Overview of Our Profession

Recently I have been getting a lot of requests from young people for some information on how to become a mechanic, and what the work around aircraft is like.

There are also un-certificated individuals working for air carrier avionics departments or FAA certificated avionics repair stations. These individuals have gained experience in avionics repairs from serving in the military, working for avionics manufacturers, and other related industries.

Practical experience qualification requirements
Individuals who wish to become FAA certificated aircraft mechanics can choose one of three paths to meet the experience requirements for the FAA Airframe and Power plant certificate.

An individual can work for an FAA Repair Station or Fixed Base Operator under the supervision of an A&P mechanic for 18 months for each individual airframe, or power plant rating, or 30 months for both ratings. The FAA considers a "month of practical experience" to contain at least 160 hours. This practical experience must be documented. Some acceptable forms of documentation are: Pay receipts, a record of work (log book) signed by the supervising mechanic, a notarized statement stating that the applicant has at least the required number of hours for the rating(s) requested from an certificated air carrier, repair station, or a certificated mechanic or repairman who supervised the work. The pay scale for a trainee is usually minimum wage and additional study time will be required to prepare for the FAA mechanic examinations.

An individual can join one of the armed services and obtain valuable training and experience in aircraft maintenance. Care must be taken that an individual enters a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) that is one the FAA credits for practical experience for the mechanics certificate.

NOTE: Prior to requesting credit for a specific MOS or prior to joining the military, the individual should get a current list of the acceptable MOS codes from the local FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) and compare it against the military MOS that he or she has or is applying for. When the 18/30-month requirement is satisfied the applicant should ensure that the MOS code is properly identified on his or her DD-214 Form. Check the white pages of the phone book for the address and phone number of your local FSDO, or you can call up the information on the Internet at www.faa.gov/avr/afshome.htm

In addition to the MOS code on the DD-214 form, the applicant must have a letter from the applicant's executive officer, maintenance officer, or classification officer that certifies the applicant's length of military service, the amount of time the applicant worked in each MOS, the make and model of the aircraft and/or engine on which the applicant acquired the practical experience, and where the experience was obtained.

Time spent in training for the MOS is NOT credited toward the 18/30-month practical experience requirement. As with experience obtained from civilian employment the applicant that is using military experience to qualify must set aside additional study time to prepare for the written and oral tests. Having an acceptable MOS does not mean the applicant will get the credit for practical experience. The authorization will be granted only after a complete review of the applicant's paperwork and a satisfactory interview with a FAA Airworthiness Inspector to ensure that the applicant did satisfy Part 65, Subpart D.

An individual can attend one of the 170 FAA Part 147 Approved Aircraft Maintenance Technician Schools nationwide. These schools offer training for one mechanic's rating or both. Many schools offer avionics courses that cover electronics and instrumentation.

A high school diploma or a General Education Diploma (GED) is usually an entrance requirement for most schools. The length of the FAA approved course varies between 12 to 24 months, but the period of training is normally shorter than the FAA requirements for on-the-job training.

Upon graduation from the school, the individual is qualified to take the FAA exams. A positive benefit of attending a Part 147 school is that the starting salary is sometimes higher for a graduate than for an individual who earns his certification strictly on military or civilian experience.

To apply to take the mechanic written test, the applicant must first present his or her Part 147 certificate of graduation or completion, or proof of civilian or military practical experience, to an FAA Inspector at the local FSDO.

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