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Aircraft owners tend to be very protective over their planes. After all, buying a plane is a big investment, so they have every right to be cautious about who is allowed to work on their aircraft. This is especially true when it comes to choosing an aircraft mechanic. Why is it so important to find the best mechanic? How can you go about doing so? Here’s what you need to know:
The Role of an Aircraft Mechanic
Mechanics play a huge role in maintaining your aircraft, which is why it’s so important to find the right person for the job. These individuals are responsible for performing all types of routine maintenance, including diagnosing electrical problems, checking airplane parts for defects, repairing and replacing various parts of the plane, and polishing the surface to keep it free from corrosion and other types of damage. Aircraft mechanics are also required by the Federal Aviation Administration to keep a detailed record of all maintenance performed on the plane.
Without an aviation mechanic, your aircraft would not be safe to operate after repeated uses. These mechanics are required to go through intensive training to learn about the field of aviation repair and how to use different diagnostic tools. But, just because they have all received similar training does not mean some are not more skilled than others. How can you find a reliable mechanic that you can trust with your safety?
Look for special certification
Before you begin your search for the perfect aircraft mechanic, you have to understand the different certifications you can earn in this field. Mechanics can be certified by the FAA in either airframe or powerplant mechanics, but the majority of them will get certified in both areas. These mechanics are known as A&Ps. It’s best to look for an A&P mechanic who has taken the extra step of earning an Inspection Authorization. This certification means the mechanic has at least three years of experience and is dedicated enough to his craft that he chose to pursue additional certification on his own. Plus, it means he can perform regular inspections on your aircraft and is authorized to sign off on any type of repair made to the plane.
You should also look for a mechanic who is affiliated with a professional aviation organization. For example, the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association provides mechanics with continuing education opportunities so they can learn new skills and earn new certifications.
Ask other pilots
Are you friendly with any other pilots or are you a member of a local flying club? If so, ask other pilots and aviation enthusiasts if they know of any mechanics you could hire. Make sure you only ask pilots who you feel have the same standards as you, otherwise you may not be happy with the person they recommend. Gather as many names as possible from fellow pilots so you have back-ups if the first few don’t work out.
Talk to the manufacturer
After going through the required training, mechanics are perfectly capable of working on all types of aircrafts. However, aircraft owners sometimes prefer working with a mechanic who specializes on a certain type of plane. Contact the manufacturer of your aircraft and see if they know of any qualified mechanics in your area. Many manufacturers have “authorized service centers” that employ skilled mechanics thoroughly trained on a specific manufacturer’s aircrafts. Even if you didn’t buy your plane brand new, you should still be able to ask the manufacturer for advice with an issue like this.
Take a look at the shop
Although much of a mechanic’s work is performed in an airplane hangar or outside on an airfield, some work will be completed in a shop. Before you agree to work with a mechanic, stop by and see his working conditions. You can learn a lot about how someone works just by looking at where he works. Are the other mechanics busily working or are they sitting around passing time? Is the shop kept clean? The answers to these questions may help you decide whether you have found a reliable mechanic.
Ask about cost
Of course, cost is important when it comes to choosing the right mechanic. Owning an aircraft can be expensive, so you have to be conscious of price when making these decisions. It may be tempting to go with the mechanic who offers you the lowest price, but try to avoid making this mistake. Remember, this person will be responsible for ensuring you are safe while in flight, so you should prioritize quality and experience over the cost.
Test each mechanic
You would never buy a car without taking it for a test ride first, so don’t ever commit to a mechanic without first seeing how he works. How can you do this? Once you have found a mechanic that you are interested in working with, give him a simple job such as an oil change. Every mechanic should be able to change an aircraft’s oil without a problem, but this isn’t about seeing how well he can perform a basic task. Use this as an opportunity to see how well your personalities mesh together, and if you can see yourself getting along with this person down the road. See if the mechanic treats you with the respect you deserve, or if he tries to upsell you by talking you into different services you don’t believe you need.
If you’re not happy with the way you are treated during this test run, it may be best to move on and find another mechanic. The last thing you want is to have an icy relationship with the person who you rely on to take care of your treasured aircraft.
It may take a bit of time to find a mechanic who is the right fit, but it’s worth every minute to find an experienced mechanic who can help you properly maintain your plane and keep you safe for years to come.