be considered, as per prevailing airline policies, for a “Type Training”: an approved training course that relates to a specific type of aircraft, engine, electrical equipment, instruments and radio equipment fitted on a particular type of aircraft and engine. Once the training course is passed by the technician, and an oral test is conducted, and if passed, the technician’s gets an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) license with the aircraft type endorsed by the DGCA.
While the requirement to appear for a type training is only 4 years of experience (or 1 year after obtaining the BAMEC), the three year period is to allow technicians to gain sufficient experience, and to check upgrades to an AME, as the salary drawn by an AME is between INR 1,20,000- 1,80,000 per month, which is up to 12 times the salary of an entry level technician.
Growth beyond the designation of an AME are posts such as Senior AME, Duty Officer, assistant Manager, General Manager, Workshop Manager, and Vice President, Engineering.
Betting on a Solid Future
The advantage that HIET brings is the name associated with an institute that is 46 years old. Student intake numbers for an AME course are not that high, and demand fluctuates on a yearly basis, prompting some institutes to shut shop while others bloom. With HIET having stood the test of time, investing one’s future in the institute is prudent, from a quality, surety, and value point of view.
The facilities at HIET have been built over time. Being the oldest and best in South India, the institute has instruments from a variety of airplanes. Being associated with the Hindustan Group, students get to work on airplanes at different facilities, beyond and outside the institute: a flight school, and a college which has a Learjet business jet, giving a rich experience that is not matched by most institutes in the country, and allowing students to attempt all examinations under “Paper III”: something that many AME institutes cannot provide.
With students from HIET having been absorbed into airlines like Singapore Airlines, and commanding high positions across various maintenance organisations in India and overseas, mostly the middle east, recognition is something that a student of HIET does not have to worry about. Beyond that, it is the student’s thirst for knowledge, and perseverance that will decide one’s success in the maintenance organisation.