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Career Spotlight: Problem solvers

Maintenance technicians keep ’em flying

You’ve heard there’s a pilot shortage, but did you know that maintenance technicians are also in high demand?
Career Spotlight
Photography by Chris Rose

For someone who loves being around airplanes, solving problems, and helping to keep the fleet flying, a career as an aviation maintenance technician can be highly rewarding.

Job options for AMTs are almost as varied as those for pilots. They work on turbine engines, piston engines, aircraft structures and systems, and avionics. Jobs can be found at small flight schools, large service centers, aircraft manufacturers, and airlines.

Technicians who work on aircraft aren’t required to have an airframe and powerplant certificate. Those certifications are required for the person who returns the aircraft to service. In effect, that means landing a job at a shop doesn’t require any special certification. Shop owners, especially those who run small or mid-size operations, often are willing to take a chance on someone without formal schooling. They teach the technician under an apprentice-type arrangement, where a seasoned A&P instructs and then supervises. “It’s very expensive,” said Paul New, owner of Tennessee Aircraft Services. New has hired many technicians without an A&P certificate, and he said it can take years for the person to be fully independent. Everything the tech does the first time must be taught and supervised.

You’d think a maintenance technician degree with an A&P certificate would be beneficial, but New said even recent graduates go through a similar supervision process. Even experienced A&Ps must be familiar with the environment. A former airline mechanic may know nothing about piston engines, for example, despite having years of experience and a certificate.

This arrangement is difficult on shops, but a great benefit for people eager to move into the field. It provides an opportunity to make money and get your hands dirty on the first day, and work toward a certificate while on the job. Others may find jobs straight out of A&P school with airlines, manufacturers, and other large operations.

For someone who is eager to work hard, wants to be around airplanes all day, and loves to diagnose, fix, and repair mechanical or digital systems, the prospects these days are very strong.

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Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly is senior content producer for AOPA Media.

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