The Free A&P License – You Get What You Pay Foraircraft mechanic working on helicopter

Recently I’ve been getting asked a lot about obtaining free A&P licenses for aircraft mechanics. It seems like there are lots of people now who are interested in becoming an aircraft mechanic yet do not have the funding for the typical approach of attending a Part 147 aviation mechanic school.

While there is some cheaper ways of getting the A&P certificates, getting the totally “free” endorsements from the FAA can be quite tricky however.  Most “free” ways come with strings attached.

Military Aircraft Mechanics

The most common and ultimately FREE way of getting the A&P, that is, no out of pocket expenses from the applicant, is the military. Part 65.77 allows a mechanic to use at least 30 months of hands on experience working on various aircraft systems to count towards the related experience requirement for both certificates. This does not include time spent training, so keep that in mind.

After the time requirement is met, a sit down interview with the FAA a your local FSDO will help to determine if you indeed qualify. It is up to the agent’s discretion  so make sure you have everything documented. If the FAA likes what they see, they will give you “tickets” to go take your A&P tests.

The military has programs that will re-reimburse members who take these tests which can cost anywhere from $400-$600, depending on who is giving the tests.

So this is one way of getting the airframe and power plant certificates “free” however it’s not really free, just a benefit you EARN by being in the military.

On The Job Training

aircraft mechanic training for free
Military pays for A&P Certificates

A nearly free way of getting the A&P license is by again, utilizing the 30 months of hands on experience that the FAA allows under FAR 65.77. But this time you are doing this on your own and not depending on the military. This can also be very difficult to achieve because where will you be able to work for 30 months on an aircraft to gain the experience. So this method will not work for most people. It might work for you if you know someone with an aircraft and has their own repair facility (FBO) or something like that.  Maybe your lucky enough to have an uncle that works on his own plane or something.

It is also very possible you get hired into a shop as an apprentice or perhaps a baggage thrower, line guy or fueler. If you show proper dedication and positive attitude along with showing you have the right skills to safely maintain aircraft, the company may want to provide on the job training for you. Granted, this method largely depends on my factors outside of your control., ie, you need to have someone in the company notice your abilities and see your potential.

Even if you are able to gain the required 30 months of experience, remember that the FAA has to sign off on your training. So again, document EVERYTHING.

The A&P tests will not be free. These tests will cost money and there is no way around that. The written portion of the test, administered by Lazer-grade costs $72.00 for each test.  Also, the designated mechanic examiner (DME) will also charge for the oral and practical portion for the general, airframe and powerplant. DMEs typically charge anywhere from $300-$400 per test.

Another possible way would be to donate your time to some kind of an organization such as a missionary or an antique war bird museum. The kind of places typically look for certificated

aircraft hangar
Donate your time to a museum

aircraft mechanics to donate their time, but it might be also possible to work as an apprentice to gain the required hands on experience. Remember that you need to be working on aircraft that will be actually flying. If you are only getting hands on experience working on aircraft to be made into static displays, you are probably wasting your time.  Some war-bird museums have airworthy aircraft that they fly around to various air shows. They make money by selling rides in the vintage aircraft. During the winter months they get all the maintenance done. This would be the time to get your hands dirty and help out.

If you do find a way to build up hands on experience, make sure you document everything you do and how long you spend on it. Get it signed off by a certificated aircraft mechanic as well, perhaps someone who is training you. You can purchase log books from various places online and this would be an excellent use for that.  Remember that the FAA will be reviewing all of your records at some point, so make everything as neat as possible.

Aviation Mechanic Schools

Of course these are not free, it is possible to find cheaper schools. typically aviation high school programs and community colleges have cheaper rates. Especially if you are a resident of the city, town, state or whatever.

While the school route may cost more money upfront, you will get your A&P license faster and theoretically be able to work and make money. Another thing to consider is that while attending a part 147 aviation mechanic school, you will only largely be depending on yourself to make it through, and not some company manager who may change their mind at anytime about  your on the job training.

Aviation mechanic schools also do an excellent job at preparing mechanics to take the FAA A&P tests. You lean all the necessary areas and get hands on for each subject. These schools are also regulated under the FAA so there is a standard which must be met. Working on the job may not afford you with all the necessary hands on training so you will have to learn those skills by yourself. For instance, if you are working on turbine engine powered aircraft for your on the job training, you will still need to learn about magneto ignition systems and how to time a magneto.  Find one of many aviation mechanic schools near you using our easy to use search tool.


 In Conclusion

Yes it is possible to get a “free” A&P license but as with all free things come strings attached.  There is however nothing wrong with getting an A&P license through the OJT method instead of a part 147 aviation maintenance school. An employer will not care either way you obtained the airframe and powerplant certificates, they only care that you indeed have them. Besides, getting an A&P through on the job training will probably produce a much more well rounded aircraft mechanic than one just graduating A&P school with very little real world experience.


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