If you consider yourself to be mechanically inclined, enjoy fixing things, and love airplanes, then being an aircraft mechanic might be a great career for you. It’s a rewarding career that let’s you perform a vital role to the aviation industry while working on some of the most advanced pieces of machinery in the world.
A common question that many prospective aircraft mechanics have is if there are different types of mechanics that specialize in different aspects of the job.
Are there different types of aircraft mechanics?
There are 3 types of aircraft mechanics: Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics (A&P), Inspection Authorization Mechanics (IA), and Avionics Technicians.
Each of them has a different but essential role in the aviation industry. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the specifics of these roles along with what you need to know about them.
Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics (A&P)
The A&P licensure is the most common and allows a mechanic to work on both the airframe and the engine of an airplane. Technically, an A&P mechanic must obtain two different licenses.
Airframe Mechanic: The airframe mechanic license allows a mechanic to work on the body of an aircraft. This typically includes inspecting and repairing the body of the aircraft but does not include the engine, propeller, or avionics.
Powerplant Mechanic: This is the license that allows a mechanic to work on the engine of an aircraft.
Although the FAA does not require you to earn both of these designations, most mechanics do since employers prefer a mechanic that is trained and able to perform sets of tasks. If your goal is to be a well rounded aircraft mechanic that can diagnose and repair most issues on an airplane, this is a path you should consider taking.
Obtaining your A&P certificate will give you the designation of Aviation Maintenance Technician from the FAA and open the door to a variety of jobs working on airplanes. From there, many mechanics will choose the type of work they like to do and start to work towards a specialization.
Inspection Authorization Mechanic (IA)
An Inspection Authorization Mechanic (IA) is an additional endorsement issued by the FAA that an experienced A&P Mechanic can earn. It allows that mechanic to inspect and airplane or airplane engine to go back into active service after a major repair.
As you can imagine, having the experience and skill to inspect an airplane before it can fly with passengers is a major responsibility. That’s why this is reserved for those professionals who already have the A&P certificate (which is a lot of training and experience in itself) and wish to build an additional skill set.
In order to be eligible to earn this endorsement, a mechanic must meet the following requirements:
- Have had their A&P Certificate for at least 3 years AND have been actively involved in aircraft maintenance for the last 2 years
- Have a fixed based of operations
- Have access to all the tools needed to do the inspections
Assuming these requirements are met, prospective IA mechanics then have to pass an exam as well as complete ongoing training.
Avionics Technicians are professionals who maintain and repair an aircraft’s electronics instruments. This includes radio communications devices/instruments, radar systems, and navigation guides. This is an essential role in the aviation industry as these electronic systems are vital to airplanes safely transporting passengers. Airplanes rely on these electronic systems for important tasks like communicating with other pilots and towers, navigating safely, and more.
The failure of one of these systems on a flight can lead to a dangerous situation so having professionals maintain and fix these systems is very important.
To become an Avionics Technician, you would have to earn an avionics certificate by attending an FAA approved school that teaches the avionics technician course. The certificate is issued by the FAA and requires you to complete the 18 month long course. For more information on this career along with it’s earnings and potential growth – see here.
As you can see from the above three careers, the aviation maintenance field has many different types of positions. It isn’t as simple as just learning to fix airplanes. Instead, you start with a base of knowledge and gain experience as well as training from there. These are very important roles to the aviation industry and a major reason we can all feel so safe while flying.
If you have the mechanical aptitude and enjoy solving problems, once of these careers just might be right for you.