The job market in the United States is looking for veterans with military experience as aircraft mechanics. This makes anyone with previous military service a prime candidate to become an A&P mechanic or aviation maintenance technicians.
If you’ve spent time in the military maintaining, troubleshooting, and inspecting military aircraft or their engines you may be eligible to test for a FAA Airframe and Powerplant ( A&P certificate ) lifetime certification. Continue reading to learn how to get your A&P license with your military experience.
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Benefits of A&P License
The Federal Aviation Administration ( FAA ) requires a certified A&P maintenance technician to sign off on any work completed, and to allow an aircraft to continue flying. As you can imagine, the demand for A&P certified maintenance professionals is a very high demand in the civilian job market.
Benefits of obtaining your A&P license
- A high starting salary. Most A&P mechanics will earn $55,000 to $65,000 starting out. That’s about the same as an E-7 for 16 years in the military. Many commercial airlines have opportunities for A&P mechanics to progress and earn a six figure salary.
- Job satisfaction. If you were like me, you enjoyed doing high quality maintenance to put aircraft in the sky. Get continued job satisfaction from doing it in the civilian world, with more freedom than you had in active duty.
- Networking opportunities. If you work in general aviation, you may rub shoulders with pilots to work on their aircraft. They may offer you flying lessons for your services as an A&P mechanic.
Prerequisites of Experience and Steps to an A&P License
There are some requirements to meet before you can take the A&P exam.
In order to take the A&P exam and obtain your certification, you must meet one of the minimum experience requirements.
- 30 months of practical experience. Practical airframe and powerplant mechanical experience recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration can be found with these Air Force Specialty Codes or Military Occupational Safety Codes. (18 months of practical experience if you are just looking to get your Airframe or Power plant certification.)
- Complete the Joint Service Aviation Maintenance Technician Certification Council (JSAMTCC) training program
- Graduate from a FAA approved technical school.
Follow these steps to become eligible to take the A&P FAA exams.
- Make sure you qualify based on the requirements above. These are months of mechanical experience not months of time in the military.
- Put together a packet of documentary evidence to show proof of your experience. If you are on active duty, you will need a memorandum signed by your maintenance officer, commander, or a qualified A&P mechanic explaining that you meet the requirements to test.
- Get a copy of your DD-214 handy. Print out all of your experience and training records you can. The more the better.
- Talk to a member of your local FAA FSDO office. Tell them that you are trying to obtain your A&P certification, and that you have military experience. They should lead you through the process, go through a detailed review of your records, and provide you with two copies of a FAA Form 8610-2, Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application. These are known as your “tickets”
- Now that you have your “tickets,” find a testing center, schedule a test, bring your Identification, your 2 copies of original 8610-2, and any other items the testing center tells you to bring, and crush the test. DISCLAIMER! Only test if you are truly ready. You can study or take a crash A&P course that I will cover later in the article.
How to Take Advantage of Active Duty Benefits to Obtain A&P License
The Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps have a “COOL” program which stands for Credentialing Opportunities On-Line. Under this program, military members are allotted $4500 to cover the costs of obtaining certifications that relate to their day to day jobs.
For aircraft mechanics like us that work on military aircraft, that means we can use the COOL program to become certified A&P Aircraft Maintenance Technicians. Talk with your supervisor if you were unaware of this program, and how to use it.
For Air Force members, you can see what programs you can apply for by going to the Air Force Virtual Education Center.
This program will cover your test fees or an accelerated crash course to help you obtain your A&P license. There are many schools that offer a 10-15 day A&P course to prepare you and administer all aspects of the A&P exam.
You will still need to follow the steps of obtaining an A&P license that I listed out in the earlier section.
If you opt for the crash course, you may be wondering if you will need to use leave for it. The answer is no. Each branch of the military has their own permissive TDY program. Ask your supervisor about it. For the Air Force, the information can be found in DAFI 36-3003.
All you will be required to pay if you are using the COOL program and get permissive TDY approved will be transportation, lodging, and meals expense throughout the duration of the course. You can even take normal leave in conjunction with it!
Keep in mind, you may be able to land an internship through the DOD Skillbridge program. A company, may sponsor you as you get your A&P certification during your internship!
How to Use Your GI Bill to Obtain A&P License
If you are a veteran, and you would like to go to a traditional school to increase your knowledge of aviation, you can do that by using your GI Bill educational benefit.
The best way to find information on what GI Bill benefits that you are eligible for would be to contact the VA.
I would recommend using the Post 9-11 GI Bill to pay for a 18-24 month school. Using this, you would get tuition paid for, a housing stipend, and up to $1000 a month for books or other supplies.
Choosing a School to Obtain your A&P License
It may be difficult to find a school that offers an A&P program near you. Use this tool provided by the FAA to find approved schools in your area.
If you are planning on using the COOL program, you may be limited. Check on your branch’s COOL program website to find a school that works for you.
Read Baker’s School of Aeronautics A&P Course Review for an in depth review of what it’s like.
What to Study For A&P Exams
The tests are going to be questions from the following publications by the FAA. You will have to pass a written, oral, and practical test to obtain your A&P License.
For the written tests use the following study guides.
I read the question once and the correct answer twice while highlighting the correct answer all the way through the books. Only study one book for one test at a time and know it front to back before going in to take the test to avoid failing and having to take it more than once.
For the Oral and Practical Portion of the test use the following study guide.
The Oral and Practical exams are no joke. You’ll have to answer over 150 questions minimum without any reference over various categories. I’d recommend most military members to take a prep course for this test because it includes a lot of tasks and items that we do not use in the military. For example, magnetos, turboprop engines, float type carburetors, sheet metal work, wood work, wire maintenance, ect.
If you want to get into the nitty grity of what is testable on all of these tests, the following links are to the handbooks. Be warned, It is a lot of information.
The process of obtaining an A&P license and certification is not easy. If it was easy all service members would be doing it. You have the hands-on experience required to obtain an A&P certificate. My career field in Tactical Aircraft Maintenance made it a no brainer for me to get mine.
An A&P license will not only land you a solid job in the civilian aviation industry, but it is a gateway to a career where you are not tied to the ever changing environment of being in the military. The job market is hunting for military aircraft maintenance technicians to join their team as high quality A&P mechanics.