Other Qualifications, and Advancement:
Most mechanics who work on civilian aircraft are certified by the
FAA, which requires mechanics to be at least 18 years of age, fluent
in English, and have a high school diploma or its equivalent in
addition to having the needed technical skills. Most mechanics learn
their skills in an FAA-certified Aviation Maintenance Technician
Although a few people become mechanics through on-the-job training,
most learn the skills needed to do their jobs in 1 of about 170
Aviation Maintenance Technician schools certified by the FAA. By
law, FAA standards require that certified mechanic schools offer
students a minimum of 1,900 class-hours. Coursework in schools normally
lasts from 12 to 24 months and provides training with the tools
and equipment used on the job. About one-third of these schools
award 2-year and 4-year degrees in avionics, aviation technology,
or aviation maintenance management.
trade schools are placing more emphasis on technologies such as
turbine engines, composite materials, and aviation electronics,
which are increasingly being used in the construction of new aircraft.
Technological advances have also affected aircraft maintenance,
meaning mechanics must have an especially strong background in computers
and electronics to get or keep jobs in this field.
in mathematics, physics, chemistry, electronics, computer science,
and mechanical drawing are helpful because they demonstrate many
of the principles involved in the operation of aircraft, and knowledge
of these principles is often necessary to make repairs. Courses
that develop writing skills also are important because mechanics
are often required to submit reports. Mechanics must be able to
read, write, and understand English.
mechanics are trained on the job by experienced mechanics. Their
work must be supervised and documented by certified mechanics until
they have FAA certificates.
The FAA requires that all maintenance work on aircraft be performed
by certified mechanics or under the supervision of a certified mechanic.
As a result, most airlines hire mechanics that have FAA certification.
The FAA offers certification for airframe mechanics and powerplant
mechanics, although most airlines prefer to hire mechanics with
a combined A&P certificate.
need at least 18 months of work experience before applying for an
airframe or powerplant certificate, and 30 months of experience
working with both engines and airframes for a combined A&P certificate,
although completion of a program at an FAA-certified school can
be substituted for theses work experience requirements.
to having experience or formal training, applicants for all certificates
must pass written, oral, and practical tests that demonstrate that
they can do the work authorized by the certificate. Written tests
are administered at one of the many designated computer testing
facilities worldwide, while the oral and practical tests are administered
by a Designated Mechanic Examiner of the FAA. All tests must be
passed within a 24- month period to receive certification.
regulations require current work experience to keep certificates
valid. Applicants must have at least 1,000 hours of work experience
in the previous 24 months or take a refresher course. Mechanics
also must take at least 16 hours of training every 24 months to
keep their certificates current. Many mechanics take training courses
offered by manufacturers or employers, usually through outside contractors.
FAA allows certified airframe mechanics who are trained and qualified
and who have the proper tools to work on avionics equipment. However,
avionics technicians are not required to have FAA certification
if they have avionics repair experience from the military or from
working for avionics manufacturers. Avionics technicians who work
on communications equipment must obtain a restricted radio-telephone
operator license from the Federal Communications Commission.
Aircraft mechanics must do careful and thorough work that requires
a high degree of mechanical aptitude. Employers seek applicants
who are self-motivated, hard-working, enthusiastic, and able to
diagnose and solve complex mechanical problems. Additionally, employers
prefer mechanics who can perform a variety of tasks. Agility is
important for the reaching and climbing necessary to do the job.
Because they may work on the tops of wings and fuselages on large
jet planes, aircraft mechanics must not be afraid of heights.
in computer technology, aircraft systems, and the materials used
to manufacture airplanes have made mechanics' jobs more highly technical.
Aircraft mechanics must possess the skills necessary to troubleshoot
and diagnose complex aircraft systems. They also must continually
update their skills with and knowledge of new technology and advances
in aircraft technology.
aircraft mechanics in the Armed Forces acquire enough general experience
to satisfy the work experience requirements for the FAA certificate.
With additional study, they may pass the certifying exam. In general,
however, jobs in the military services are too specialized to provide
the broad experience required by the FAA. Most Armed Forces mechanics
have to complete the entire FAA training program, although a few
receive some credit for the material they learned in the service.
In any case, military experience is a great advantage when seeking
employment; employers consider applicants with formal training to
be the most desirable applicants.
mechanics gain experience, they may advance to lead mechanic (or
crew chief), inspector, lead inspector, or shop supervisor positions.
Opportunities are best for those who have an aircraft inspector's
authorization. To obtain an inspector's authorization, a mechanic
must have held an A&P certificate for at least 3 years, with
24 months of hands-on experience.
airlines, where promotion often is determined by examination, supervisors
sometimes advance to executive positions. Those with broad experience
in maintenance and overhaul might become inspectors with the FAA.
With additional business and management training, some open their
own aircraft maintenance facilities. Mechanics with the necessary
pilot licenses and flying experience may take the FAA examination
for the position of flight engineer, with opportunities to become
and technicians learn many different skills in their training that
can be applied to other jobs, and some transfer to other skilled
repairer occupations or electronics technician jobs. For example,
some avionics technicians continue their education and become aviation
engineers, electrical engineers (specializing in circuit design
and testing), or communication engineers. Others become repair consultants,
in-house electronics designers, or join research groups that test
and develop products.