Have you ever wondered how a private jet makes it in the air every time? Behind each engineer’s and mechanics hard work and genius are hundreds of skilled professionals and technicians practicing skilled labor and impeccable communication to maintain and repair aircraft. 

Here at Southern Air Custom Interiors, our skilled technicians consist of aircraft interior refurbishment experts as well as airframe and powerplant mechanics with years of experience. What exactly do airframe and powerplant mechanics do? A brief list may include repairing damaged wiring, inspecting engines, testing brakes, or replacing damaged parts. 

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about airframe and powerplant mechanics, including required examination, A&P mechanic schooling, experience necessary, and job opportunities. 

What are Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics (A&P Mechanics)?

For every aircraft, there are three different types of mechanics to choose from when looking for repairs– inspection authorization (IA) endorsed mechanics, FAA certified repair stations, and airframe and powerplant mechanics. An A&P mechanic is an aircraft maintenance technician specially certified to independently perform a variety of maintenance tasks, alterations, and repairs on an aircraft. 

Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic Roles 

Airframe and powerplant (A&P) mechanics that work at aircraft maintenance companies are responsible for inspecting, maintaining, and repairing various parts and areas across the entire aircraft, such as:

  • Engines
  • Instruments
  • Gauges
  • Air conditioning
  • Pumps and valves
  • Pressurized areas
  • Brakes
  • Landing gear

A&P mechanics are certified or licensed (interchangeable terms in this case) by the Federal Aviation Association (FAA). However, you may work as an A&P mechanic without being licensed, provided that someone who is licensed supervises you.  

As an A&P mechanic, you’re also responsible for immense documentation, including:

On top of all the above duties and knowledge, airframe and powerplant mechanics must stay up-to-date on all the FAA’s aircraft regulations. 

Education & Certifications Required for A&P Mechanics

An A&P mechanic should have an airframe and powerplant license issued by the Federal Aviation Association (FAA). The FAA certificate may certify individuals as:

  • Airframe mechanics 
  • Powerplant mechanics
  • Airframe and powerplant mechanics (A&P)

To obtain certification, aspiring A&P mechanics must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • Command of the English language
  • Experience, knowledge, and skill requirements for one rating
  • Passing grades on all prescribed exams within two years

While A&P mechanic education certainly helps with experience, the FAA doesn’t explicitly require it to license you. 

However, an aspiring mechanic should have a few years of experience working in an aircraft repair setting to gain the knowledge necessary to pass the tests. Keep in mind that while you can get away without education for the license, some employers may not consider your application without a high school education or completion of a specific college program. 

The FAA also distinguishes the value of theoretical courses as lesser than the value of practical experience. 

The FAA recommends one of the following routes to gain experience:

  1. Academic training through an FAA-certified Aviation Maintenance Technician School (AMTS), or 147 schools: A more expensive route that requires 1,900 hours to obtain an A&P certificate
  2. On-the-job training (OJT): Cheaper mode of gaining experience, requires regular documentation of work completed on an AMT logbook signed by a certified A&P mechanic

No matter the route you take, you’ll need to provide documentation as proof of your knowledge and eligibility for the license. Some documentation you might need includes:

  • Letter of recommendation
  • Course completion certificate
  • AMT logbook plus signatures from supervisory mechanics
  • Employer statement confirming your hours and experience

How to Become an A&P Mechanic

When you put it all together, what are the steps to becoming an A&P mechanic? Here’s a quick breakdown for each route of experience:

147 School:

  1. Complete high school education or GED
  2. Pick an FAA-certified Aviation Maintenance Technician program.
  3. Complete the program between 18-24 months, depending on your desired rating.
  4. Ensure you’ve completed the following hours:
  • General: 400
  • Airframe: 750
  • Powerplant: 750
  • Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics (total): 1,900
  1. Prepare for knowledge exams by studying content in the following handbook as found on the FAA website:
  1. Write and pass three knowledge tests
  2. Compile knowledge evidence and documentation (examples mentioned in the previous section). 

Some of the course topics include:

  • Electronics and instruments
  • Flight control rigging
  • Hydraulics
  • Aircraft structure repair (like aircraft seat repair)
  • Landing gear
  • Induction systems and components
  • Turbines and reciprocating engines
  • Ignition and futile metering
  • Repair and lubrication
  • Theory of Operation

On-the-Job Training

  1. Find an entry-level mechanic volunteer or paid role in an aircraft maintenance facility.
  2. Purchase an AMT logbook or equivalent.
  3. Record all activities performed at work, specifically maintenance tasks performed, time spent on each task, and signatures validating the entry by a certified A&P mechanic. 
  4. Prepare for knowledge exams by studying content in the following handbook as found on the FAA website:
  1. Write and pass three knowledge tests
  2. Compile evidence and documentation of knowledge (examples mentioned in the previous section). 

You may also obtain on-the-job training through a military role.

Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic Careers

Airframe and powerplant mechanics enjoy relatively lucrative salaries and a hands-on work environment. If you’re good with your hands and have a problem-solving mind, you might enjoy a career as an A&P mechanic! 

Let’s dive into career options and salary potential. 

Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic Career Options

You may start in an entry-level aircraft mechanic role at the beginning of your career. But upon licensure or more years of job experience, you could be promoted to:

  • A&P mechanic
  • Lead A&P mechanic
  • Lead inspector
  • Shop supervisor

Many airports hire in-house A&P mechanics for employee roles. However, you may also decide to contract independently with aircraft maintenance agencies for more flexibility and earning potential. These contract roles often require flexibility in work hours and location, as well as extensive experience (5-10 years) as an A&P mechanic. 

The FAA also hires A&P mechanics as inspectors once they gain the necessary knowledge and certification. Finally, A&P mechanics may also go into teaching, either as private tutors or guides, or as formal teachers at a 147 school. 

Other related roles that an A&P mechanic may dive into include:

  • Aircraft electronics specialists, mechanics, or technicians
  • Aircraft engine mechanics and specialists
  • Airplane riggers
  • Avionics technicians
  • Helicopter mechanics
  • Inspection authorized (IA) mechanics 
  • Jet engine mechanics
  • In-flight refueling system repairers

Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics Salary 

The average salary for airframe and powerplant mechanics is $60,270, or $28.98 per hour. However, the longer you stay in the field, the higher the salary potential, as you grow your experience. 

Conclusion: The Best A&P Mechanic Opportunities

Airframe and powerplant mechanics have exciting careers in the aviation industry, filled with job opportunities and exciting projects. The route to achieving an airframe and powerplant license also offers various routes, either through a 147 school or on-the-job training. 

Here at Southern Air Custom Interiors, we’re proud to have an amazing staff of airframe and powerplant mechanics, as well as aircraft interior specialists with decades of combined experience. Our skilled technicians are certified and have stayed with us for many years, perfecting the Southern Air Custom Interiors experience for our customers. The result? A seamless, skilled repair every time and unparalleled customer experience. 
Interested in learning more about our experienced technicians and how they can help you reach your aircraft goals? Whether it’s aircraft customization, interior refurbishment, or maintenance, contact us today for a consultation!

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