It’s hard to believe that the Wright Brothers took the first powered aircraft flight in 1903 – a little more than one hundred years ago. Since then, airplanes have become a part of everyday life. From small single-engine private planes to huge jets that can carry heavy cargo, aircraft are in use in every part of the globe. They all have something in common: they require regular maintenance and repair.When aircraft are concerned, safety is critical. If you are driving your car and your engine quits, you can pull over to the side of the road. But if your engine quits when you are flying a small plane at ten thousand feet, you have a much more serious problem! Aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians must keep planes flying safely – it can be a matter of life or death.Aviation technicians are highly skilled and maintain aircraft to standards set by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Within the industry there are different areas of specialization.Many aircraft mechanics specialize in preventive maintenance. They inspect landing gear, pressurized sections, aircraft engines, instruments, brakes, valves, pumps, and other parts of the aircraft. They carry out necessary maintenance and parts replacement, and keep records of the maintenance performed on the aircraft.Other mechanics specialize in repairs. They find and fix problems that are identified by pilots or inspectors. Mechanics often must work quickly so that the aircraft can be put back into service.Mechanics generally specialize in one type of aircraft, such as jets, propeller-driven airplanes, or helicopters. Others may specialize in one section of a particular type of aircraft, such as the electrical system, engine, or hydraulics. Airframe mechanics work on any part of the aircraft except the instruments, power plants, and propellers, while powerplant mechanics work only on engines. Combination airframe-and-powerplant mechanics (A&P mechanics) work on all parts of the plane except the instruments.Avionics technicians repair and maintain electronic and navigation systems. They may require additional licenses, such as a radiotelephone license issued by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).Training RequirementsMost aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians receive training at one of the many technical schools certified by the FAA. About one-third of these schools award two-year and four-year degrees in aviation technology, avionics, or aviation maintenance management. Most mechanics who work on civilian aircraft are certified by the FAA as either a powerplant mechanic or an airframe mechanic.FAA standards require that certified mechanic schools must offer students a minimum of 1,900 class hours of instruction. Programs normally last from 18 to 24 months, and provide training with the tools and equipment used on the job. After graduation, mechanics and technicians must pass an exam for certification, and take at least 16 hours of training every 24 months to keep their certificate current. The FAA also offers the A&P certificate, a combined certificate that allows for certification as both an airframe and a powerplant mechanic.The Job Prospects Are GoodAccording to the U.S. Government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, during the decade between 2008 and 2018 the field of aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians will add 9,800 new jobs. With the right training and certification, one of those new jobs could be yours.But how do you get started? The best way is to research career colleges. Log onto a reputable online college directory. Search for aviation mechanics or avionics programs. Compare colleges and what they have to offer, including financial aid and career services. Then contact the schools that offer what you need. In less time than you think, you could be training for a rewarding career or expanding your existing training to qualify for a better job.