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You can still make an excellent living in the aviation business as an aircraft mechanic if you don’t have the aptitude to be a pilot. There are many trade schools all over the U.S. specializing in aircraft repair and maintenance. The Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics is one of the first aircraft repair schools and has expanded to several campuses in the 21st Century.
The school was founded in 1929 after August G. Becker purchased Curtiss-Wright Flight Services from Orville Wright and Glenn Curtiss. Becker leased operations from Bettis Airport and changed the company’s focus from selling aircraft to aircraft repair and maintenance.
PIA was one of the first aviation schools to be approved by the Civil Aeronautics Authority, the precursor to the Federal Aviation Administration. The main campus is located in Pittsburgh, PA and has a 94% acceptance rate. Minority enrollment is 7%, and private state tuition is $19,125. The main location of PIA has a graduate placement rate of 87%.
The main campus referred to as “The Institute,” has over 100,000 square feet of computer labs, classrooms, workshops and hangar space. The hands-on PIA airport space has two Beechcraft U-8s, a Rockwell Jet Commander, and other aircraft. The Pittsburgh campus has an FCC simulated Radio Repair Shop designed for students in the Aviation Electronics technology program.
PIA was named one of the top 30 trade schools for 2017 by Forbes.
The school has additional locations in Hagerstown, MD, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Youngstown, OH.
The Hagerstown branch is an FAA certified Airframe and Powerplant training school. The facility offers shop areas dedicated to sheet metal, hydraulics, aircraft propulsions systems and more, as well as a computer lab. The school has a 95% placement rate for graduates.
The Myrtle Beach campus is located adjacent to the International Technology and Aerospace Park. The school is near Myrtle Beach International Airport, giving students access to hands-on, real-life experience in aircraft repair and maintenance. The campus has a 95% placement rate for graduates.
The Youngstown campus received an award as a “School of Excellence” by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). The award is given to schools with a high level of student achievement. The campus is located at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport for better hands-on training and access to aircraft and avionics. The school has a 94% graduate placement rate.
Aviation Maintenance Technology
Students entering the aviation maintenance and repair program must be detail-oriented, as they need to adjust bolts and other airplane parts to exact specifications. Aviation mechanics must grasp and assemble mechanical parts of various sizes, so they need to have dexterity in their hands and fingers. Observational skills are necessary to read gauges, identify engine noises, and collect information to diagnose and repair aircraft systems.
Aircraft mechanics students learn to weld, work on turbine engines, ignition systems, reciprocating engines and composite materials. The aircraft mechanic program prepares students for the FAA Airframe and Powerplant Certification Exams.
Students receive an associate degree in Specialized Technology. It takes 21 months or 2478 clock hours to earn this degree.
Aviation Electronics Technology
Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics has offered an Aviation Electronics Technology program since 1980.This excellent avionics program teaches repair and maintenance of the electronics technology used within an aircraft. PIA avionic program graduates learn advanced troubleshooting skills that will save employers money through early repair and replacement of faulty equipment.
Aviation electronics technology or avionics involve finding and fixing communication systems, display screens, navigation equipment and other components of an aircraft’s electronic “brain”. The AET program helps students earn a FCC General Radiotelephone Operator License. This license is necessary for internally repairing, adjusting or maintaining FCC licensed radiotelephone transmitters in the aviation, international fixed public radio service and maritime industries. PIA prepares you for the following parts of the GROL license requirements:
Basic radio law and operating practice for maritime radio operators
General Radiotelephone. Fundamentals of electronics needed to repair, adjust and upkeep radio transmitters and receivers.
Classes preparing you for the GROL exam teach you about amplifiers, microprocessors, radar equipment, microwave systems, communication transceivers, and other systems.
The GROL exam contains questions about the following subjects:
- Radio Practice
- Operating Procedures
- Radio Wave Propagation
- Circuit Components
- Electrical Principles
- Signals and Emissions
- Antennas and Feed Lines
- Practical Circuits
Once you’ve tested successfully for the main elements, you can take the exam for Ship Radar Endorsement, if you want. Ship Radar Techniques involves special theory and practice relating to service, installation, and maintenance of ship radar equipment for marine navigation.
After completing the Aviation Electronics Technology Program, you will know how to inspect, test and repair avionics systems on any aircraft, or in a related system.
The AET program, like the mechanic’s program, offers an associate degree in Specialized Technology. It takes the same amount of time, 21 months or 2478 clock hours, to earn the AET degree.
Dual Program Option
The dual program option allows you to take both PIA courses – the aircraft mechanic school and the electronics program. Learn both avionics and aircraft repair and maintenance to get more work after you graduate.
In the past, companies had to hire one person to troubleshoot and repair an aircraft’s mechanical parts and another to work on the electronic components. As a graduate of the dual program at PIA, you’ll learn both mechanical and in-demands electronic repair skills.
What it Takes to Be an Airline Mechanic
Aircraft maintenance technicians (AMTs) and the more specialized Airframe and Power Plant (A & P) mechanics are in high demand. The military, airlines, government and private corporations always have openings for qualified mechanics.
To become a working aircraft or airplane mechanic, you must be at least 18 years old and be able to read, write, and understand English. You’ll need 18 months practical experience repairing and maintaining airframes and power plants, or 30 months of experience working on both simultaneously.
To receive a mechanics certificate, you need to pass written, oral and practical tests. The oral and practical tests cover 43 subjects. The test usually takes eight hours to complete. You must pass the tests within 24 months, and you must wait 30 days to retake the test if you fail.
When you take the practical test, you must prove that you have the skills, knowledge and quick thinking a professional mechanic needs.
Once you receive your mechanics certificate, you can attend safety training events to learn more about reducing risk during aviation repair and maintenance. As a professional mechanic, you can join the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA) to continue learning about advances in aircraft repair and maintenance.
Tips for Succeeding as an Airplane Mechanic
Aircraft mechanics and avionics experts are in high demand by airlines, private corporations, the military and other employers. While jobs are plentiful, you will need to work fast and have precise skills on the job if you want a long career as a mechanic.
Airplanes need to be serviced quickly between flights, and the safety of the passengers and crew depend, in part, on your careful troubleshooting and repair.
According to Glassdoor.com, aircraft technicians make an average of $48,325 base pay a year, with a low of $34,000 and a high pay rate of $68,000 a year.
Graduating from PIA or any aircraft technician school will give you an advantage in being hired for a good job and being paid well for it. Employers, particularly airlines, look to aircraft and avionics programs for new, well-trained employees.
Attending Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, an FAA-approved Aviation Maintenance Technician School, is a much easier alternative to on-the-job training. Your teachers will either be working in or have some experience in the industry, and you’ll have access to planes, plane parts, and computer systems.
You can practice as often as you need to, and instructors can brief you on the real-life situations they’ve encountered while repairing aircraft.
Why Choose PIA?
PIA in Pittsburgh has 382 full-time students. The teacher to student ratio is 11 to 1, so you’ll get personal attention from instructors. You won’t just be a number in a lecture hall.
All locations offer financial aid and career services. Job fairs, on-campus recruiting, resume writing and interview coaching are a few of the services offered by the school’s staff.
According to the school’s website, students wait for an average of 65 days from graduation to employment. Every year, the aircraft and airline industries need about 118,000 new aviation techs, and even with all the new grads, it’s hard for companies to recruit all the necessary workers.
The school website job feed features jobs from all over the country. The employment listings have openings for all types of aviation jobs, not just aviation mechanics and encompass a wide variety of pay and skill ranges.
The school’s website also features an alumni spotlight. Many PIA graduates have gone on to lucrative careers with airport-based aviation repair services, private companies, and the military.
Many types of financial aid are offered by PIA, including Federal Pell Grants, state grants and Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans.