Aircraft technicians are responsible for maintaining, testing and repairing the electronics on airplanes. They may have a background in the air force or army, both of which require the completion of basic training, on-the-job training or apprenticeship, and encourage an associate's degree. Aspiring aircraft technicians can also pursue a degree through a trade school.
Aircraft electricians install, inspect, test, repair and maintain electrical and electronics systems on military and passenger airplanes. They are responsible for the proper functioning of instrument systems, landing gear and avionics components. Training for this career requires either military experience or an associate's degree from a trade school.
|Education Requirements||Associate's degree or aviation maintenance technology certificate program for civil aviation|
|Other Requirements||Basic training for U.S. Air Force and Army aviation|
|Certification||FAA airframe and powerplant certificate (A&P) for U.S. Air Force and Army aviation|
|Median Salary (2015)||$58,540*|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||1%*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Aircraft Electrician Training Programs
Training programs for aircraft electricians vary depending on whether they work in civil or military aviation. The U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force design training programs according to the type of aircraft or area of avionics that a trainee aircraft electrician will specialize in.
Air Force Training
All aspiring aircraft electricians in the U.S. Air Force must first complete basic training. Apprentices specializing in aircraft electrical and environmental systems start on-the-job training for their specialty to get journeyman classification. They are encouraged to get a 2-year associate's degree in aviation maintenance technology. Obtaining a FAA airframe and powerplant (A&P) certificate is required to graduate. Other courses that trainees may take include:
- Electrical and environmental systems
- Structural maintenance
- Propulsion systems
- Avionic systems theory and maintenance
- Accessory systems maintenance
Avionics systems apprentices who work on a variety of fighter and transport aircraft are encouraged to complete an associate's degree in avionic systems technology upon reaching the journeyman level. The avionics program's core consists of a course in avionic systems theory and maintenance and an internship. Elective options include:
- Advanced electronics
- Electronic systems theory and maintenance
- Soldering techniques
- Microprocessor electronic theory
Army Training Program for Aircraft Electricians
Aircraft electricians working on electronic systems of aircraft and helicopters must first complete basic training. This is followed by advanced theoretical instruction and on-the-job training in areas like electrical system maintenance, electrical theory and troubleshooting techniques. Aircraft electricians specializing as helicopter armament, electrical and avionics systems repairers receive advanced training in weapons systems maintenance.
Avionics Maintenance Technology Certificate Programs
Aspiring civilian aircraft electricians in certificate programs receive training on wiring, installation, testing and troubleshooting of avionics systems. Typical courses taught in avionics maintenance programs include:
- Airframe electrical systems
- Avionics repair
- Navigational aids and communication systems
- General aviation avionics systems integration
- Radio communication theory and application
Program lengths may vary depending on prior military training or A&P certification. Holding an A&P certificate is a prerequisite for some programs while others offer A&P certification training alongside avionics courses. Some programs help students prepare for the FCC General Radio Telephone Operator License exam so that they can work on aviation radiotelephone equipment.
Avionics Technicians Associate's Degree Programs
Associate's degree programs for avionics technicians, or advanced electronics technicians, do not require students to have A&P certification. These programs are offered by many trade schools and specialty aviation colleges. Students receive basic electronics training. Practical skills like soldering and line and bench maintenance are emphasized.
When choosing an avionics programs, aspiring aircraft electricians should look for programs accredited by the National Center for Aerospace & Transportation Technologies (NCATT). This organization is responsible for governing education standards and accreditation for avionics maintenance.
Career Information for Aircraft Electricians
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), aircraft electricians must work under time constraints while strictly adhering to safety standards, which can be stressful. Aircraft electricians increasingly have to work with complex electronic systems and computerized controls because of advances in avionics technology. They could advance their careers by continuing their education and becoming aviation, communication or electrical engineers.
To improve career prospects, airplane electricians can get a FCC General Radio Telephone Operator License to repair or modify radiotelephone transmitters in planes. To get the license they must pass two written elements of the FCC licensing examination. Airplane electricians seeking to prove their professional standing can also get the Aircraft Electronics Technician (AET) certificate offered by the NCATT. The AET exam covers areas such as basic electronics, aircraft fundamentals, maintenance tools and safety practices.
In 2015, the BLS estimated that there were 17,340 avionics technicians who earned a median annual wage of $58,540. The BLS predicted one percent employment growth for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians in the years 2014-2024, which is notably slower than the average for all career fields. Avionics technicians able to perform the tasks of A&P mechanics would have the best job prospects.
Aircraft electrician training can be undertaken through the army, air force, or trade schools. They work testing, installing, repairing and maintaining the electrical aspects of airplanes in both the military and commercial fields.