Aircraft maintenance engineers are responsible for the safety of planes and helicopters, without this vital work taking place behind the scenes, aircrafts would remain grounded. In such a technical line of work it is important to have the correct qualifications and certifications, this article outlines these requirements and how to get them.
Aviation activities in Europe are regulated by the European Aviation Safety Agency, with the UK Civil Aviation Authority tasked with implementing these regulations in the United Kingdom.
Due to the complexity of aircraft maintenance, there are a number of different licence categories which allow engineers to train in different areas, at various levels.
Line Maintenance Certifying Mechanic – This role requires a Category A Licence and allows an engineer to carry out minor maintenance tasks and replace parts on an operational aircraft that is in service. These tasks usually take place during flight turn arounds and at night.
To obtain a Category A Licence you must complete a Part 147 approved six month course and gain one year of certified experience. Alternatively, an aspiring engineer can take the ‘self-improver’ route, which involves independent study or attending a course, as well as three years of relevant experience.
Base Maintenance Certifying Technician – A Category B Licence is needed for this role and allows engineers to complete complex tasks, as well certifying any work completed by themselves or others. A Base Maintenance Technician can work on aircrafts which are not in service and undergoing a scheduled service or a major re-fit.
An engineer must complete a two year approved course, in addition to two years of certified experience in a specific discipline, meaning a person can become a certified specialist in more than one field.
The self-improver option is also available for this certification, achieved with 5 years of applicable experience, combined with independent study or a relevant course.
Aircraft maintenance qualifications do not follow a linear path and mechanics can focus their expertise on specific disciplines and different aircrafts. It is worth noting that timescales can vary from one category to the next, especially when comparing an approved course to an independent modular course.
Applications to obtain a license can be submitted to the Civil Aviation Authority online.
Applicants must also possess a ‘Part 66’ maintenance licence which is approved by the European Aviation Safety Agency, this is awarded by the Civil Aviation Authority and is recognised by participating European nations.
Helpful skills and desirables
Aircraft maintenance can be a demanding and strenuous job, therefore successful candidates may need to pass a medical. Applications may also be dependent on a colour vision exam.
Working within a team, problem solving and possessing a strong technical understanding are vital skills for the role, as mechanics will be required to understand detailed, engineering drawings. Employers will also expect a significant capability in terms of maths and science.
Safety is paramount within the aviation industry so a thorough and methodical approach is needed, ensuring all health and safety requirements are adhered to.
What working conditions can you expect?
Shift work is common within the industry which may mean working at night or at weekends, as a result, engineers must be flexible when it comes to availability.
Working as a maintenance engineer could present travel opportunities as some airlines may need additional support staff overseas, or emergency staff when an aircraft is unable to take off.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of tasks will also need to be completed outdoors, sometimes in cold and wet conditions.
The aviation sector still has considerable potential for growth and opportunities for aircraft mechanics show no sign of slowing down over the next few years at least.
A fully qualified engineer may also be able to advance to a supervisory capacity.
The starting salary of a maintenance engineer can range between £18k and £22k, whereas a senior engineer can earn upwards of £60k a year.
For a more in-depth look at the role and expected salaries you can read a detailed job description here.
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