So You Want To Be an Aviation Technical Writer

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At a technical communications event that I attended in March, a question was raised about how to become an aviation technical writer. Before I elaborate on this topic, it is necessary to understand a little more detail about the world of aviation, especially commercial aviation which has likely touched each one of us in some […]

At a technical communications event that I attended in March, a question was raised about how to become an aviation technical writer. Before I elaborate on this topic, it is necessary to understand a little more detail about the world of aviation, especially commercial aviation which has likely touched each one of us in some way or another.

Most of us have some familiarity of airplanes and aviation. Often while sitting in the terminal or from the window of the airplane we have seen the hectic activity which goes on around the airplane to prepare for the flight or receive an arriving airplane. All of those people buzzing like bees around the planes are actually doing so according to the precise instructions laid out in a technical manual. Amazing, isn’t it?

Yes indeed, aviation is one of the most extensively documented domains and there are instructions clearly specified for each and every activity done in and around the airplane. Even the non-technical activities like cleaning the cabin and serving in-cabin refreshments to passengers – we’ve got instructions for those too!

One of the reasons for the precise nature of the documents and procedures is due to the overwhelmingly important safety aspects of owning and operating an airplane. Airplane operators as well as the manufacturers and even the regulators are always deemed responsible for the safety and well-being of the people who operate and travel in airplanes. Aviation, in the 100 plus years of its existence in the modern world, has always been the most strictly regulated and governed industry. For every category of airplane made by any manufacturer in any country today, there are very strict design, operations and maintenance guidelines enforced by the Aviation Authority of the respective country. All of these guidelines have evolved through experience and either originate from or are aligned to the Federal Aviation Authority or European Aviation Authority Rules and regulations.

Such guidelines and regulations ensure that the aircraft manufacturers create well thought-out procedures for each and every activity associated with the operation and maintenance of their respective aircraft. 

Consequently there are clearly laid out standards and instructions for creating and distributing these procedures. All this ensures that there is never a dearth of work for the Aviation Technical Writer.

The role of the Aviation Technical Writer.

Aviation technical communication chiefly addresses two types of communications, both equally critical: Operational communications and Maintenance communications, also known as “Aeronautical Products”. Let me provide you a glimpse into this practice which in some ways is a rather noble profession that provides the individual with knowledge, discipline and the inspiration to achieve the ultimate in excellence.

From the description above, you would have already guessed that since the writing is in the Aviation domain, the job is inherently a very responsible one. That is very true and particularly so since the individual is responsible for the safety of the aircraft. But really there is nothing to be alarmed about- the quantum of knowledge to be imbibed, the quality standards to be adhered to, the standard language of communication to be used as well as the writing tool to be learnt are all very clearly specified. Aspiring aviation technical writers must however accept the following conditions in order to join the profession:

  1. Lifestyle Changes- A certain amount of discipline in daily life, a methodical way of dealing with tasks, both personal and professional as well as maintaining healthy habits is very important. This is because alertness, a calm mind and an eye for detail is needed to perform this work. The frequency of late night partying may need to be re-visited!
  2. Training continues throughout your career – Any aviation-related profession demands that you continually train to keep knowledge levels current in all work aspects including product information, standards, and procedures.
  3. Having the right background – Familiarity with aircraft systems, a college degree or diploma in any branch of Aeronautical/Aircraft maintenance engineering is an absolute must. Degrees and diplomas in commonly offered engineering courses may also suffice, provided the individual has some work experience on any aircraft.
  4. Be the Ultimate Gear Head – Understand how equipment is assembled and how machinery components fit together and are disassembled. Develop and maintain an ability to interpret engineering drawings and reports and generate maintenance instructions from them. Thorough knowledge of standard maintenance practices, care, and precautions while working on aircraft are an absolute must.

One has a choice of different competencies to follow: Technical Writer (Author), Illustrator, Publisher, Technical Writer (Wiring Diagram). Writers can also specialize in certain standards like S1000D or focus on legacy document migration. Today since Aviation Technical Communication is also touched by the digital revolution, people with skills in mobile applications are also needed.

Capgemini’s in-house Technical Writing training school has trained hundreds of technical writers since it was formed a decade ago. Today we train our people in Technical Writing for Aviation as well as other domains such as Automotive, Construction Equipment, and more.

Finally, nothing really beats the pride and satisfaction of pointing at an airplane going overhead or parked at an airport and telling someone “I write the books for that plane”.

So, are you keen to become an Aviation Technical Writer and do you want to get yourself the right background and training? Do connect with us on our website

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