Aircraft Mechanic

Aircraft Mechanic

Fred Robel

25 Years Experience

Au Gres, MI

Male, 46

I'm a licensed Aircraft Mechanic & Inspector with twenty-plus years in the field. I've had a varied career so far, with time spent in the sheetmetal, mechanic, and inspection specialties. Most of my time is on heavy Boeing and McDonnell Douglas aircraft, of the passenger, cargo, and experimental type. This career isn't for everyone, but I enjoy it.

Please do NOT ask me to troubleshoot problems with your airplane, that is not what this Q&A is for.

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109 Questions

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Last Answer on July 11, 2018

Best Rated

What background or experience was required for you to start working on planes? Were you fascinated with aviation from a young age?

Asked by Jeremy B. over 5 years ago

There are a couple different facets to that question actually. To simply work on an airplane, you need no credentials. Just good mechanical ability, and a clever mind. The caveat being that you must work under the direct supervision of a licensed aircraft mechanic. Reasoning that the licensed mechanic will be teaching you how to go about aircraft maintenence the proper way, much like an apprenticeship. Also, you cannot sign for your work as an unlicensed mechanic. And if it isn't in the paperwork or logbook, and signed for by an authorized individual, then the job isn't complete, or legal. Everything that is done to an aircraft must be documented. I have to stress that: EVERYTHING. If you replace one screw, that should be documented. With a proper installation reference from the approved maintenance manual, and signed for by a licensed mechanic. In my case; I chose to go to school to get my license. The schooling was at Lansing Community College's Aviation School, and it was treated like a part time job for all purposes. We had to punch a time clock, to document our hours (a certain number are required to be eligible for a license). And we went year round, for two years, five hours a weekday. At the end of that, I had my Airframe & Powerplant licenses. Which is called a "license to learn" around the school. And it's technically true. Because, by the FAA regs, even a licensed mechanic cannot perform any given maintenance task, until it is done under the supervision of another more experienced mechanic. I should mention, that if you were to choose to go the 'mechanic apprentice' route; that it's a 30 month path of documented On The Job training that is required. After which, you would be eligible to take the tests for both your Airframe & Powerplant license. I have tried to reason out why I chose this profession before. I never came up with a solid answer I'm sorry to say. I think it is a combination of things really. I had always been mechanical, working on my own cars and such. Airplanes are cool, obviously. And I had always thought so, attending local airshows when I could. Timing: I walked into the registrars office at the college to sign up for this career path, at a time when I had little direction in life. I had no idea what I wanted to do, and this seemed like the most appealing thing on the class listings. The following two years of courses would have weeded me out if I hadn't really enjoyed it I think.

Is there some truth to this statement? "The third route, but that nobody does since there is no examiner that will sign off on it, is to get hired by a small outfit as a helper, get 2 years experience, and take the trade tests."

Asked by Chad about 5 years ago

In my experience, no, that is not true.  I have seen many, and when I say 'many', I mean hundreds; of people get their license going the experience route.

Just do it right.  Record every job that you do on an OJT form, and document all the time you spend working on the aircraft and related parts.  Then, at the 18 month mark, if you have enough things documented, you can get your employer to write a nice letter telling the FAA all the time you've spent working for them, and basically what you did.  This is just a corroboration for your stack of OJT forms.  Then usually, the FAA guy will sign off on it.  This will allow you to take either your Airframe & General tests; or the Powerplant test.  Take the signed FAA form to the testing center, and they give you the written test.  After you pass that; you make an appt with a Designated Maintenance Examiner for your Oral and Practical tests.  

Then, after 18 more months on the job, working the other discipline that you didn't test for; you do the same thing for that.  

36 months total to get your A&P (3 years).  

That's really the only reason I typically recommend the school route, as that can be done in 2 years or less.

It is harder to pass your Orals and Practicals going the longer work experience route.  But good Examiners will help you with your prep for it.  

The writtens are fairly easy in my experience.  There are books that detail all the questions in the test pool.  And if you study those, you will do well.

 

Why don't more planes have power outlets? Everyone has gadgets to plug in. Is it really that hard to add outlets to a plane that already has enough power to fly through the stratosphere?

Asked by JOE over 5 years ago

I know the older planes (made 2000 and earlier), weren't made for a public with so many gadgets they'd love to keep charged. I can't speak for new ones, as I haven't set foot on a passenger plane newer than a '90's model. As for adding them. Yes, that could be done. There are already several standard power outlets on most planes, for the use of the cleaning crews at the airports. Also, I've seen regular outlets in the bathrooms before. So the process of having them isn't unknown to airlines. Maybe the airlines don't want to deal with yet another system to maintain. Or the cost of installing a modification like that. It isn't as simple as just saying "Hey, I'm going to do that". The modification has to be sent through engineering, vetted by them, then submitted to the FAA for approval. It's a lengthy process to get something like that approved for installation and use on a public carrier aircraft. I lean towards the reason of not wanting to deal with the extra system. Especially one which the general public can get their hands on all the time. Most people are responsible, and won't break the outlets, or plug in anything strange, or use damaged equipment. But there are always the few that ruin it for the rest of us. It wouldn't surprise me if there weren't already First Class seating with USB and 115Volt outlets built into them. If it's viable, it will trickle down into Business, and then Coach classes someday. The way airlines are pinching their pennies these days, I wouldn't hold my breath though.

edit 2/8/2015: You would have been safe to hold your breath actually. I'm seeing more and more airlines offering USB charging ports to their customers, built right into their seats. As a matter of fact; last year a customer at the place where I work, put in an entire new interior system into their B777's, with fancy backseat touchscreens, and power outlets for each individual seat, front to back.

I am very pleased to have been wrong with my prediction. I love gadgets on airplanes.

can you email me at swissie@hotmail.ca i have a few questions for you that i need to ask for my assignment

Asked by Shawn over 5 years ago

Done and done.  :)

Have you ever been part of an FAA investigation into a crash?

Asked by Zoltar over 5 years ago

No. I never have. And I'm glad for it.

What do you see as the future of air travel? Are planes going to get bigger, faster, or more fuel efficient? Aren't we going to HAVE to find new technologies before we run out of oil?

Asked by Sam over 5 years ago

I don't know really. But if I were to speculate, first I'd say that airplanes probably won't get much bigger. The A380 and B747 are pretty darn big, and pretty much push the limit of our existing infrastructure. I also don't know that I'd like to see that many people up in the air at the same time in one plane. I think we'll see faster airplanes, when the engineers get the sonic boom suppression issue licked. Once that happens, we'll start to see things like the Concorde in action again I hope. Fuel efficiency will improve, as a matter of course I think. That's one of the big selling points for the aircraft and engine manufacturers to talk about. We haven't hit the wall on the limits of the turbine engine yet I don't think. Pratt & Whitney with their new Geared Fan technology is just starting to go in a new direction commercially. I think it might be the next big thing for aircraft engines. To address new tech for an oil deprived future? I believe that companies like GE, Rolls Royce, and Pratt & Whitney (among others) are already working on that. It isn't out in the public eye yet though. I would theorize on an all electric ducted fan engine if it were me. Most of the current advanced turbofan's thrust is generated by the bypass air, that never even goes though the combustion core of an engine. Replacing the internal combustion turbine altogether is a natural next step. Battery and/or electrical generation technology is the biggest hurdle to this next step right now. I think air travel has an exciting future. There will be problems along the way, there always are. I hope I get to see what's in store.

Is there still a shortage of A&P mechanics? If so why is that?

Asked by Roshawn Davis almost 5 years ago

I don't know that there is really a shortage of mechanics.  Companies seem to be willing to hire non licensed mechanics to work alongside the A&P's without much worry.  

I suppose there are 'shortages' in certain parts of the country.  Just from my experience in job searching; there wasn't necessarily a job available within 300 miles of me.  But, if I'm willing to travel or move, there seems to always be openings.

There is the ever looming "A&P shortage" that is always talked about, especially with the supposed retirement of our oldest working A&P's from the baby boom times happening.  But I haven't really seen it in my sphere of experience.