Aircraft Maintenance And When To See Your Mechanic
Just like your vehicle, aircraft maintenance varies depending on the type of aircraft, how much you fly and how it’s used. A vintage, 35-year-old Cessna is going to have completely different requirements than a late-model Beechcraft Premier.
However, no matter what type of aircraft you have, maintenance is an ongoing, comprehensive process. To ensure safety and an enjoyable flight, the entire aircraft should be examined, maintained and repaired (as necessary) on a regular basis.
The FAA has stringent safety standards in place, and all aircraft must abide by these regulations. Your aircraft must also be maintained after a specified number of flight time hours and of calendar months. Certain aircraft equipment even have a flight cycle limit and must be replaced as soon as the maximum usage is reached.
Keeping a close eye on the maintenance requirements is the responsibility of the pilot in command of the aircraft, even if it is just a rental aircraft. Knowing the “shelf life” of your plane’s systems and hardware is an integral part of safe flight, because just one proverbial (or literal) loose screw can cause a devastating development.
What Your AMT Does
Having a skilled Aircraft Maintenance Technician (AMT), also known as an A & P for Airframe and Powerplant, in your corner is critical. Very few pilots have the knowledge, time and ongoing education to perform their own maintenance checks.
You can depend on an AMT to keep your aircraft safe by inspecting components for corrosion and applying preventative materials where needed. The AMT will also lubricate parts, drain and maintain fuel systems, service hydraulic and pneumatic systems, replace components as necessary or required, and perform an inspection of the aircraft for wear and tear.
Depending on your aircraft, you may also need an Avionics Technician who specializes in communications and navigation systems. These professionals are experts in aircraft electronic systems, which is becoming more in demand as private pilots invest in newer, high-tech aircraft.
Avionics is a critical component, and these techs ensure that instruments, computer systems, radar, radio communications and global positioning systems (GPS) are in top working order and in compliance with FAA standards. Technical skills and wiring expertise is a pillar of this type of maintenance.
When Check Ins are Necessary
Your aircraft should be fully inspected immediately before and after each flight by the pilot in command. However, if you only fly occasionally, it’s also important that your aircraft is well cared for even while in storage. It’s best, at the very least, to take all aircraft on short flights so that they’re not “sitting cold” for weeks or months on end-hiring a pilot in conjunction with an AMT to do this for you is a smart move, especially if your schedule doesn’t allow for frequent flights.
As Keith Boman from CB Aviation notes, “We had a client who was not using his Cessna 421 and let it sit for several years. This resulted in considerable damage to the engines and a substantial decrease in the value of the plane.”
Again, just how much maintenance is required depends wholly on the aircraft in question. For the best results, safest flights and to extend the life of your aircraft choose an AMT who specializes in you type of aircraft.
From pre-purchase evaluations to complete annual inspections and quick, efficient emergency repairs, you, your passengers and your aircraft deserve only the best. Ideally, AMTs come with a diverse skill set and are probably pilots themselves-after all, it takes one to know one (and to understand your concerns in the cockpit). Make sure safety is your first concern when flying.
Airplanes And Aircraft – What Are They Made Of?
Since the days of the Wright Brothers, man’s fascination with flying has brought on many changes due to increased technology and necessity. Construction of new materials has been developed and still new changes are being sought. Let’s look at some of the changes.
In the early years of aviation, planes were made of fabric and low weight wood, due to their availability. Wire, struts and braces were used for structural strength. The fabric was a closely weaved fabric like linen. As the travel speeds increased, so did the need for better, stronger materials in aircraft construction.
Laminated wood and monocoque construction were first used in the 1930’s. Monocoque is a construction technique that supports structural load by using an object’s external skin. When aircraft were made of fabric, they were hard to maintain since they deteriorated when left outside, due to the elements. So metal began to be used for aircraft. There were problems with metal too.
In 1919 to 1934 they began the construction of all metal planes with aluminum surfaces and others used a construction of metal monocoque. As manufacturing skills got better, building lighter planes became easier. However, metal corrodes and is subject to fatigue.
New procedures were needed in order to protect against this. Aluminum alloys and new metals like titanium and molybdenum were used for the extra strength as well as for thermal resistance. Speeds increased to Mach 3, so techniques to avoid the effects of heat caused by aerodynamics were introduced. Advanced alloys use carbon, silicon carbide, ceramics, titanium as well as aluminum.
The new high quality aluminum is stronger than the carbon fiber reinforce plastic that has been used in aircraft wings and can reduce weight up to another 20 percent. Aircraft wings built with this special aluminum fiber combination can protect them against metal fatigue. This material can be a contribution to making energy efficient aircraft. It could provide a reduced maintenance and fuel cost of billions of dollars.
The new aluminum materials allow for the possibility of carefree structures. Carefree, meaning less sensitivity to fatigue, hail, and corrosion, resulting in much lower maintenance cost.
We’ve come a long way since that first airplane. As, we continue to develop ways to travel faster and further, let’s hope the new developments continue to include ways to remain cost and environmentally efficient.
Train For a Career in Avionics and Aircraft Maintenance
It’s hard to believe that the Wright Brothers took the first powered aircraft flight in 1903 – a little more than one hundred years ago. Since then, airplanes have become a part of everyday life.
From small single-engine private planes to huge jets that can carry heavy cargo, aircraft are in use in every part of the globe. They all have something in common: they require regular maintenance and repair.
When aircraft are concerned, safety is critical. If you are driving your car and your engine quits, you can pull over to the side of the road.
But if your engine quits when you are flying a small plane at ten thousand feet, you have a much more serious problem! Aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians must keep planes flying safely – it can be a matter of life or death.
Aviation technicians are highly skilled and maintain aircraft to standards set by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Within the industry there are different areas of specialization.
Many aircraft mechanics specialize in preventive maintenance. They inspect landing gear, pressurized sections, aircraft engines, instruments, brakes, valves, pumps, and other parts of the aircraft. They carry out necessary maintenance and parts replacement, and keep records of the maintenance performed on the aircraft.
Other mechanics specialize in repairs. They find and fix problems that are identified by pilots or inspectors. Mechanics often must work quickly so that the aircraft can be put back into service.
Mechanics generally specialize in one type of aircraft, such as jets, propeller-driven airplanes, or helicopters. Others may specialize in one section of a particular type of aircraft, such as the electrical system, engine, or hydraulics.
Airframe mechanics work on any part of the aircraft except the instruments, power plants, and propellers, while powerplant mechanics work only on engines. Combination airframe-and-powerplant mechanics (A&P mechanics) work on all parts of the plane except the instruments.
Avionics technicians repair and maintain electronic and navigation systems. They may require additional licenses, such as a radiotelephone license issued by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Most aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians receive training at one of the many technical schools certified by the FAA. About one-third of these schools award two-year and four-year degrees in aviation technology, avionics, or aviation maintenance management. Most mechanics who work on civilian aircraft are certified by the FAA as either a powerplant mechanic or an airframe mechanic.
FAA standards require that certified mechanic schools must offer students a minimum of 1,900 class hours of instruction. Programs normally last from 18 to 24 months, and provide training with the tools and equipment used on the job.
After graduation, mechanics and technicians must pass an exam for certification, and take at least 16 hours of training every 24 months to keep their certificate current. The FAA also offers the A&P certificate, a combined certificate that allows for certification as both an airframe and a powerplant mechanic.
The Job Prospects Are Good
According to the US Government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, during the decade between 2008 and 2018 the field of aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians will add 9,800 new jobs. With the right training and certification, one of those new jobs could be yours.
But how do you get started? The best way is to research career colleges. Log onto a reputable online college directory. Search for aviation mechanics or avionics programs. Compare colleges and what they have to offer, including financial aid and career services. Then contact the schools that offer what you need. In less time than you think, you could be training for a rewarding career or expanding your existing training to qualify for a better job.
Choosing the Right Mechanic for Your Aircraft
We all know that taking care of the mechanical health of your aircraft is step one in safety, but how do you know which type of airplane mechanic should work on your plane? Here’s a general overview of the types of aviation mechanics, according to FAA Safety Briefing, the FAA’s publication on GA news and information.
Choosing the type of airplane mechanic usually is connected to the work your aircraft needs. But often, you won’t know until the problem is diagnosed.
There are generally three types of airplane maintenance mechanics: airframe and powerplant mechanic (A&P), an inspection authorization endorsed mechanic (IA), or an FAA certificated repair station. Here’s an overview of who to go to and for what.
For general maintenance: Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic (A&P)
A&Ps, also known as aviation maintenance technicians, are usually called upon for routine aircraft maintenance, such as examining engines, conducting 100-hour inspections, replacing and repairing defective parts, repairing minor structural damage, and keeping corrosion under control.
To become a certificated A&P aircraft mechanic (14 CFR part 65), a person must be at least 18 years old, read, write, and speak English, and acquire 18 months of practical experience for either airframe or powerplant certification, or 30 months of practical experience concurrently for both airframe and powerplant.
One can also complete the training by attending an accredited part 147 maintenance school. Following training, the student must pass three tests – written, oral and practical – to become certified.
For aircraft inspections: Inspection Authorization Mechanic (IA)
An IA is essentially an FAA-licensed A&P mechanic with the additional endorsement of “inspection authority” issued on a FAA Form 8310-5 (IA card). As such, IAs are authorized to do progressive and annual aircraft inspections, in addition to a variety of maintenance and alterations than non-authorized A&Ps. The benefit of this is you can get your repair work done and sign-off paperwork done at the same time, saving time and money.
In addition to inspections, IAs can also sign for an aircraft’s return back to service after major repairs (Form 337), such as the repair or replacement of major control surfaces, spars, wing and tail surface brace struts, axle replacements, and major repairs to the powerplant.
To earn an IA designation, an A&P mechanic must train an additional three years (two years active), have available equipment and a fixed base of operations, pass an inspection-specific written test, and meet the requirements in 14 CFR part 65.91.
For large repairs: Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul Station (MRO)
If your aircraft is ever in need of major repairs on complex components, such as retractable landing gear assemblies, reciprocating and turbine engines, and auxiliary power units, the smart move may be an Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul Station (MRO), aka a repair station.
A good repair station with certified, experienced mechanics will have the specialized equipment and authorizations needed for complex repairs, such as avionics and electronics overhauls, mechanical actuators, fuel systems, and carburetors. Keep in mind that different stations might specialize in areas of aircraft maintenance, but all must adhere to the regulations and policies laid out in 14 CFR part 145.
To obtain a repair station certification, an applicant must successfully complete a five-stage process: pre-application, the formal application, document compliance, demonstration and inspection, and certification.
Choices After Opting for an AME Career in the Mechanical Stream
The AME mechanical stream is an older branch which is extremely broad and diverse. The career in such a stream is not only related to design but responsible for maintaining, testing, and manufacturing as well.
The Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Course is a three-year programme where the aspirants have to learn the programme that is issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Moreover, these Aircraft Maintenance Engineering courses are pursued by the institutes that are approved by DGCA.
The career as an AME mechanical stream is rewarding and focus. Once entered there, the aspirants would get an opportunity to avail the boundless opportunity.
An aircraft mechanic is responsible for replacing, repairing and maintaining the aircraft components and parts. Not only this, he or she is also capable of doing maintenance and functional checks on numerous aircraft maintenance. They can easily check pneumatic systems, hydraulic systems, and electrical systems.
What are the Job Opportunities after AME in the Mechanical stream?
There are many career choices once complete a mechanical stream in AME. Some of the job opportunities include engineers in:
- Air Force
- Aviation Companies
- Helicopter Companies
- Corporate Research Companies
- Defence Ministry
- Flying clubs/academies
- Private airlines
- Aviation corporations
- Engineering division of aviation sector
- Aircraft manufacturing firms
- Aeronautical Development Establishment
- NASA and many others.
The hiking up air travel and space exploration demands expert to maintain and repair aircraft. The increasing height of this industry increases the demand for AME Colleges.
Aerospace Engineering demand has been increasing immensely in existence. Some of the top companies offering the job opportunity include Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Air India, India Space Research Organization (ISRO), Civil Aviation Department, and Defense Research and Development Laboratories (DRDO).
What is job description expected from an AME mechanical engineer?
The job description expected from the AME mechanical engineer includes design, research, repair, and maintenance of spacecraft, and aircraft. Moreover, the following duties are expected:
- Assembling and analyzing test data.
- Analyzing the project cost and timescales.
- Indulging in ground-level flight testing
- Thorough look at all parts which needs regular repair
What are salary expectations?
Once done an AME mechanical course from the Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Colleges in Delhi, the aspirants will be eligible to earn INR 40000-50000 a month as their starting salary. The maximum salary expected in this field ranges from 15-20 lac per annum.
If you are interested to keep aircraft in a safe condition while flying, you may indulge in the AME mechanical stream.