Flying Companions on the Ground
By Rebekah Waters, FAA Safety Briefing Magazine.
General aviation (GA) pilots may have no better flying companion than their FAA certificated mechanic. Although this companion may keep their feet firmly on the ground, they are the one who helps make sure the aircraft is safe for flight after each maintenance action and/or inspection. Aircraft mechanics play an important role in aviation safety by performing inspections and maintenance, which takes place in the hangar. If you’ve always been interested in the mechanics of flight, and you have a knack for fixing things, becoming an “on the ground flying companion” may be a good way to join the wonderful world of aviation.
There are two paths to becoming a aircraft mechanic — attending an aircraft maintenance technical school (AMTS), or working as a mechanic helper to receive on-the-job training (OJT) for civil aircraft experience. An AMTS is an educational facility certificated by the FAA. These schools offer training to prepare you for different types of aircraft mechanic careers. Most of these schools require you to have a high school diploma or GED. The program takes about 18 to 24 months, depending on the rating(s) you want, and when you graduate, you should be prepared for the applicable airman knowledge and skills tests.
The FAA will begin using the mechanic ACS for anyone who tests for a mechanics certificate starting on Aug. 1, 2023.
Not everyone learns best in a classroom, and you may not live close to an AMTS. If either is the case, or you prefer hands-on learning, working as a mechanic’s helper to receive experience and OJT is another path. OJT provides experience with the procedures, practices, materials, tools, machines, and equipment generally used in constructing, maintaining, or altering airframes and powerplants. While completing OJT, you are responsible for documenting all your experience. To do this correctly, have the FAA certificated mechanic sign off for the work you do, and have them sign your work experience document. Because consistent documentation is so important, the FAA recommends that you use an aviation maintenance technician (AMT) log. Instead of a graduation certificate, you will present your signed log as proof of your eligibility to test for your mechanic certificate. The FAA has more information about this and what details you should capture in your log online at bit.ly/3BFE7hF. You may gain this experience working or volunteering at a maintenance facility, like your local flying club or fixed-base operator. Knowing someone who works at a maintenance facility can make entry into this path even easier.
The aviation mechanic certificate has two ratings — the Airframe (A) and the Powerplant (P). Getting both ratings together is commonly referred to as an “A&P” certificate. Whether you decide to get one or both ratings, you will need to pass the knowledge or written test, then oral and practical tests. Make sure that the person who is supervising you holds an A&P certificate.
Also, make sure that this person knows how to teach using the FAA’s Airman Certification Standards (ACS). On Sept. 21, 2022, a revised 14 CFR part 147 rule went into effect. For more information about this rule, see A New Dawn for Aviation Maintenance Training online at bit.ly/3OjNWts. The FAA will begin using the mechanic ACS for anyone who tests for a mechanics certificate starting on Aug. 1, 2023. The FAA certificated mechanic you choose needs to use the ACS concepts to prepare you for the written and oral knowledge tests and the practical skill elements. So, before you start your training, ask your mechanic mentor if they are up to date on these new testing standards.
A New Dawn for Aviation Maintenance Training
Nuts, Bolts, and Electrons: GA maintenance issues
Whether you decided to attend an AMTS or pursue civil aircraft OJT, becoming an aircraft mechanic will prepare you to make a positive contribution to aviation safety on the ground. If you would like more information on how you can become an “on the ground flying companion” go to faa.gov/mechanics.
Rebekah Waters is an FAA Safety Briefing associate editor. She is a technical writer-editor in the FAA’s Flight Standards Service.