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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

What Do You Learn in an Aircraft Mechanic Training Program? 

August 19, 2020

aircraft maintenance program

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there are an estimated 5,000 aircraft in the sky during peak periods. In total, the FAA handles 43,000 flights every day, or about 15.8 million flights every year.

If you think those numbers are staggering, consider that the International Air Transport Association forecasts that the number of air travel passengers will double over the next two decades, from 3.8 billion air travelers in 2016 to 7.2 billion in 2035. 

As the number of air travel passengers increases, so does the demand for qualified aircraft mechanics to service the millions of airplanes that these travelers rely on every day. If you are interested in airplanes and want to pursue a career in a growing industry, read on to discover what’s covered in an aircraft mechanic program.

Aircraft Engine and Airframe Repair

One of the core components of aviation maintenance curriculum is learning about how to repair and maintain both the aircraft engine and airframe

An aircraft engine, sometimes simply called a gas turbine or jet engine, is the part of an airplane that propels the airplane forward by producing an enormous amount of thrust. An airframe is the mechanical structure of an airplane that includes the “shell” of the airplane and components like the wings, tail section, landing gear and fuselage.

Both the aircraft engine and airframe must be in perfect working condition for a flight to arrive at its destination safely. As part of the curriculum in aircraft mechanic school, students learn about the skills necessary to maintain and repair these critical parts of the airplane, including:

  • How to read blueprints and mechanical drawings: Blueprints and mechanical drawings describe parts and repairs using graphics. They include information like dimensions, specifications, processes and more.
  • Fabrication of fluid lines and fittings: Fluid lines are used in aircraft for fuel, coolant, oil, oxygen and much more. Students learn how to create and fit these lines for the appropriate plane.
  • Nondestructive testing methods: Regular aircraft maintenance keeps planes working at peak condition. Students learn about nondestructive testing methods, which are a way to test planes and find flaws like leaks and structural deficiencies without causing damage.
  • Aircraft hardware and material identification: Airplanes require an extraordinary amount of material to construct, and aircraft mechanics need to recognize these materials easily and quickly. Aircraft hardware includes nuts and bolts, screws, rivets, fasteners, washers, cables and electrical system hardware.
  • Precision measuring techniques: High-precision measurements are critical for tasks like aircraft inspection, maintenance and repair. Learn what measuring tools to use (like a micrometer caliper) and how to care for those tools so they stay in great condition.
  • Aircraft corrosion control: Since most airplanes are made from metal, corrosion can damage the structure of a plane and lead to serious malfunctions. Learn about the problems corrosion causes, types of corrosion and how to repair an airplane that has been damaged by corrosion.
  • FAA documentation: When working with the FAA, aircraft mechanics must properly document certain repairs, maintenance and procedures. Learn how to create and maintain this important documentation.
  • Aircraft mechanic privileges and limitations: Even after completing their certification, aircraft mechanics need to fulfill additional requirements before working on certain types of planes. Learning about these requirements is an important element of aircraft mechanic curriculum.
  • Aircraft manufacturers’ specifications: Different airplanes have different requirements and procedures, all of which are covered extensively in aircraft mechanic school. 

Basic aviation science gives students the tools to understand the mechanics of an airplane and the skills they will need to do their job successfully. Students usually have to pass courses covering these topics with a certain grade in order to earn credit toward certification.

Propeller and Engine Systems

In a propeller-powered aircraft (which most airplanes are today), propellers and internal combustion engines work together to lift an airplane into the air. Students learning about propeller and engine systems as part of aircraft mechanic curriculum will learn the following:

  • Inspection, troubleshooting, overhaul and repair techniques of carburetors, engine fuel metering systems and components: Learn how to properly inspect these specific airplane components, how to test them with NDT techniques and how to fix them.
  • Engine fire detection and extinguishing systems: Engine fires in flight are prevented with advanced fire detection systems that require regular maintenance to work effectively. In aircraft mechanic school, learn how to maintain detection and extinguishing systems so a pilot can put out a fire if it occurs.
  • Propellers and propeller control systems: You’ll learn about the components of propellers, how to inspect and maintain propellers, and how to troubleshoot propellers using propeller control systems so they stay in top working order.
  • Engine auxiliary systems: Engine auxiliary systems help airplanes fly safely and provide energy for functions beyond propulsion. Malfunctions in these systems can cause pilots to lose control. Students learn the components of these systems and how to maintain and fix them.

Students studying aviation maintenance will typically need to meet a minimum grade requirement in order to get credit and move toward certification.

Aircraft Landing Gear

Aircraft landing gear helps flights touch down smoothly and safely. When learning about landing gear as part of the aircraft mechanic program, students learn about:

  • Inspection, troubleshooting and repair of landing gear retraction systems: Discover how to identify, inspect and fix shock struts, wheels, brakes and tires.
  • Checking and servicing of fuel management and dump systems: To reduce an airplane’s weight before landing, the plane uses a process called fuel dumping, also known as fuel jettison. Students learn about how to ensure fuel management and dump systems work well in flight.
  • Inspection and repair of aircraft auxiliary systems: Students learn how to make sure aircraft auxiliary systems work well in icy or rainy conditions. Students also learn how to ensure carbon monoxide warning and fire detection and extinguishing systems are in good working order.

Proper aircraft maintenance doesn’t just protect the plane — it protects the lives of passengers who rely on aircraft to reach their final destination safely. Students learning aviation maintenance must pass courses like those above with a certain grade in order to obtain certification.

The Sky’s the Limit When You’re an Aircraft Mechanic

Becoming an aircraft mechanic requires dedication and exceptional attention to detail, and the hard work that’s necessary to complete an aircraft mechanic program prepares these aviation professionals to safeguard the lives of millions of air travelers every day.  

Through a combination of classroom lecture sand hands-on experience working with a real airplanes, students in the Aviation Maintenance Technology Certificate program at San Joaquin Valley College get the unique opportunity to experience what it’s really like being an aircraft mechanic

This program prepares students for certification as Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) Mechanics, which can help you land a job as an aviation mechanic. Download an Aviation Maintenance Technology program brochure today. Visit https://sjvc.edu/admissions/student-consumer-information/  for important information on program outcomes.

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