Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta is one of the busiest airports in the world.
Delta Airlines, Atlanta's largest employer, has one of the world's largest hubs at the airport. AirTran Airways also operates a hub in Atlanta. And together with a variety of cargo carriers and other airlines, they have helped to make the airport and the city a transportation center.
Many of the people employed at Hartsfield-Jackson and other nearby regional and general aviation airports are aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians who keep the planes in safe flying condition and on schedule. They perform maintenance, make repairs, and complete inspections required by the FAA. Their work covers aircraft of all types -- from jumbo airliners to regional jets and general aviation airplanes.
Those technicians who specialize in maintenance conduct scheduled inspections of aircraft engines, landing gears, instruments, brakes, valves, pumps, and other parts of the aircraft to ensure they are in proper working order. After inspection, these technicians do the necessary repairs and then test the equipment.
Mechanics who specialize in repair respond to problems that come up on a day-to-day basis in airplanes and that are reported by pilots. They do troubleshooting to fix a variety of problems -- from electrical outages to problems in hydraulics. Repair mechanics work as quickly as safety permits so that the airplane can be returned to service with minimal impact to airline schedules.
Of these mechanics, airframe mechanics are authorized to work on any part of the airplane except the instruments, power plants, and propellers. Powerplant mechanics are authorized to work on engines and do limited work on propellers. Combination airframe-and-powerplant mechanics -- called A&P mechanics --work on all parts of the plane except the instruments.
Avionics technicians repair and maintain the electronics systems (communications, weather radar, and navigation) that help control flight, the engine, and other primary functions.
By law, FAA standards require that certified mechanic schools offer students a minimum of 1,900 class hours. Coursework in schools normally lasts 1-2 years and provides training with the tools and equipment used on the job. About one-third of these schools award 2-year and 4-year degrees in avionics, aviation technology, or aviation maintenance management. Many only offer certificates or diplomas in aviation management.
The FAA requires that all work done on aircraft be performed by certified mechanics. In addition to having experience or formal training, applicants for all certificates must pass written, oral, and practical tests that demonstrate that they can do the work authorized by the certificate. And once the certificate is gained, the aircraft mechanic needs to keep fresh with new technologies by taking at least 16 hours of training every 2 years.
The FAA has 170 programs nationwide, and six are in Georgia.