Recognizing that there was a coming shortage of aviation technicians, Duncan Aviation started its first cohort of apprentices in 2019 in Lincoln, Nebraska. The program received certification from the US DOL (Department of Labor) and approval from the Veterans Administration. Apprentices who successfully complete the 24-month program may earn an Airframe and/or Powerplant certificate, and they’ll be awarded a DOL certificate.
Classes are in-person and there are webcasts online for technicians who’ve missed a class. Duncan Aviation supplies an iPad for each registered apprentice and if they complete the program and earn their A&P (Airframe and/or Powerplant) certificate, it is theirs to keep.
There are no costs to team members who complete the 24-month program and earn an Airframe or Powerplant certificate. This is approximately a $32,000 per person investment.
Team members interested in joining the apprenticeship program must have worked for Duncan Aviation for at least 90 days, and they must be in good standing. No previous aviation experience is necessary, but it’s considered highly beneficial to have some mechanical aptitude.
“They work full-time with paid wages, take classes, and are responsible for a considerable amount of studying on their own,” says Darwin Godemann, Enterprise Team Leader for Duncan Aviation’s Technical Education Center. “Once they’ve finished the coursework and achieved the work-experience requirements, the FAA certification testing begins.”
There are a series of proctored written, oral, and practical tests that are administered by representatives of the FAA. Apprentices must take and pass these tests within 24 months of taking their first test to receive their certification as an FAA A&P.
The experience, vetting, and testing requirements are rigorous for a reason. Once a tech is certificated, the certification lasts a lifetime unless the tech surrenders it to or it’s revoked by the FAA.
“This is one reason today’s air travel is the safest mode of transportation in the world. Regardless of your work or military experience, the FAA requires technicians to take these exams,” says Darwin. “Work experience certainly helps, but the FAA doesn’t accept that as a substitute for passing the exams.”
Technicians who don’t pass the tests or receive their certifications are not terminated, but it limits their future opportunities. For technicians to become Qualified Inspectors or advance in their careers, they need to obtain an FAA Certificate–such as a permanent FAA-issued Airframe or Powerplant certificate, or a limited, specialized, FAA-issued Repairman’s certificate, which is surrendered when a technician leaves Duncan Aviation.
Duncan Aviation also offers a Legacy/AMT Test Prep program for technicians who have work or military experience but lack FAA certification.
“We provide the books and necessary testing supplies as well as two, week-long test prep classes, during which time techs are paid but not required to work on the floor,” says Provo Technical Training Coordinator Jeff Dale.
In exchange, technicians must sign a contract saying they’ll stay at Duncan Aviation for at least a year after earning their A&P. Since the program’s inception in November 2019, 73 Duncan Aviation technicians, most of whom came from the military, have taken advantage of the program.
The FAA has high-level, reciprocal agreements with the civil aviation authorities of other nations so our certificated technicians can work on N-registered aircraft in their countries in certain situations. However, there is no FAA recognition of certification on an individual level. If a technician from Turkey holds an Airframe and/or Powerplant from the Turkish Directorate General of Civil Aviation, that tech will still have to take the FAA’s written, oral, and practical exams for an FAA-issued Airframe and/or Powerplant certificate.
The ASTM International is working to standardize training curricula globally so technicians in countries where the standards are adopted are trained to the same criteria.