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How to choose an aircraft maintenance course

How to choose an aircraft maintenance course

We take a look at choosing the right aircraft maintenance course for you, with information on the universities and training courses available.

Written by Jack Stratten

For anyone seeking a career in aircraft maintenance engineering, finding the right course can be challenging.

Aviation activities in Europe are regulated by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and all licences for engineers are handed out by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

But there are two different licences available to become an aircraft maintenance engineer, and various courses and routes to become qualified.

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What type of aircraft maintenance engineer do you want to be?

Before deciding on a course, you’ll need to consider what type of engineer you’d like to be. Essentially, there are two choices in terms of maintenance courses.

You can train to become a Line Maintenance Certifying Mechanic, which requires a Category A Licence; or you can become a Base Maintenance Certifying Technician, which requires a Category B Licence.

A Category A Licence allows an engineer to carry out minor tasks and replace parts of an operational aircraft. These tasks generally take place during flight turnarounds and at night.

For this licence, you’ll need to complete an approved six-month course and obtain at least one year of certified experience.

Meanwhile, a Category B Licence allows engineers to complete more complex tasks, and they can certify completed work by themselves or others. You can also work on aircraft which are not in service.

For the Category B, you’ll need to complete a two-year approved course in addition to two years of certified experience within a specific discipline.

You also have the choice to take the ‘self-improver’ route, which allows those working in aircraft maintenance to become qualified through short, modular, flexible courses.

It’s important to consider all of this before you choose a course that’s right for you.

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What courses are available?

Courses are offered by two different types of institutions: universities or colleges, and specialist training facilities.

Specialist training facilities typically provide specialist or modular courses directly to aviation businesses or existing aircraft employees who are looking to develop their skills and experience. These are often short courses and can be completed remotely online. However, full-time courses are offered too.

Universities meanwhile tend to target newcomers to the industry, and offer full two or three-year aircraft maintenance courses that combine academic study with practical work.

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University courses

Here are the primary universities or colleges which offer aircraft maintenance engineering courses:

• Glyndwr University, Wrexham – Aircraft Maintenance (top-up)

• University of the Highlands and Islands – Aircraft Maintenance Engineering

• Kingston University, London – Aircraft Engineering

• Newcastle College University Centre – Aircraft Maintenance Engineering

• Solihull College & University Centre – Aircraft Maintenance Engineering

• University of South Wales – Aircraft Engineering and Maintenance Systems

• City of Bristol College – Aircraft Maintenance Engineering

• Harlow College (linked with Stansted Airport) – Aircraft Maintenance Technicians

• Cornwall College – Aircraft Maintenance Diploma

• Cardiff and Vale College – Aircraft Maintenance

The majority of these courses are offered on a three or four-year basis and are at BSc undergraduate level. However, some institutions offer foundation year courses or ‘top-ups’ for existing aviation students or workers.

Broadly speaking, to qualify for these courses you’ll need three A-levels at A-C, and they will need to include maths and physics.

However, details vary between each provider so check each course carefully.

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Specialist training providers

Here are some of the best-established providers of aircraft maintenance courses outside of traditional educational institutions:

• Global Air Training, Chester

• AeCAT, Peterborough

• Air Service Training, Perth, Scotland

• AETS, West Sussex

• Civil Aviation Technical Training Solutions Ltd., Manchester

• Glennair Training Centre, Norwich

The way these courses are offered and structured varies, but they’re all targeted towards existing aviation employees or aviation businesses looking to train their staff.

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Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are frequently offered by airlines, aircraft manufacturers and the Royal Air Force – sometimes directly, or otherwise through recruitment agencies.

These can vary in length and will often involve one of the colleges or providers already mentioned.

In some cases apprenticeships are exclusively aimed at existing engineering students, providing a year’s work placement and the potential of a first job. In others, the apprenticeships are all-encompassing, three or four-year programmes that lead to full qualification.

Apprenticeships can be a good way of securing some financial support for your training, too.

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Engineering degrees and foundation courses

Choosing the career path you take can be complicated further if you undertake a more general engineering degree.

Engineering courses are offered at universities in every corner of the UK, and can prepare you for becoming an engineer within lots of different industries. However, they won’t necessarily give you the specific aviation experience or qualifications to enter the industry.

Many course providers see an engineering degree as a good foundation for entry on to an aircraft maintenance course. But in some cases, you’ll be no more qualified for entry than someone without an engineering degree.

Again, this is why it’s important to try to map out what kind of engineer you want to be as early as possible in your career.

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How to choose the right course

Choosing your route into qualified status means balancing lots of factors.

If you’re taking your first steps into aviation, it may well make sense to look into taking a full undergraduate degree.

The way you want to study should be carefully considered too. Many courses, and especially those offered by universities and colleges, offer the opportunity to study in classrooms – with teachers, as well as on site.

Meanwhile, through training companies, you have the possibility of doing some or all of your studying virtually. Furthermore, these providers can give you the flexibility to break up your modules into short chunks – which could help to make studying more affordable, and more adaptive to your own schedule.

Ultimately, your biggest consideration should be what direction you want your career to go in. As mentioned, a Category A Licence will lead to becoming a very different kind of engineer to a Category B Licence. And along your chosen path, you’ll be given lots of opportunities to refine your specialism.

When it comes to becoming an aviation engineer and choosing the right course, doing your research really will pay off.

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