Programs in aviation maintenance technology prepare people to repair and maintain airplanes and helicopters. Students learn to repair and maintain engines. They also learn how to service ignition systems and electronic instruments. They learn to build and repair frames and fittings.
Are you nervous on airplanes? You shouldn't be. The only form of transportation that's safer than an airplane is an elevator. And this is largely because of the careful maintenance that airplanes get. Federal laws mandate regular inspections, tests, and service routines. And the people who do the maintenance have to meet strict federal licensing requirements.
If you want to be one of those licensed technicians, you need to complete a training program approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The program usually takes two to three years of full-time study and training beyond high school. About 150 schools offer this program. Some of these schools are colleges. And in some you can get the training as part of a two-year program that awards you an associate degree.
The training programs are designed to prepare you for the licensing exams. Therefore, the subjects you study in these programs do not vary much from one school to another. You study the structure of airplanes and the various metallic and nonmetallic parts. You learn how to inspect and repair structural parts. You also study the parts of the engines and how they function. You learn about schedules for inspection and for routine servicing. You practice repairing engines and testing the results. Depending on your career goal, you may want to specialize in the structure or the engines. Most airlines prefer you to be certified in both.
You may also study the electronics of aircraft. If you've ever seen a picture of an airplane cockpit, surely you've noticed the dozens of switches, dials, and lights. Aircraft use electronics to control the engines, to steer, and to navigate. They also use it to track weather, to communicate, and to monitor all onboard systems. When you study avionics you learn how to troubleshoot and repair these systems. You learn the basics of electronic circuits and then study the specialized systems used in aircraft. Fewer than 100 schools offer this program.
With experience and authorization from the FAA, you can be an inspector. This allows you to perform required inspections and certify the work of other mechanics.
You may specialize in maintaining the airframe - that is, the body of the aircraft. You may specialize in maintaining the powerplant - that is, the engines. You may specialize in avionics - that is, the electronics. You may combine airframe and powerplant ("A & P"). Or, you may combine one or even both with avionics.