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Aviationhack
Topic Author
Posts: 105
Joined: Mon May 10, 2004 10:52 am

Thinking Of Going To Schoool For Avionics

Tue Aug 24, 2004 10:28 am

I'm thinking of going to school for avionics, and was just wondering if anyone has graduated from Westwood College in Denver for avionics, and how life is like as an avionics tech.

Thanks,

Chris
 
avt007
Posts: 1989
Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2000 4:51 am

RE: Thinking Of Going To Schoool For Avionics

Tue Aug 24, 2004 12:49 pm

I didn`t go to Colorado, but I`ve spent 17 years as an avionics tech and airframe engineer. Go for avionics if you love aircraft, not if you want easy money and great hours. Life as a broadband tech is probably easier than aviation, but aviation gets in your blood. It has a definite coolness factor that can`t be ignored.
 
modesto2
Posts: 2731
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2000 3:44 am

RE: Thinking Of Going To Schoool For Avionics

Tue Aug 24, 2004 9:31 pm

I've been doing a lot of avionics work this summer and for the most part, I love it! Much of my work is at the office, but occassionally, I have an excuse to go to the airport to work on the aircraft. It's a nice mix between office work and getting out. Some of the things I've worked on include upgrading EGPWS software and writing flight data recorder reports. Have fun and good luck!
 
737doctor
Posts: 1291
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2001 4:52 pm

RE: Thinking Of Going To Schoool For Avionics

Wed Aug 25, 2004 8:51 am

Being an avionics tech in a Heavy MX environment has its good and bad sides. Don't get me wrong, I'd much rather be doing this than working in a galley or bag bin, but it's often not as glamorous as people think...

Basically we install wiring mods: ACARS, Rudder Enhancement, Stall Warning, etc. When routing harnesses, we have to crawl into tight spaces in the hell hole, E/E bay, etc. (which is hard on the old knees and back), with only a single A/C duct to keep us cool (and sometimes not even that), and we come out bruised and with our arms all scratched and cut up. We have to deal with DINOL (deadly corrosion preventative compound) and removing and restoring insulation blankets. So it is not as neat and tidy as bench avionics, although we do a lot of rack work (making wiring changes on the individual racks) and software loading as well.

But I like it better than pounding rivets or rigging flight controls. Much of the work is really engrossing and time flies when you get caught up in it. Performing ops check is pretty cool, you can do most everything through the MCDU's in the cockpit, and nothing beats the feeling when you troubleshoot an avioinics problem correctly and fix it right the first time.

 Smokin cool
Patrick Bateman is my hero.
 
RiffedAAMech
Posts: 48
Joined: Sun Jun 13, 2004 7:35 am

RE: Thinking Of Going To Schoool For Avionics

Wed Aug 25, 2004 9:23 am

Being a avionics tech was the best job I've ever had. The problem for me was keeping that job. Its great when your working, but I've been laid off 4 times in the last 10 years. That's the reality of this business. Most people who have been in this industry for awhile have all experienced more than a few layoffs. It might be easier to find an avionics job in other parts of the country, but in L.A. its very difficult to find one. At least that's been my experience the last year and a half. I've lost my enthusiasm for the aviation industry and as a result have moved on away from it. Crying
 
tristar2000
Posts: 259
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2000 8:18 am

RE: Thinking Of Going To Schoool For Avionics

Thu Sep 09, 2004 12:09 pm

I'll go with what Avt007 said, it gets in your blood.

For my part, I've been in the business almost five years and been laid off once after September 11th, got a new job in March 2002 and been there ever since. I have my Canadian avionics licence (E rating) and a type course now.

The work can be tough (unusual hours, physical discomfort in tight places, etc.). Sure you don't get rich, but my salary is a lot higher than the average salary in this country. And like 737doctor said, nothing beats fixing a snag the first time around, especially on a quick go around when you find that broken wire or faulty component, you definitely get the rush.

I believe you have to love aviation to truly enjoy the work. I know I've never regretted my choice, and I would have had the academic profile to go to university and get a higher paying job, but I just love touching the plane, always beats flying a desk!!!

Best regards,
Steven  Smile/happy/getting dizzy
 
737doctor
Posts: 1291
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2001 4:52 pm

RE: Thinking Of Going To Schoool For Avionics

Fri Sep 10, 2004 9:35 am

Although I forgot to mention that a lot of the avionics guys I know (and have known) are some of the most arrogant, self-centered mechanics around simply because they work on avionics. Huge superiority complexes. To be fair though, I can think of several other specialized mechanics that are the same way, but the avionics guys stand out in my mind. And in the off chance anyone I work with is reading this and you think I might be referring to you...I am.  Big grin
Patrick Bateman is my hero.
 
avioniker
Posts: 1100
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2002 5:38 am

RE: Thinking Of Going To Schoool For Avionics

Sat Sep 11, 2004 12:26 am

Having a bad night doc?
I got into avionics "officially" after playing with electrical things for 15 years and fixing smaller planes and fighters for the same time.
One hot and sweaty night I was wearing most of the hydraulic fluid from a burst resivoir and an avionics puke was rolling on the ground by the wingtip laughing too hard to breathe. I wanted his job, but much more importantly, I made the decision to become his boss someday (made it too).

I have to say it was the best choice I ever made.

The avionics people tend toward arrogance because the schooling needs that kind of mentality to survive. It drags, is full of trivia, an the coneheads are the constant brunt of pantyhose and manicure jokes.

Fact is that to be a good avionics tech you have to know a lot more about the theory of what makes a plane go than anyone else. Problem is that most avionics toads don't ever bother to put that knowledge to use. It has become all to common to hear the phrase "not my job" in the crew room. You can have all the knowledge in the world but if you aren't part of the team you're nothing more than an encumberance.

My advice is: if you want to study avionics by all means do so, but, make sure you learn how to stretch a flight control cable and change a few hydraulic pumps, generators, tires and brakes on the way. All that schooling will make a lot more sense when you get to use it and you'll be a valuable member of someone's crew when you get out here.

I've been teaching for the last few years and it's extremely rewarding but I'm sick and tired of people that don't know what they don't know questioning the need for a subject that I'm teaching from experience (not because some teacher who hasn't done it decided I needed to know the material).

Remember, those that can, do
those that can't, teach (that hurts)
those that shouldn't be allowed to, are trying to make the rules

 Smile/happy/getting dizzy
 Smile/happy/getting dizzy
One may educate the ignorance from the unknowing but stupid is forever. Boswell; ca: 1533
 
737doctor
Posts: 1291
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2001 4:52 pm

RE: Thinking Of Going To Schoool For Avionics

Sat Sep 11, 2004 3:01 am

Problem is that most avionics toads don't ever bother to put that knowledge to use. It has become all to common to hear the phrase "not my job" in the crew room.

Ain't that the truth. Some of the mods we do require some sheetmetal work. For instance, I had to drill a disconnect bracket out of a stringer and install a new one for a rudder mod, a couple weeks ago. Most of the rest of the avioncs guys won't touch that sort of thing; they'll have a "sheetmetal" guy do it for them. There's one guy I work with (pretty good guy, sharp avionics type) who won't even drill the two mounting holes on the back of an electronics rack for the APM installed during the ACARS mod. Two holes!!!  Smile/happy/getting dizzy
Patrick Bateman is my hero.
 
dl757md
Posts: 1483
Joined: Mon May 24, 2004 9:32 am

RE: Thinking Of Going To Schoool For Avionics

Sat Sep 11, 2004 4:48 am

I went to Westwood when it was known as Colorado Aero Tech. I got my A&P and hired on with Delta. After several years of the shops, hangar, layoff I decided to get my avionics training. That allowed me to go to line mtc. I've been by far the happiest on the line. The variety keeps it interesting and challenging and it feels really good to be able to handle any job that comes up. The guys with only avionics generally only take on limited tasks not directly related to avionics.

My suggestion is that if avionics is your desire go for it. Go through the program and if at the completion of it job prospects aren't looking good, sign up for the A&P program. However if you can get a job you want after avionics school, take it! Then use OJT and/or tuition assistance from work if available and get your A&P ASAP. Spend time in overhaul doing composites, sheetmetal, rigging, fuel tank work, whatever you can get. Bounce around the first ten years or so of your career before you really specialize in one area. I liked pretty much all of them except for the shop (boring!!!!) so that's why I went to line mtc. I get a little of everything without a lot of the knee deep in sh#* stuff that you get into in the hangar.

Whatever you decide to do best of luck!

Dl757md
757 Most beautiful airliner in the sky!
 
avioniker
Posts: 1100
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2002 5:38 am

RE: Thinking Of Going To Schoool For Avionics

Sat Sep 11, 2004 1:04 pm

While I agree in principle with 757md I have to say that when I'm reviewing resumes the avionics people with an A&P and an FCC go to the top then the people with an A and FCC then FCC only.
It isn't so much the ticket as it is the demonstration that you're willing to go the "extra mile" to demonstrate your worth or get extra knowledge.
To a resume reader that means you might just be willing to take the time to do it right the first time.
That means bucks in the profit column instead of bucks spent redoing the job.

You can't make money with a plane stuck at the gate
You can't stop at FL350 to get out and find out what just went "thump"
You can't stay in business if you don't apply both of the above equally and all the time.
 Smile/happy/getting dizzy
One may educate the ignorance from the unknowing but stupid is forever. Boswell; ca: 1533
 
dl757md
Posts: 1483
Joined: Mon May 24, 2004 9:32 am

RE: Thinking Of Going To Schoool For Avionics

Sat Sep 11, 2004 2:14 pm

Avioniker

I agree that a job seeker with the most credentials will be the most sought after by an employer. The point I was trying to make about getting the job you want after only getting the FCC license and then pursuing the A&P later is that aviation hiring especially among the majors is very cyclical. If you land a job with your dream employer then it would be foolish to wait. Obviously the chances of getting that job with minimal qualifications are smaller but it does happen. When I graduated A&P school I was contemplating 2 years of avionics school. I even thought about it after I got a job offer from DL. Fortunately for me I took the job and got my foot in the door 6 months before a hiring freeze that lasted for 5 years. Also remember that seniority is everything with the airlines. First hired last fired.

Dl757md
757 Most beautiful airliner in the sky!
 
tristar2000
Posts: 259
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2000 8:18 am

RE: Thinking Of Going To Schoool For Avionics

Sat Sep 11, 2004 11:24 pm

Let me add my 2 cents here,

From what I have seen, you're better to be great at one thing than be ordinary at doing all sorts of thing. To me, an aircraft is something complex that as to be delt with in a professionnal manner and that requires people to be honest enough to tell when they are not comfortable in doing something they are not really capable of (maybe just because they don't have the training).

All this to say that in companies that have avionics techs (this excludes companies so small that they have just one or few mechanics to cover everything), you're better off having great sheet metals that do just that, great mechanics that do just that and great avionics that do just that. I work line and I'm the only avionics on a team with 8 mechanics, and let me tell you I'm not about to drill a hole in a stringer, that's mickey mouse maintenance if you ask me, I'll let a sheet metal do that. Anyways, I'm always too busy with my avionics snags and f/ts, and often I have to leave some for the next shift.

This doesn't mean that you don't get to help each other, I can be called upon to change a wheel or a brake once in a while, or help the mechanics with anything like they can help me when I'm in a rush, it still remains teamwork where everyone is important. I have drilled holes, but not in structural components, for crying out loud, and I am not scared to say that it's "not my job" because I have my own job to do and I don't rely on the sheet metal to do it.

In this province, the basic courses for avionics, mechanics and sheet metal is given at a technical college in the south shore of Montreal and each course is 3 years long. Then Transport Canada recognizes 19 months of experience just for going to that school and obtaining your diploma. Then you need 36 months total to get your S license (structure,sheet metal), 48 months for both avionics (E) and mechanics (M1,M2,etc.). For each license you need a completed logbook (at least 70% of specific tasks completed) and have to pass written exams (70% at least to pass).

This is paperwork stuff, in my book the real experience is gained on the floor and cannot be acquired other than through work and dedication. Sure, there are people that have the 2 licenses (all of those I know of are avionics that got their mechanics license to be capable of signing off more work), but I still believe that you can't be great at the 2, you'll just be good, because it's not possible to keep up to date with everything in both fields if you're serious, apart maybe if you just work on one or two specific models, but then you're the kind of guy that's useless when he's working on a plane model he sees for the first time, or a system he's not familiar with.

By the way, the fact that a mechanic can be better at doing avionics than the opposite can become quite a debate. Let me put it to you this way, at that technical school that I was talking about, many people who started the avionics program ended up in the mechanics program because they failed at avionics... I've never seen the opposite, although I guess it could also happen.

But then again, I have no pretention of being a mechanic, because I work with great mechanics that know their stuff. I'm really happy with my job because it couldn't be more varied, almost always snags I have never seen before on many different corporate a/c models, sometimes support for airlines on RJs and airbuses.

Best regards,
Steven
 
737doctor
Posts: 1291
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2001 4:52 pm

RE: Thinking Of Going To Schoool For Avionics

Sun Sep 12, 2004 1:32 am

Tristar,

I definitely can see your point. My department leans heavily towards specialization which seems to work pretty well. It has it's benefits for sure; having a few mechanics with a specialized skill can be more efficient than a bunch of guys who know enough to get by and can get the job done, just not as quickly as the others. However, one of the problems I often see is when all of your hotshot sheetmetal guys have the day off or are busy in another bay (for example), and the job requires a larger-type repair, you're kinda stuck because you don't have anyone else who's proficient at it. The same applies with avionics, rigging, composites, etc, etc. But I do agree that the job gets done quicker if you have your mechanics working primarily on what they know best.

However, in my opinion, it gets a bit ridiculous when an avionics guy won't drill two holes in a non-structural component so he can mount a 1" x 3" APM bracket with two screws, because "It's sheetmetal and that's not my job". The time it takes for him to find someone else to do it slows the process down considerably.

On a humorous note, it reminds me of what I've heard about specialization in the medical field. As doctors become more specialized, they know more and more about less and less, until they know everything about nothing.  Big grin

Patrick Bateman is my hero.
 
tristar2000
Posts: 259
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2000 8:18 am

RE: Thinking Of Going To Schoool For Avionics

Sun Sep 12, 2004 10:49 am

However, in my opinion, it gets a bit ridiculous when an avionics guy won't drill two holes in a non-structural component so he can mount a 1" x 3" APM bracket with two screws, because "It's sheetmetal and that's not my job". The time it takes for him to find someone else to do it slows the process down considerably.

I have to agree, my company isn't a huge one (like Air Canada across the runway) where things like that happen and sometimes do because of the union where everyone is protecting their interest.

For example, I remove the panels to get access to an avionics component, but at the big companies, you have to get a mechanic or an interior guy to do a job you could have done yourself, which is ridiculous and slows down the process. Furthermore, when you work in bigger shop, you'll be working on something really specific within your field of work. For example, some mechanics only work on engines, or flight controls, or fuel systems there, while mechanics work on everything in my company (tires, brakes, flight controls, fuel, hydraulics, air conditionning, etc.) It all depends upon the need for maintenance that day.

Steven  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

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