21 Oct 2013

What Will I Learn in Aircraft Maintenance School?

Without mechanics, the aviation industry is grounded. Inspectors, maintenance and repair technicians all make a critical contribution to keeping pilots and passengers safely in the air. Choosing to prepare for a career in aircraft maintenance is a smart decision for any technically-minded individual who loves to fly. Make sure you enroll in a quality, FAA-approved training program that will give you plenty of opportunity for hands-on work. This guide, presented by Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology, gives you an overview of the skills and concepts you can learn in an aircraft maintenance school. General Education In a technically-focused degree program, general education courses may seem like a distraction. However, taking courses in physics, mathematics, and composition can help your career prospects. The skills you learn in general education courses improve your:

  • Writing ability
  • Speech communication
  • Reasoning and analytical skills
  • Professionalism

Don’t neglect your general education studies. They can help you become more well-rounded intellectually—and therefore potentially more employable. Charts, Reports, and Regulations The ultimate goal of an FAA-approved aircraft maintenance training program is to teach you what you need to know to earn your FAA Mechanic Certificate, including an Airframe and Power Plant rating. This means that throughout the duration of your course, you will spend time becoming familiar with: Federal aviation regulations (FARs) pertaining to aircraft safety, maintenance standards, and maintenance procedures

  • FAA and aircraft manufacturers’ data sheets, manuals, and other publications
  • Scientific notation, applied scientific principles, and applied mathematics relevant to maintenance duties
  • Schematic plans of aircraft sections and parts

You may even spend time learning to draw aircraft parts yourself, to give you a thorough appreciation of part design, along with engineering notation. Emphasis of these concepts will carry across the entire curriculum of an aircraft maintenance degree. By internalizing them, you can prepare yourself to carry out repair and maintenance duties to the required standards. Applied Scientific and Mathematical Concepts It’s important to understand the physical and mechanical processes at work in the aircraft you repair. Knowledge of concepts such as corrosion and wear can help you anticipate what to look for when inspecting parts. Additionally, you will frequently encounter mathematical and scientific notation throughout the course of your duties, and be required to make computations yourself. As a result, your coursework will cover:

  • Aerodynamics, fluid dynamics, and atmospheric properties
  • Physics concepts, including force, work, pressure, and orbital mechanics
  • Algebra, trigonometry and vectors
  • Weight and balance computation methods
  • The appropriate use of precision measurement instruments such as calipers and micrometers

By studying these concepts, you’ll develop the background knowledge you need to ensure that your hands-on repair work is precise and accurate. Airframe Structure and Repair As an aircraft mechanic, you’ll be responsible for maintaining and repairing all the mechanical and structural parts of your aircraft. This includes the airframe– the skeletal structure around which the rest of the craft is built. During your training, you’ll spend time examining how airframes are fabricated, how other components of the craft are constructed on the airframe, and common problems to look out for. Airframe repair courses should teach you:

  • Properties of airframe materials, including different metals and polymers (plastics)
  • Corrosion awareness: how it happens, how to detect it, and how to prevent or repair it
  • Basic welding and soldering methods
  • Sheet metal fabrication, including forming metal by hand or with bending tools
  • Appropriate tools and safe procedures for repairing metal
  • How to repair laminated materials or acrylic materials
  • How to repair finishes

Mechanical Systems The mechanical systems of an aircraft include its control, de-icing, fuel, and pressurization systems, among many others. Your aircraft maintenance degree program should cover the different functions of each of these systems, along with hands-on skills for fabricating parts, installing equipment, and performing repairs. In order to perform repairs effectively, you’ll need to be able to carry out basic non-destructive testing (NDT) procedures. These allow you to check parts for hidden damage without ruining their future usefulness. NDT processes you will learn might include:

  • Ultrasonic testing
  • Eddy current testing
  • Magnetic particle testing
  • Penetrative dye testing

Electronic Systems You’ll study the function of aircraft electrical systems, including ignition systems and fire detection systems. Your electrical coursework will introduce you to the fundamentals of electricity and magnetism, teaching you to build and analyze circuits. You’ll apply this knowledge to aircraft through study of electrical diagrams, plus hands-on practice assembling, installing and troubleshooting electrical systems in accordance with FAA standards. Power Plants A major part of your training as an aircraft mechanic will cover power plants—that is, engines. You should be introduced to both reciprocating engines and gas turbine (jet) engines. You will learn to inspect, disassemble, clean, reassemble, and install engines and engine components to manufacturer standards. In addition to the engines themselves, you’ll also gain an understanding of related power plant systems, such as fuel systems and propellers. Maintenance Procedures In addition to specific maintenance and repair skills, you should learn the generally accepted procedures for carrying out your duties. These include:

  • Step-by-step operational checks for engines and other systems
  • Typical ground operations procedures for airports
  • 100-hour inspection procedures as required by the FAA

After completing this course of study, you should be prepared to take your FAA certification exams upon graduation. Additionally, you’ll have many skills that can transfer to industries other than aviation—nearly every type of manufacturing in the transportation sector will have job opportunities you may be able to compete for. An Attitude of Responsibility The work that aircraft mechanics do is important. Lives depend on it. A quality training program will teach not only the theoretical and hands-on skills necessary to carry out repairs and maintenance, but also intangible lessons about work ethic and personal accountability. During your coursework, you should gain a very real understanding of how critical your contribution to the safety of aviation is. You should be capable of working in a team, but also capable of self-examination—making sure you do your job correctly, from removing the first screw to filing the final paperwork. Continuously develop an attitude of responsibility, and you’ll emerge from your aircraft maintenance training program confident in your ability to succeed in the job market.