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Aircraft Maintenance Technicians



Schools and Education

What you need to become an aircraft maintenance tech

  • Most training takes place at a school approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
  • FAA approved schools typically offer certificates associate degrees and bachelor degrees in avionics aviation technology or aviation maintenance management.
  • Increasingly employers favor those with a bachelor's degree
  • Graduates from approved FAA programs can take the FAA certification exams which can be vital to gaining a job.

What you study:

Basic areas of focus include:

  • Pneumatic hydraulic and landing gear systems
  • Aircraft inspection of wood sheet metal and non-metallic structures
  • Ignition lubrication and powerplant fuel systems
  • Warning and utility systems
  • Electrical instruments
  • Engine installation and inspection
  • Aircraft electricity fluid lines and fittings
  • Aircraft materials and control corrosion

What courses you'll take

Below are examples of courses that you'll likely take as an aircraft maintenance tech student.

Basic PracticesBasics of safety standards regulations general industry practices and procedures that govern an aircraft mechanic's work.Ready students to understand and adhere to practices designed to help ensure aircraft safety.
Materials Processes and ToolsFamiliarizes the student with many of the methods and tools used in aviation maintenance. Procedures for cleaning the aircraft corrosion control methods of testing use of the tools are typically covered.Teach detailed techniques and use of tools that are applied across a wide range of maintenance procedures.
Electrical Systems 1Basic understanding of aircraft electricity concepts including common components like circuits and batteries current voltage resistance and how to read electrical diagrams.Prepare students to be able to maintain aircraft electrical and electronic systems.
Turbine EnginesDesign theory and operational fundamentals of gas turbine engines and their subsystems. Standards for turbine maintenance. Best practices are reviewed including procedures for inspection using boroscopes servicing and repair. Auxiliary power units are reviewed. Courses may also cover engine installation procedures.Ready students to maintain turbine engines used on aircraft.
Reciprocating EnginesBasic operations of piston engines including details on how these engines convert pressure into rotation. Best practices for disassembly inspection reassembly and servicing lubrication and cooling systems.Ready students to maintain aircraft that use reciprocating engines.
Fuel SystemsBasic operation and technology principles of aircraft fuel systems for recip and turbine engines. Reviews technologies for mixing air and fuel including carburetors fuel injection and fuel controls.Teach students how to maintain and repair aircraft fuel systems.
Aircraft StructuresConstruction design and repair of aircraft structures fabricated from metallic and composite materials.Ready students to repair and maintain aircraft structures.
Airframe MechanicsHow to inspect airframe systems such as landing gears hydraulic systems pneumatic systems steering systems and tires. Also maintenance of systems such as heating cooling ventilation oxygen fuel protection and fire protection.Prepare students to safely work on aircraft airframe structures and components.

The above list represents a sampling of courses and many other topics will get covered such as pneumatics hydraulics and landing gear propeller systems ignition systems and flight control. Students may also be taught welding skills.

Video Overview

Gives an short introduction to the work of aircraft engine mechanics. Created for the US Dept of Labor.

Top Schools

Here is a selection of top US schools for aircraft maintenance studies as measured by the number of recent graduates:

  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach Florida: The school also has a main location in Prescott AZ and over 150 other training centers and teaching locations throughout the world. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University also provides online education.Embry-Riddle offers associate and bachelor's degrees in aviation maintenance science. The associate degree program prepares students to take the FAA Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic's certification exam. The bachelor's degree program provides concentrations in maintenance management aerospace electronics and flight.Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University was included in the U.S. News & World Report 2011 Best Colleges list. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University provides FAA approved programs.
  • Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics in West Mifflin Pennsylvania: The school has three campuses and three learning centers in Pennsylvania Ohio and West Virginia. The institute provides an associate degree and a diploma in aviation maintenance technician. Graduates from both programs are eligible to take the Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic's certification exam.In 2011 The Aviation Maintenance Technology program had a 92 percent placement rate for the Pittsburgh program. The Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.
  • Tarrant County College Fort Worth Texas: Offers the following degree programs: AAS Airframe Maintenance/Electronics; AAS Aviation Maintenance Technology; certificate in Aircraft Electronics Line Maintenance; certificate in Aviation Maintenance Technology Airframe; and a certificate in Aviation Maintenance Technology Powerplant.Tarrant County College has $3 million in training equipment and 5 FAA designated mechanics examiners. The college has a 90 percent student placement in the job force. The aircraft maintenance program is FAA approved.
  • Portland Community College Portland Oregon: Provides the following programs: Associate of Applied Science Degree Aviation Maintenance Technology; two-year certificate in Aviation Maintenance Technology; one-year certificate in Aviation Maintenance technology: Airframe; and a one-year certificate in Aviation Maintenance Technology: Powerplant.The programs prepare students to take national exams with the Federal Aviation Administration. The classes average 50 percent lab and 50 percent lecture. The school reports its programs cost less than one-third the cost of many aviation maintenance programs at other technology schools. The programs are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Tips for Selecting a School

  • Accreditation: In this field it's very important to graduate from an FAA accredited program. The FAA has approved about 170 schools to train aviation maintenance technicians.
  • Equipment: Does the program provide state-of-the-art software tools and equipment? For example Tarrant County College has invested in $3 million in training equipment for its students.
  • Curriculum: Look for aviation schools providing FAA certification prep courses in airframe mechanics and powerplant mechanics. Also look for schools providing a strong focus on computer technology as increasingly this technology is embedded in aircraft systems.
  • Job placement: Does the school provide job placement services? What percent of graduates obtain jobs in aircraft maintenance? For example Tarrant County College reports a 90 percent placement in the job force.
  • Breadth of offerings: Programs vary from certificates to Associate in Aviation Technology degrees to Bachelor of Science in Aviation Maintenance Technology degrees. A school that offers the option to advance from one type of award to the next can simplify progressing in your education to potentially more valuable degree levels. A school like Embry-Riddle is an example of one with this range of aircraft maintenance offerings.
  • Certification pass rates: What percentage of graduates pass the FAA tests the first time? For example Chaffey College has reported a 100 percent first time pass rate on FAA tests in Airframe and Powerplant as tracked by the FAA.
  • Reputation:Ask prospective employers if they hire graduates from the schools you're considering. For instance Embry-Riddle notes that the airlines hire more of its graduates than from any other school. You might ask for a recommendation for example from an airline maintenance manager for a school.

Certifications and Licensing

There are many great resources available from the US government that detail the requirements to become an aircraft mechanic including:

  1. Detailed Mechanic Requirements
  2. Required Experience
  3. Test Requirements – note that if you fail the test you must wait 30 days before you can take it again.
  4. List of Test Centers
  5. Sample Test Questions

The Federal Aviation Administration requires aircraft maintenance be performed by FAA-certified mechanics or under the supervision of a certified mechanic.

You can substitute the completion of a FAA-approved Aviation Maintenance Technician School program for the 30 month experience requirement. Prospective aircraft maintenance technicians must pass written oral and practical exams.

Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time:

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