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Whether you’d like to stay in the military for 20 years or leave after your 4-year contract it’s always important to plan for your transition. You’ve heard it before, you’re hearing it from me, and you won’t stop hearing about it. There’s a number of resources out there to help with transitioning to include resume writing, building a LinkedIn profile, networking, fellowships, internships, vocational rehab, education benefits, scholarships, state benefits offered to veterans, and the list goes on. The focus of this article will be Aviation Maintenance service members who want to continue working as Aviation Maintainers after they separate.
“What is an A&P License?” An A&P License gives you mechanics’ privileges to work on civil aircraft. It legally allows you to maintain, repair, and inspect the airframe, powerplant, accessories, and propellers of an aircraft. There are other subsystems included with this like landing gear, tires, engines, fuel systems, pneumatics, hydraulics, electrical systems, etc. Unlike cars, mechanics who work on civil aircraft, everything from hot air balloons to jumbo jets, are required to be licensed.
The governing body for aircraft, pilots, and maintainers is the Federal Aviation Administration, otherwise known as the FAA. In order to continue working as an Aviation Mechanic/Maintainer outside of the military you must have an A&P license. You may work as a contractor on a military installation or for a company that provides those services to the government without a license, but the catch is you’re a contractor. If your contract isn’t renewed or given to another company, there’s a chance you could lose your job through no fault of your own. Without that license it’s harder to find a job without up and moving to the next contract in another city or even state.
There are guidelines put in place by the FAA and the Military as a type of joint venture to help qualify eligible military aviation candidates for their A&P License. The program is called, “Joint Services Aviation Maintenance Technician Certification Council (JSAMTCC) A&P Certification Program”. If you completed this while you were active duty and got your certificate from that program, then you can present that certificate with your Airman Certificate and/or Rating application, form 8610-2, to the Aviation Safety Inspector during your interview. Refer to first link for form 8610-2 Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application. Refer to the second link for instructions to fill out form 8610-2:
If you are currently an active duty service member you can get your A&P License while you’re in. There are minimum time requirements, which are 18 months for one rating and 30 for both if you had been doing work in both during the 30-month period. Remember, training time does not count. You have to have been working hands-on in your squadron/unit for the required minimum time in order to qualify. To complete the 8610-2 form and prove you’re ready to test you’ll need your official training transcripts and official paperwork that contain your MOS to prove your case or have completed the JSAMTCC Program and have your signed certificate. You will go through an interview with an Aviation Safety Inspector who will review your paperwork and training records. Once you have your records approved and your 8610-2 signed you can move to complete your written exams.
When you successfully complete your written exams you will want to take a test prep course for the last portion of your exams. Because of the nature of the Oral and Practical Exams, these courses are normally in seat only. For this portion I highly recommend you look at your admin and technical directives for your branch of service on requesting Temporary Assigned Duty. If you can successfully request a temporary assigned duty for duration of the course and get the last of your testing finished, then you’re set up for whenever you transition. Refer to 5-1135 for experience requirements. Refer to 5-1135, part B for evaluating military experience:
If you did not complete this certificate while you were active duty you can still use your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) code to qualify. Understand though, that while your MOS code and length of service suggests you do have the knowledge, you will still be required to have your records, a DD-214 and Training Transcripts, reviewed by an Aviation Safety Inspector via interview. Also, if your code only qualifies you for one rating and not possibly both, then you will have to find another way to make up the hours for the other rating. Refer to figure 5-135 on pages 16-30. The tables are broken up by military branch.
If your MOS code(s) does/do allow for a possibility in qualifying for both, but your training record only has Airframes inputs don’t stress! We all know training records won’t list all the work orders and the man-hours you spent on Powerplants jobs you got pulled to help for daily (or vice versa). Luckily, the FAA does include documentation you can present to make your case during your interview with an Aviation Safety Inspector. You are not required to provide extra documentation to prove you completed work on the other rating, like a letter from your Maintenance Officer, but it’s highly recommended as it serves to fill out the picture. Refer to part “H” on pages 4-5 for the list:
If you don't qualify for both ratings you can use your MOS code(s) to qualify for the one you do, either an Airframe (A) or Powerplant (P) license. Once you make up the hours you need for the other rating, either through an apprenticeship or training, you can submit an addition to the license you have. The time requirements are as follows, “For a certificate with both ratings, the requirement is at least 30 months of experience concurrently performing the duties appropriate to both ratings. If the applicant has not met the required 30 months concurrently performing the duties appropriate to both ratings, calculate each rating separately using the 18-month requirement for each.”
If you just want to start working right away you can always get an apprenticeship to gain the other half the experience required (sometimes referred to as a “Mechanic’s Helper” position). If you decide to get an apprentice job make sure the certificates the shop has includes doing the type of work you need documented to qualify for the other rating. Every shop qualified to do work on aircraft or aircraft components will prominently display their certificate(s) on their website and/or somewhere on site. Lastly, keep in mind not all apprentice jobs are posted online so networking is extremely important. Be personable, polite, and memorable. Sometimes, all it takes is a phone call asking about an apprenticeship and if they would consider taking you on once you’ve given them your background.
Another option is attending vocational training or a technical school. There are some Aviation Maintenance Schools, also known as part 147 schools, that have a single rating option, but these may be harder to find as it is more lucrative for schools to offer both ratings in terms of tuition paid and percentage of alumni employed after attending. It’s much easier to get a job if you have both ratings rather than one, which reflects well on the school. Refer to link to find a vocational training/technical school in your state:
“What if I want to work contracts anyways?” I say go for it! Even though you don’t need a license, having one can put you ahead of another applicant with similar experience who does not. If you were a hiring manager who would you hire?
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