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Discussion Starter #1
I'm thinking about changing careers here and have always wanted to get into aviation. I would like to get into a career I am passionate about and interested in. I was a line tech a over decade ago at a smaller FBO, but the pay was nowhere near enough to live on, and I moved into an administrative position where I have been for over 10 years now.

Do you all have any type of advice or suggestions for me on how to proceed? I am mainly interested in becoming a Aviation Maintenance Technician, but other positions would definitely be considered in the industry.

I saw a commercial on TV for a school somewhat local to me, local enough to where I wouldn't have to move to go which sparked my interest to try and get this ball rolling.

Have any of you heard of this school?

http://www.aviationmaintenance.edu/index.html

What about other ways to get into the aviation field? Any tips? Is investing 30k into education from a trade school like this genuinely worth it, or would I be wasting my time?

Any input would be greatly appreciated guys. Thanks! :beer:

 

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You say "changing careers" so I take it you don't just have a dead-end job right now. It would probably be good to know what field you're in and an idea of your age so people can tailor their advice.

That said I'll let you know what my experience in the industry has been. I'm a flight test engineer so the maintainers I work with are all pretty experienced guys. They almost all have A&P's and most have military experience. I haven't looked at the payscales lately, but I think they start at 35/hour or so. When I was fresh out of college, it wasn't unusual for the shop guys to be out-earning me if we worked enough overtime (time and a half for them, straight time for me). But, of course those guys all had at least 10 years experience. If you're just starting out doing oil changes at the local FBO, you're going to be making a lot less.

All in all, it's not a bad gig, but some things would chafe me a bit. First and foremost, even though these guys in flight test are the cream of the crop, they still have a very blue-collar work environment. Not just that they get dirty and greasy - you'd expect that - but the management, too. They have to punch a clock (computer now, but when I started it was no-**** time cards). As bad as it would be getting written up for being 2 1/2 minutes late, even worse is how often you see guys sitting around playing cards or whatever because they got their job done but still have 40 mintues left in the shift. That would drive me insane.

As for the school, that's one of the biggest names in the business. But since they're all licensed by the FAA, no one really cares where you got your A&P, just that you have one. You're going to be doing most of your real learning on the job anyway, so I'd just go with your cheapest option.

And finally, you asked about other jobs in the field. "Aviation" is a huge industry, so just about any job you can think of is covered under that umbrella. Engineers, software coders, sales and marketing, accountants, lawyers, even doctors. Hell, my company even has positions where psychology is the preferred degree. But, if you're talking about actually being hands on with aircraft, then you're pretty much down to being a mechanic/electrician, pilot, and some types of engineering. Oh, and there's also ATC if you like talking on radios for 8 hours a day.

Good luck. Hopefully the rest of the crowd here can be of more use.
 

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I'm an airport management type, more specifically in airport operations. I graduated from the University of North Dakota with a BBA majoring in Airport Management. The nickle description of my job: airports with commercial service (ie. airlines, etc.) are regulated under the 14 CFR Part 139 and the TSA 1500 series and its my job to ensure my airport complies with these regulations 24/7/365. The short and sweet of this involves runway/taxiway inspections looking for discrepancies with the pavement, safety areas, navigation aids, lights/signs/pavement markings, security fencing, and many more. I also maintain and execute the airport's wildlife plan (which involves scaring off the birds) and collect and interpret the data on wildlife issues around the airport. In the winter, I plow the snow in a $600,000 Oshkosh broom or do the runway friction testing and field condition reports. On top of that, we're also involved with airport/tenant relations, customer service, security/law enforcement and other duties. Two years ago, I was the airport's main liasion with the Secret Service whem the President came to visit.

All in all, I love my job. I'm a big time avgeek and love being at the airport. I'd be happy to answer any questions on my small niche in the greater aviation world. :thumbup:
 

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Discussion Starter #4
You say "changing careers" so I take it you don't just have a dead-end job right now. It would probably be good to know what field you're in and an idea of your age so people can tailor their advice.

That said I'll let you know what my experience in the industry has been. I'm a flight test engineer so the maintainers I work with are all pretty experienced guys. They almost all have A&P's and most have military experience. I haven't looked at the payscales lately, but I think they start at 35/hour or so. When I was fresh out of college, it wasn't unusual for the shop guys to be out-earning me if we worked enough overtime (time and a half for them, straight time for me). But, of course those guys all had at least 10 years experience. If you're just starting out doing oil changes at the local FBO, you're going to be making a lot less.

All in all, it's not a bad gig, but some things would chafe me a bit. First and foremost, even though these guys in flight test are the cream of the crop, they still have a very blue-collar work environment. Not just that they get dirty and greasy - you'd expect that - but the management, too. They have to punch a clock (computer now, but when I started it was no-**** time cards). As bad as it would be getting written up for being 2 1/2 minutes late, even worse is how often you see guys sitting around playing cards or whatever because they got their job done but still have 40 mintues left in the shift. That would drive me insane.

As for the school, that's one of the biggest names in the business. But since they're all licensed by the FAA, no one really cares where you got your A&P, just that you have one. You're going to be doing most of your real learning on the job anyway, so I'd just go with your cheapest option.

And finally, you asked about other jobs in the field. "Aviation" is a huge industry, so just about any job you can think of is covered under that umbrella. Engineers, software coders, sales and marketing, accountants, lawyers, even doctors. Hell, my company even has positions where psychology is the preferred degree. But, if you're talking about actually being hands on with aircraft, then you're pretty much down to being a mechanic/electrician, pilot, and some types of engineering. Oh, and there's also ATC if you like talking on radios for 8 hours a day.

Good luck. Hopefully the rest of the crowd here can be of more use.
thats a good point, let me address your first paragraph.

I am 30. I am currently the procurement and production manager for a manufacturer. It's not a dead end job, but I am getting to a dead end in this career. I want to get into a job and field that sparks excitement inside of me, something I can be passionate about and look forward to doing. While my job is fine, and I do like certain aspects of it, I can't honestly say i have ever been excited to get up out of bed and go to this job.

Though it may sound stupid, hitting 30 recently made me take stock in life. I have been at my job for over 10 years now and have had this great bubble of comfort that has kept me from making a big leap like this into something new. I don't want to be sitting here at the same desk 20 years from now regretting not getting into a field that is fulfilling and gives me happiness.

Aside from my personal interest and passion for aviation, it seems like a great industry to build my personal future on. It is an industry that will be around my entire working life, that is for sure.

Also, I really appreciate all the information you gave me. Anything and everything is helpful! :thumbup:
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I'm an airport management type, more specifically in airport operations. I graduated from the University of North Dakota with a BBA majoring in Airport Management. The nickle description of my job: airports with commercial service (ie. airlines, etc.) are regulated under the 14 CFR Part 139 and the TSA 1500 series and its my job to ensure my airport complies with these regulations 24/7/365. The short and sweet of this involves runway/taxiway inspections looking for discrepancies with the pavement, safety areas, navigation aids, lights/signs/pavement markings, security fencing, and many more. I also maintain and execute the airport's wildlife plan (which involves scaring off the birds) and collect and interpret the data on wildlife issues around the airport. In the winter, I plow the snow in a $600,000 Oshkosh broom or do the runway friction testing and field condition reports. On top of that, we're also involved with airport/tenant relations, customer service, security/law enforcement and other duties. Two years ago, I was the airport's main liasion with the Secret Service whem the President came to visit.

All in all, I love my job. I'm a big time avgeek and love being at the airport. I'd be happy to answer any questions on my small niche in the greater aviation world. :thumbup:
While being hands on with aircraft is the ideal goal here for me, something like this is equally interesting. Some of the things you listed are things I did as a line tech, albeit more basic I'm sure. I loved being a line tech, it was a great job. Just being around the airport and part of the team is what I am hoping to achieve here. I honestly would be perfectly fine being a line tech, but I can't expect to raise a family, have hobbies, or retire on 12 dollars an hour.

I don't have lofty pie in the sky expectations for salary and wages. I don't have aspirations of being a millionaire in life. I am very happy making a decent wage and living a simple life.

A BBA majoring in Airport Management sounds like you have lots of options in the aviation field that you can apply that degree to. If I were to go to a trade school like AIM and get an A&P, I would have a lot less options it seems.

If you don't mind me asking, how long have you been at your job now? Sounds like a great gig! :)

Thanks for the input. :beer:
 

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Discussion Starter #6
so I've done some research on the FAA website, and it actually pointed me to a community college 20 minutes from my house (minus traffic of course) that offers a full Aeronautics program. This would be many many times easier for me to attend versus the AIM campus in Oakland. About an hour less drive each direction, and obviously it would be substantially cheaper.

is it really true that most employers do not really care where you got your training and only that you are A&P certified? if that is the case, I would really like to consider the courses at the local community college.

on top of that, upon completion of the Aeronautics program and some seemingly easy online courses, I can obtain an Associate in Science degree, which if I understand correctly, would not be available at the end of the training through AIM.


I was a bit turned off after speaking to AIM. it almost felt like I was in a used car dealership. They would offer me no information over the phone or via email about their program, they require you to come and tour the campus before giving any type of information. It felt as though there were treating me like potential profit and not a student. I don't know, it just seemed really odd.

From what I gather, AIM would run around 31k for the entire program, whereas the program at the community college would range in the 5k-7k range, depending on what extra classes I decided to take.


Another thing I would appreciate some clarification on, the program timeline. On the FAA website it says:

After your education or training qualifications are met, you'll be eligible to take the required oral, practical, and written tests. You must pass all these tests within 24 months. The tests cover 43 technical subjects. Typically, tests for one certificate--airframe or power plant--take about 8 hours.

Does this mean I have to complete all schooling and take/pass these tests in 24 months, or does it mean I can complete my schooling and once that is completed, I have 24 months to pass the FAA tests?

Thanks guys! :beer:
 

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I should caution that I don't make hiring decisions on maintainers, so you should probably look for a second opinion on my advice. However, I've heard people ask if someone has an A&P a thousand times. I've never once heard a follow up "where from?" In my mind, it's a certification like a CDL or electrician's license. You either got one or you don't.

But keep in mind, that just gets your resume from getting thrown out. What really matters is if you can do the job or not. Just like any other job, it's all about experience. Take a look at the job market and see what employers are asking for. If there are only a few jobs and they all want 5 years or more, you might have a tough go of it. And you've also got a lot of vets coming back home (hopefully to stay). Military experience goes a long, long way with defense contractors, which is where the really good money is. Not trying to talk you out of it. If it's really your passion, you can definitely make it work. It just ain't all going to be skittles and beer starting out.

All that said, I'm kinda curious about that community college. Is that 7 grand just tuition or does it include any lab fees? You're going to be doing a lot of drilling, welding, and fabrication. I can't believe they could offer it for so little. If you can do the whole thing for that I'd say go for it. I would just to have the license. Even if you don't want to make a career out of it, you can easily earn a little extra cash on nights and weekends at the local airport.

One last thing on the money front, a lot of entry level or contract jobs require you to have your own tools. That's 10-15K easy. Craftsman ain't going to cut it and large diameter 12 point sockets ain't cheap. And then you might end up working on an Airbus and you need to get it all over again in metric. Anyway, if you're going to make a career out of it, I'd check to see how much of that 31K AIM is charging is for tools that you take with you. Could make a difference.
 

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Oh, and I hear you loud and clear on the turning 30 thing. I had the same kind of "1/3 life crisis" and was about to do the same thing. Well, I was looking at a helo rating, but that was twice the money to make half the salary. Then I started thinking about wrenching. Ultimately decided it wasn't my thing. Grew up in a blue collar town, but I'm (mostly) enjoying my white collar lifestyle. And now I'm rolling up fast on 40 in a few months and am about to go through it again. Something about hitting those decade marks.

My advice, if you're going to make a "stupid" decision, make it now. If you try it for a couple of years and it doesn't suit you, you can always go back to your old game. If I try something now, I'm pretty much swinging for the fences. Ageism is still a thing, and being 50 with a 5-10 year gap in your professional resume makes it hard to revert back.
 

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I'm currently flying a King Air but I've got an A&P. I've worked on everthing from 152's, business jets, airliners, and the space shuttle. Craftsman tools are just fine. But when I was going through A&P school- Snap-on gave us a huge discount. I think it was 50%! I've been super busy but I'll post more as I get a chance...
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I should caution that I don't make hiring decisions on maintainers, so you should probably look for a second opinion on my advice. However, I've heard people ask if someone has an A&P a thousand times. I've never once heard a follow up "where from?" In my mind, it's a certification like a CDL or electrician's license. You either got one or you don't.

But keep in mind, that just gets your resume from getting thrown out. What really matters is if you can do the job or not. Just like any other job, it's all about experience. Take a look at the job market and see what employers are asking for. If there are only a few jobs and they all want 5 years or more, you might have a tough go of it. And you've also got a lot of vets coming back home (hopefully to stay). Military experience goes a long, long way with defense contractors, which is where the really good money is. Not trying to talk you out of it. If it's really your passion, you can definitely make it work. It just ain't all going to be skittles and beer starting out.

All that said, I'm kinda curious about that community college. Is that 7 grand just tuition or does it include any lab fees? You're going to be doing a lot of drilling, welding, and fabrication. I can't believe they could offer it for so little. If you can do the whole thing for that I'd say go for it. I would just to have the license. Even if you don't want to make a career out of it, you can easily earn a little extra cash on nights and weekends at the local airport.

One last thing on the money front, a lot of entry level or contract jobs require you to have your own tools. That's 10-15K easy. Craftsman ain't going to cut it and large diameter 12 point sockets ain't cheap. And then you might end up working on an Airbus and you need to get it all over again in metric. Anyway, if you're going to make a career out of it, I'd check to see how much of that 31K AIM is charging is for tools that you take with you. Could make a difference.
Oh, and I hear you loud and clear on the turning 30 thing. I had the same kind of "1/3 life crisis" and was about to do the same thing. Well, I was looking at a helo rating, but that was twice the money to make half the salary. Then I started thinking about wrenching. Ultimately decided it wasn't my thing. Grew up in a blue collar town, but I'm (mostly) enjoying my white collar lifestyle. And now I'm rolling up fast on 40 in a few months and am about to go through it again. Something about hitting those decade marks.

My advice, if you're going to make a "stupid" decision, make it now. If you try it for a couple of years and it doesn't suit you, you can always go back to your old game. If I try something now, I'm pretty much swinging for the fences. Ageism is still a thing, and being 50 with a 5-10 year gap in your professional resume makes it hard to revert back.
I am not entirely sure about the 7k cost for the community college to be honest. I can't say if that includes the lab fees. The class listings all say 5 hours lecture, 15 hours lab, or something similar, so part of me thinks they are included? Tools will be needed in the career down the road, so if I need to be buying tools through school, no real issue there.

I am trying to set up an appointment with a counselor at the college for next week to get a better understanding of the program and what it all entails. Ideally I'd like to speak to the main instructor of the program, but I'm not sure that is even a possibility.

Another thing I need to work on and figure out is night school opportunities, or what the schedule will actually be like. I would REALLY like to be able to keep my job through schooling. The owners of my company would be very flexible with me and allow me to alter my schedule to cater to a school schedule. This of course assumes that classes aren't 5 days a week for 8 hours a day.

I am hoping to keep my current job through all of this so that I can have income throughout the process, and income when I begin searching for work once I get my A&P.

I was actually offered a job at the FBO in my town as a line tech, but the pay was too low. Depending on student loans and money available, I might be tempted to leave my job and try to get my foot in the door through the FBO line tech department, but that is really far down the line to be thinking about right now.


Again, great info man, I appreciate you taking the time to reply to me! :beer::beer:
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I'm currently flying a King Air but I've got an A&P. I've worked on everthing from 152's, business jets, airliners, and the space shuttle. Craftsman tools are just fine. But when I was going through A&P school- Snap-on gave us a huge discount. I think it was 50%! I've been super busy but I'll post more as I get a chance...
I'm all for a 50% snap on discount! :laugh:

At the FBO I worked at, the owner owned and chartered two King Air 200s. Are you flying a 200 as well?

I once waxed an entire KA200 in the Bakersfield summer on the tarmac, can't really say that was my favorite memory as a line tech. ;)
 

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I'm all for a 50% snap on discount! :laugh:

At the FBO I worked at, the owner owned and chartered two King Air 200s. Are you flying a 200 as well?

I once waxed an entire KA200 in the Bakersfield summer on the tarmac, can't really say that was my favorite memory as a line tech. ;)
Nope- just been flying the 90. I only have about ten hours in a 200.
 

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Sooo about this aircraft mechanic thing....

I don't even know where to begin? But as far as what school to go to? And does it really matter? I my opinion the only reason it may matter is what happens after you get your A&P- you're gonna want to get a job, right? So, a bigger one like the AIM school you were looking at may have better contacts with regional airlines, corporate departments, etc. More improtant than that could be the number of classmates that you may have. Having twenty other people to network with would be better than being in class with just two other people. The schools reputation may also be a factor. But in reality- it's all about who you know.

IMO one of the best routes is to get a job with a regional airline after school and then go to a major when you get the experience. Corporate can be good too. (I had a sweet corporate gig once working 1st shift in an air conditioned hangar). I'd stay away from general aviation.

One of the biggest downsides to being an A&P- most planes fly during the day. So be prepared to work 3rd shift, in all weather, covered in Skydrol. Mechanic tip #347--> keep a bottle of castor oil in your toolbox. And don't be afraid to pour the castor oil directly on your eyeball. It works great! (You can thank me later.) Also, I was laid off from four different places in six years. The good news- because I always knew somebody, I never missed a paycheck.

Overall, it can be a great career and you can make a good living. Good luck! Let us all know what you decide.
 

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Sooo about this aircraft mechanic thing....

I don't even know where to begin? But as far as what school to go to? And does it really matter? I my opinion the only reason it may matter is what happens after you get your A&P- you're gonna want to get a job, right? So, a bigger one like the AIM school you were looking at may have better contacts with regional airlines, corporate departments, etc. More improtant than that could be the number of classmates that you may have. Having twenty other people to network with would be better than being in class with just two other people. The schools reputation may also be a factor. But in reality- it's all about who you know.

IMO one of the best routes is to get a job with a regional airline after school and then go to a major when you get the experience. Corporate can be good too. (I had a sweet corporate gig once working 1st shift in an air conditioned hangar). I'd stay away from general aviation.

One of the biggest downsides to being an A&P- most planes fly during the day. So be prepared to work 3rd shift, in all weather, covered in Skydrol. Mechanic tip #347--> keep a bottle of castor oil in your toolbox. And don't be afraid to pour the castor oil directly on your eyeball. It works great! (You can thank me later.) Also, I was laid off from four different places in six years. The good news- because I always knew somebody, I never missed a paycheck.

Overall, it can be a great career and you can make a good living. Good luck! Let us all know what you decide.
Good advice. I hadn't thought of the career placement angle.

Also, I thought of another route to consider starting out -- working in the factory. The work may not be as interesting since you'll mostly be doing the same type of job every day. But most people there don't have an A&P, so it shouldn't take much dues-paying to get out on the flightline. Work production test for a major manufacturer for a few years and you won't have trouble getting a job anywhere.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Figured I would update this.

I started all the research on an off cycle semester for the course at my local community college / airport, so I couldn't enroll until this summer. Plus I had to get all my ducks in a row financially and figure out a work schedule that would accommodate me going to school full time.

I officially enrolled as of last week, and bought the course textbooks last night, so we are go for takeoff.

I start in August, it is a 3 year (6 semester) program to get the A&P.

aside from juggling full time work and nearly full time schooling, i'm really excited for the program, and the career after it. :thumbup:
 

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Discussion Starter #17
thanks. i'm pretty excited about it. aside from the long days (working full time and going to school) it should be a lot of fun. also looking forward to that tool discount from SnapOn for being a student. :D
 

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I'm kind of jealous. I have a comfortable office job with a very very large airplane manufacturer ;), but I am feeling the nearing-30 angst as well. Every time I think about looking elsewhere I remember how good I have it and back off, opting to play the lotto instead.

My buddy is an A&P and does very well for himself. He worked at Gulfstream for a few years and racked up experience and certificates/ratings/whateveryoucallthems. Then he moved into the corporate flight dept world, which sounds pretty cake if you can get there.

Good luck
 

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I'm kind of jealous. I have a comfortable office job with a very very large airplane manufacturer ;), but I am feeling the nearing-30 angst as well. Every time I think about looking elsewhere I remember how good I have it and back off, opting to play the lotto instead.

My buddy is an A&P and does very well for himself. He worked at Gulfstream for a few years and racked up experience and certificates/ratings/whateveryoucallthems. Then he moved into the corporate flight dept world, which sounds pretty cake if you can get there.

Good luck
thanks! really starting to look forward to it.

Congrats on getting started! I'm networked with a few FBO's and A&P's in NorCal, so when you're done hit me up and I'll put you in touch with them. :beer::thumbup:
right on, thanks. not sure if we are staying in california once i finish school, but for the right job i suppose we would. down in the city or closer up my way?
 
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