Aircraft Mechanic Training and Apprenticeship Tips

An aircraft mechanic has one of the most important jobs in aviation. Aircraft mechanic training is understandably thorough and demanding, since the safety of air passengers depends on the mechanic's work. In this article, we'll briefly cover training requirements and also mechanic apprenticeship.

Educational requirements

An aircraft mechanic will at least need a GED to be licensed. A high school diploma is highly recommended. Aircraft mechanics can basically be divided into two groups, airframe and power plant. Both categories need to meet certain criteria for practical experience to receive full mechanic's certification. There are three options for obtaining this experience: 

  • Attending an FAA certified Aviation Maintenance Technician School. These schools can be found nationwide. Students generally attend for 1 to 2 years and take a full course load of classes.
  • Training through service in the Armed Forces. You will need to present a letter showing how much time you worked on aircraft while in the military.
  • Working at an FAA certified Repair Station as an apprentice to a certified aircraft mechanic. The apprenticeship would be 18 months for either airframe or powerplant certificate or 30 months for a combination of both. Very thorough documentation must be provided to show the time you worked.

Regardless of how the candidate obtains experience, he or she must take and pass three types of tests to become an FAA certified aircraft mechanic: written, oral and practical. The tests are administered by a Designated Mechanic Examiner and are quite intensive; a complete exam may take up to eight hours. All tests must be passed in a 24 month period.

Apprenticeship

The key to obtaining a good aircraft mechanic apprenticeship position is locating an FAA certified Repair Station. There are many of these, located all cross the country. A complete list of all certified Repair Stations can be downloaded at this location: http://av-info.faa.gov/repairstation.asp. Unions can also be a good source of apprenticeship information. About half of all aircraft mechanic workers are in unions; some of the unions are International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Transport Workers Union of America and the Teamsters.

You will need to keep good records of your apprenticeship, including a log book of repair time signed by your supervisor, pay receipt stubs and a notarized statement from your boss confirming the time you worked. These must be presented to the FAA Mechanic Examiner when you take your tests.

Many aviation companies will offer "informal" apprenticeships or job "shadowing" to those expressing interest in a mechanic's career. These will allow a person to see if they want to pursue the aircraft mechanic position more seriously. 

Outlook and opportunities

The outlook for aircraft mechanics is good. Estimates have about 4100 job openings per year as the average. The more experience a mechanic has, the better his prospects are. The pay and benefits for an airline mechanic are excellent; hourly wages average around $27.00 per hour.

An aircraft mechanic position can lead to other opportunities such as Crew Chief and Head Mechanic. Many mechanics become airline inspectors and even pilots. If you take the necessary steps, a satisfying aviation career can be well within reach.