How to Become an Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanic or Technician
Aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians are able to specialize in a wide range of systems, in maintenance, alterations, or inspections.
Most aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians learn their trade at an FAA-approved Aviation Maintenance Technician School. Others enter with a high school education or equivalent and are trained on the job. Some workers enter the occupation after getting training in the military. Aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians are typically certified by the FAA. See the Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 65, subpart D and E, for the most current requirements for becoming a certified mechanic.
Education and Training
Aircraft mechanics and service technicians typically enter the occupation after attending a Part 147 FAA-approved Aviation Maintenance Technician School. These programs award a certificate of completion that the FAA recognizes as an alternate to the experience requirements stated in the regulations, and grants holders the ability to take the relevant FAA exams.
Some aircraft mechanics and service technicians enter the occupation with a high school diploma or equivalent and receive on-the-job training to learn their skills and to be able to pass the FAA exams. Some workers enter the occupation after getting training in the military. Aviation maintenance personnel who are not certified by the FAA work under supervision until they have enough experience and knowledge and become certified.
Avionics technicians typically earn an associate’s degree before entering the occupation. Aircraft controls, systems, and flight instruments have become increasingly digital and computerized. Maintenance workers who have the proper background in aviation flight instruments or computer repair are needed to maintain these complex systems.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Although aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians are not required to get licenses or certifications, most do, as these credentials often improve a mechanic’s wages and chances for employment. The FAA requires that aircraft maintenance either be done by or under the supervision of a certified mechanic with the appropriate ratings or authorizations.
The FAA offers separate certifications for body work (Airframe mechanics, or “A”) and engine work (Powerplant mechanics, or “P”), but employers may prefer to hire mechanics who have both Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) ratings. The A&P ratings generally certify that aviation mechanics meet basic knowledge and ability standards.
Mechanics must be at least 18 years of age, be fluent in English, and have 30 months of experience to qualify for both the A and P ratings (A&P). If only one rating is sought by the mechanic, 18 months experience is required to take either the Airframe or the Powerplant exams. However, completion of a program at a Part 147 FAA-approved Aviation Maintenance Technician School can substitute for the experience requirement and shorten the time requirements to become eligible to take the FAA exams.
Applicants must pass written, oral, and practical exams that demonstrate the required skills. Candidates must pass all the tests within 2 years.
To keep their certification, mechanics must have completed relevant repair or maintenance work within the previous 24 months. To fulfill this requirement, mechanics may take classes from their employer, a school, or an aircraft manufacturer.
Avionics technicians are typically certified through a repair station for the specific work being done or hold the Airframe rating to work on an aircraft’s electronic and flight instrument systems. An Aircraft Electronics Technician (AET) certification is available through the National Center for Aerospace and Transportation Technologies. It certifies that aviation mechanics have a basic level of knowledge in the subject area, but it is not required by the FAA for any specific tasks. Avionics technicians who work on communications equipment may need to have the proper radio-telephone operator certification issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Other licenses and certifications are available to mechanics who wish to increase their skill set or advance their careers. The Inspection Authorization (IA) is available to mechanics who have had their A&P ratings for at least 3 years and meet other requirements. These mechanics are able to sign off on many major repairs and alterations. Mechanics can get many other certifications, such as Repairmen of light-sport aircraft, or Designated Airworthiness Representative (DAR).
Agility. Mechanics and technicians need to climb on airplanes, balance, and reach without falling.
Detail oriented. Mechanics and technicians need to adjust airplane parts to exact specifications. For example, they often use precision tools to tighten wheel bolts to an exact tension.
Dexterity. Mechanics and technicians must possess dexterity to coordinate the movement of their fingers and hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble parts.
Observational skills. Mechanics and technicians must recognize engine noises, read gauges, and otherwise collect information to determine whether an aircraft’s systems are working properly.
Troubleshooting skills. Mechanics and technicians diagnose complex problems and they need to evaluate options to correct those problems.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Avionics technicians may begin their careers as aircraft mechanics and service technicians. As aircraft mechanics and service technicians gain experience, they may study independently, attend formal classes, or otherwise choose to pursue additional certifications that grant the privileges to work on specialized flight instruments. Eventually, they may become dedicated avionics technicians who work exclusively on flight instruments.
As aircraft mechanics gain experience, they may advance to lead mechanic, lead inspector, or shop supervisor. Opportunities are best for those who have an aircraft inspector's authorization (IA). Many specialist certifications are available that allow mechanics to do a wider variety of repairs and alterations.
Mechanics with broad experience in maintenance and repair might become inspectors or examiners for the FAA.
Additional business and management training may help aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians open their own maintenance facility.