What type of Engineer do you want to be? What qualification will you require?
To help you choose, you will first need to understand something of the process of certification.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is the organisation that regulates all aviation activity within Europe and it delegates authority for implementation of its regulations to National Aviation Authorities; in our case the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
To assure safety within the industry, engineering personnel are licensed in the same way as pilots and air traffic controllers. If suitably licensed an engineer can certify the work that has been carried out on an aircraft and return it to service.
There are several categories of licence which cover different levels and disciplines and, as in other professions, a variety of routes exist to achieve them. Let us deal with the type of work and the licences required first.
A Ramp or Line Maintenance Certifying Mechanic is a person who is qualified to work on operational aircraft performing relatively minor maintenance tasks and part replacements that are required between major service overhauls and to subsequently certify these tasks; this work is generally done while the aircraft is in service, during turnrounds or overnight. A Category A Licence is required for this. It is attained after graduation from a 6 month approved course and after 1 year of appropriate certified experience. The alternative route to this licence is the self-improver, which can be achieved by self-study or attending a modular course. In this case 2 years appropriate experience is required.
A Base Maintenance Certifying Technician is a person who is qualified to work on aircraft that have been withdrawn from service for routine periodic servicing or major overhauls and re-fits and who can then subsequently certify his/her own and other work. A Category B Licence is required for this. It is attained after graduation from a 2 year approved course and after 2 years of appropriate certified experience. Category B licences are further divided into specialist skills such as mechanical or avionic. The alternative route to this licence is the self-improver, which can be achieved by self-study or attending a modular course. In this case 5 years appropriate experience is required.
Now we can deal with the different disciplines that these licences cover.
If you decide that you would like to be a Mechanical Engineer specialising in scheduled maintenance, restoration and re-fit of airframes, power plants, fuel systems and associated pneumatic, hydraulic and air-conditioning systems then you can select from both category A & B licence routes. The licence issued will show which category of aircraft it applies to - which will be one of the following:
Turbine Engines: (often referred to as jet engines) and also called combustion turbines, are rotary engines that extract energy from a flow of combustion gas. It has an upstream compressor coupled to a downstream turbine, and a combustion chamber in-between. Turbine aircraft may be propeller or jet driven.
Piston Engines: (otherwise known as reciprocating engines) use fundamentally similar technology to those used by cars and motorcycles where pistons in cylinders are used to generate motive force for propulsion by turning pressure into a rotating motion. These engines are always propeller driven.
If you are more electronically orientated and decide that you would like to be an Avionics Engineer specialising in scheduled maintenance, restoration and modification of communication, navigation, radar equipment; guidance and control systems including auto-pilot/auto-land and cabin entertainment then this discipline is only licensed at category B level.
You will now need to know about how to achieve the qualification you have chosen.
As we have said before there are various routes that can be followed and each has its benefits depending on previous experience and education.
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