In the United States, aircraft mechanics must be certified as mechanics by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Mechanics are as important as pilots in maintaining the safety of air travel and preserving the faith that fliers have in the aircraft in which they travel. So what are the requirements to be an aircraft mechanic? They include education, experience and an assessment of skills.
Aircraft mechanics are required to be at least 18 years of age and, if working in the United States, able to speak, read and write fluently in English. Once these conditions are met, there are two paths to becoming a qualified aircraft mechanic. Earning sufficient experience is the first path, while graduating from an FAA certified flight school is the second.
Through on the job training some aircraft mechanics, such as airframe, powerplant, or avionics or aviation maintenance technicians, gain the practical experience necessary to meet basic FAA requirements for a mechanic’s certification. This experience includes 18 months of working on powerplants or airframes or 30 months of experience working on both simultaneously. This combination of experience enables mechanics to work on all of the major components of aircraft. Often mechanics gain this experience during time in the military.
Aspiring mechanics without related military or civilian experience can choose to enroll in an aircraft mechanic school that has been approved by the FAA. There, they can gain both the theoretical and practical knowledge to effectively repair airframe, avionics or powerplant systems. Some mechanics will additionally earn an inspector’s certification to inspect and approve the work of other mechanics.
Aspiring mechanics can also pursue certifications in multiple areas, such as airframe and powerplant. This dual certification can make a mechanic more marketable and appealing to commercial airlines.
As an aircraft mechanic, you would inspect, maintain and repair airplanes and helicopters. Typical duties include diagnosing mechanical or electrical problems, replacing defective parts and inspecting the work you’ve completed to make sure it meets the standards required for safety. You might also repair the wings, brakes and electrical systems on the aircraft and keep records of the repairs and maintenance you performed. Other duties might include measuring various parts for wear, checking for defects in parts and testing equipment to ensure it is functioning properly. Careful, precise work is required to make sure that the aircraft is safe.
Many aircraft mechanics work on all parts of the aircraft. Others specialize in specific parts such as the electrical systems or the engine, and some work only on preventative maintenance, inspecting all parts of the aircraft for wear and replacing any parts that are defective or worn out. Other mechanics specialize in repairs, usually based on the pilot’s description of a problem. They are the detectives of the aircraft world, finding and fixing problems that might not be obvious at first. Some people interested in this field will become avionic technicians who work specifically on flight instruments and radar systems.
To get a job as an aircraft mechanic, it helps to specialized schooling and get certified through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Most aircraft mechanics get their schooling at Aviation Maintenance Technician Schools approved by the FAA. Many of the aircraft mechanic schools offer 18 to 24 months of training to be certified, while others offer two or four-year degrees in aircraft mechanics.
Once schooling is over, anyone seeking to be a certified aircraft mechanic must pass the FAA certification tests. There are separate tests for airframe mechanics and engine mechanics as well as a combined Airframe and Powerplant certificate, commonly known as an A&P certificate. The A&P certificate tends to be more of a competitive advantage for aircraft mechanics who are looking for a job.
In years past, AMTs mostly performed engine work. Now that engineers have developed engines that run without issues for thousands of hours, our primary focus has turned to repairing the new material being used to fabricate the fuselage, avionics and electrical systems.
The Boeing 787 is the latest introduction into commercial aviation with these highly sophisticated systems and structural developments. The aircraft had its challenges along the way, but is proving to be an industry leader in passenger comfort and fuel economy, which are areas emphasized throughout the aviation industry.
In order to keep this new technology flying, we need people who are highly trained to maintain these systems and produce a clean, safe, reliable and affordable product our customers can appreciate and are willing to pay for. You can price yourself out of the market if you don’t do your job correctly. Troubleshooting a pilot report incorrectly, which causes delay and inconvenience, is a primary example of this. As an AMT, many people rely on you to do your job as quickly as possible while ensuring it gets done correctly so they can get to their destination as scheduled. Bad troubleshooting leads to cost overruns, delayed flights, and very disappointed customers, who ultimately pay the price for mistakes made.
The new AMT must be an individual who can think outside the box and be a leader. We don’t need technicians who have to be told what to do and how to do it. Most of an AMT’s time is unsupervised, but all work closely with their peers to accomplish these tasks. This obviously requires them to be good team players because it is a group effort to accomplish these goals.
I firmly believe this industry has the most diversity to offer anyone looking for a challenge since it tests your knowledge and abilities every day. This career field isn’t for a person who wants to go into work expecting to do the same tasks each day. It is a good match for a person who is ready to face whatever is thrown at him or her daily.
If you’re willing to take on this challenge, the rewards are tremendous, and you will have a career which will surpass anything you can imagine. You’re not just a technician; you’re an Aviation Maintenance Technician who can make a difference by making decisions and repairing multi-million dollar equipment. You will be envied by other technicians in different career fields and respected by other industries for what you do throughout the world.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics1, job prospects will be best for technicians who hold an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certificate and keep up with technical advances in aircraft electronics and composite materials. The BLS states many older aircraft mechanics are expected to retire between 2010 and 2020, allowing management and entry-level positions to open up for younger mechanics.
Boeing predicts that as next-generation airplanes begin to dominate fleets in the coming years, reliability will improve and maintenance check intervals will lengthen. This trend is likely to moderate the growth of technician positions, but overall hundreds of thousands of new jobs will be created as the global fleet rapidly expands.
The Asia Pacific Region is predicted to lead the spike in technician job growth, with approximately 224,000 new technician personnel needed. North America is predicted to see the second largest growth in demand for 109,000 new technicians required. Airlines in Europe will require 102,000, the Middle East 62,000, Latin America 44,000, the Commonwealth of Independent States (former Soviet Republics) 24,000 and Africa 19,000, according to the report.
As a graduate from Spartan’s Airframe and Powerplant program, you’ll be qualified for an entry-level A&P position in the aviation industry. From there, the sky’s the limit, so why wait? Request program info online or call 1-800-510-3216 today for more information on A&P.