How to Become an Aircraft Mechanic

inner workings of propellor on an aircraft

Andrew Buttita/flickr/CC BY 2.0

Aircraft maintenance technicians (AMTs) are responsible for performing repairs, and preventative and routine maintenance on all types of aircraft and helicopters. FAA certified aircraft mechanics, also called Airframe and Powerplant mechanics, or A&P mechanics, are in high demand. The military, airlines, government, and many other companies are hiring aircraft mechanics.

Aircraft maintenance technicians need specific training, an eye for detail, and a basic understanding of how things work. And they bear a large amount of responsibility when it comes to maintaining and inspecting aircraft for service, so being professional and diligent is important for aircraft mechanics.

Prospective aircraft mechanics can go to a technical school or receive on-the-job training to become an AMT. An AMT student can choose to be an Airframe or Powerplant mechanic, or both. An A&P mechanic can also work on avionics with the appropriate training and can move up to become an inspector authorization (IA).

Similar to a pilot's training, an AMT must pass an FAA written exam, as well as the accompanying oral and practical exams. Authorized inspectors and avionics technicians require additional training and testing. The time required to become an aircraft mechanic is usually one to five years or more.

Meet the Prerequisites

If you're considering a career as an A&P mechanic, you will need to be able to read, write, speak, and understand English, and you must be at least 18 years old.

To be qualified to work as an AMT, you must graduate from an FAA-approved school for maintenance or gain at least 18 months of on-the-job experience working on either Airframes or Powerplants. If you want both certifications, you need at least 30 months of experience on both Airframes and Powerplants.

Finally, all applicants for an A&P certificate must satisfactorily pass the FAA's written, oral, and practical exams.

Enter a Training Program

There are three basic routes you can take for AMT training:

  1. Attend and graduate from one of the FAA-approved AMT training schools. These schools usually offer the full package, including the Airframe & Powerplant certification and avionics training.
  2. If the formal education environment isn't for you, consider an on-the-job training program, where you complete a minimum of 18 months of training under the supervision of a qualified mechanicfor either the Airframe or Powerplant Certificate. For both the A&P certifications, you would complete 30 months of training under the supervision of a qualified mechanic.
  3. Many AMTs originate from the military. Military experience is looked highly upon in the civilian world, and the training is paid. Many people find that earning a paycheck while serving their country is a fulfilling way of life. The FAA gives service members credit for time spent in certain occupational specialties that involve aviation maintenance. Colleges and other AMT training programs will give credit for military service as an aviation mechanic, as well.

Take the Required Tests

Before receiving your certification, you need to prove your knowledge by taking an exam.

  • The Written Exams: There are three possible written exams: the AMT-General Test, the AMT-Airframe Test, and the AMT-Powerplant Test. The General test is 60 questions. The Airframe and Powerplant tests are each 100 questions. All tests are multiple-choice and allow 2 hours for completion. A 70 percent or better score is required to pass all of the tests.
  • The Practical Test: To demonstrate to the FAA that you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to be an AMT, you must pass a practical test made up of both an oral portion (discussion) and a practical portion (demonstration). A test must be done for each certification requested (the General, Airframe or Powerplant Certificate) and each test takes approximately eight hours. The test is given by an FAA Designated Examiner and includes 43 subject areas.