How Do I Become an Airplane Mechanic?

There are three ways to earn Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification as an airplane mechanic. Although certification isn't legally required, it's generally used as a hiring criterion by employers in this field. Keep reading to learn how you can become an FAA-certified airframe, powerplant or airframe and powerplant mechanic. Schools offering Aviation Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Becoming an Airplane Mechanic-Overview

Most airplane mechanics complete a program and/or work in a repair station certified by the Federal Aviation Administration or join the military before entering the field. Various FAA must be passed as well.

Important Facts About Airplane Mechanics

Median Salary (2014) $56,990
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 1% growth
Key Skills Agility and dexterity, observational skills, detail-oriented
Similar Occupations Aerospace engineering, automotive body and glass repairs, automotive service mechanic

Complete an FAA-Certified Educational Program

The first option for prospective airplane mechanics is enrollment in an aviation maintenance technician program that's been certified by the FAA. These programs are offered through various institutions, including vocational schools, community colleges, aviation schools, 4-year colleges and universities, and private training companies. Graduates generally are awarded a diploma or certificate in airframe mechanics, power-plant mechanics or both, though some post-secondary schools confer associate's degrees in these areas as well.

Students seeking an airframe rating will learn to inspect, repair and service airframe systems and structures, as well as repair and replace airframe systems components, while those pursuing a power-plant rating will learn to perform the same duties on power-plant systems and structures. All students will be taught to document maintenance and service operations and repairs according to FAA standards. These programs generally take 12-24 months to complete. The FAA notes that airplane mechanics who choose this route tend to draw higher starting salaries than those who opt for other ways of training.

Work at an FAA Repair Station

Another path prospective airplane mechanics can take is working under an FAA-certified mechanic at an FAA repair station or fixed-base operator. 18 months of supervised work experience is required for an airframe or power-plant certificate, or both can be earned over 30 months. The FAA requires documentation of experience, which can include pay stubs or a log book endorsed by the supervisor.

Join the Military

Training for prospective airplane mechanics also is available through several occupational specialties in the U.S. military. However, those who chose this route can't apply their training time when applying for FAA certification; they can only count time they spent working in their military occupational specialty after training was completed.

Pass the Requisite Tests

Once he or she has completed training, an aspiring airplane mechanic must pass three types of exams to complete the FAA certification process. These include 2-3 written exams (a general knowledge exam and airframe and/or powerplant exams), as well as oral and practical tests.

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