Individuals who aspire to work in the field of airplane mechanics, also known as aviation maintenance, are generally required to complete a training program at a school accredited by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Technical training programs are available at the diploma and bachelor's degree levels and may be offered in specialties such as aviation maintenance technology and avionics technology. These programs should prepare graduates to become professionals in the field. The only prerequisite is a high school diploma or GED.
Diploma in Aviation Maintenance Technology
An Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT) program takes 14-24 months to complete and is offered through community colleges and vocational schools. The program teaches students the basics about repairing and maintaining airplanes, including single engine and transport airplanes. Airplane mechanic school provides the practical experience required to take the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) licensing exams.
Hands-on learning is emphasized in this technical field. A strong background in math and science is recommended. Some class topics include:
- Airframe systems
- Fundamentals of aircrafts
- Electrical systems and electricity
- Engine mechanics
- Inspections and protection
- Engine troubleshooting
Bachelor's Degree in Aviation Maintenance Technology
Additional airplane mechanic schooling may be achieved through colleges and universities. The 4-year program includes training to earn the FAA's airframe and powerplant (A&P) license, but can accommodate people who are already licensed. Education in many different areas of aircraft maintenance is available, such as testing, logistics and management. All students learn about safety regulations, troubleshooting systems and ethical and professional standards within the aviation industry.
Previous algebra and chemistry courses are recommended. Internships are available to gain additional practical experience. Class subjects include:
- Aircraft structures
- Aviation science
- Avionics management
- Engine systems
- Technology and electricity
Diploma in Avionics Technology
Aviation electronics, or avionics technology, concerns the repair and maintenance of the electronic components of an aircraft. Navigation systems, flight computers, radars and radios are all under avionics technicians' domain and demand specialized training. Students learn to install, fix, test and replace computer equipment and systems required for primary functions. Many airplane mechanic school programs require students to have their FAA A&P certification, or at the very least aviation maintenance experience under a certified aviation mechanic.
The curriculum comprises lectures and labs. Program completion can take 7-15 months, depending on experience and certification. Common course topics are:
- Auto-flight systems
- Communications and recorders
- Currents and circuits
- Avionics line maintenance
- Global positioning systems
- Wiring techniques
Bachelor's Degree in Avionics Technology
Technology, science and engineering combine to tackle the current and future demands of aviation in this 4-year airplane mechanic school program. Students learn about electronics systems aboard corporate, commercial and private aircrafts. Hands-on experience in mechanics and logistics provide a solid technical background for avionics maintenance, repair and installation. Navigation, management, instrument and avoidance systems are covered.
Physics, chemistry and math are prerequisite courses. General core classes include:
- Blueprints and drafts
- Digital circuits
- Engineering physics
- Testing and inspection
Popular Career Options
The A&P license opens up plenty of opportunities in entry-level positions. Graduates, when licensed, can look forward to careers as:
- Aircraft mechanics
- Aviation inspectors
- Parts managers
- Service technicians
In addition to repairing and maintaining existing equipment, graduates are ready for jobs that allow them to research and develop new systems. Examples of these positions include:
- Avionics technician
- Avionics engineer
- Electrical engineer
Continuing Education Information
Many certificate programs offer students an associate degree option with the fulfillment of just a few more classes. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) offers a general class radiotelephone operator's certificate, and the technical training in an avionics program prepares students to earn it. The successful completion of an AMT program qualifies students to apply for an A&P license from the Federal Aviation Administration. Students complete written, oral and practical exams and must show proof of airplane mechanic experience. The A&P license is necessary to hold an airplane mechanic job, and certifies the holder as an airplane maintenance technician.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians, as well as avionics technicians, was expected to show little or no growth between 2014 and 2024. This is considerably lower than average compared to other occupations. The median annual wage for aircraft mechanics and service technicians was $58,390 in 2015, reports the BLS.
Although airplane mechanics is a profession with slow growth, a diploma or degree in aviation maintenance technology or avionics technology provides students with the skills and experience to gain certification and pursue job options in the field.