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How To Get Into Avionics

Working with the aircraft electronics is a fascinating career but how do you get started in it?

By Daniel Field

Outside my window the engine shut down. It had been running for barely a minute. Curious, I walked onto the tarmac to see what the problem was. The pilot looked at me with the slightly bewildered gaze of someone whose detailed planning has suddenly become worthless.

Click for larger image
Cessna 208B Grand Caravan with some instruments out. Top: engine instruments with warning panel in front of pilot. Left: flight & navigation instruments. Centre: ("right") in the picture): radios, radar, autopilot and GPS.

"The radios don't work," he said, without any emotion. "I can hear, but no-one's responding to my calls." It was the same on both the VHF radios, he told me, and he hadn't tried the HF yet.

I started checking the standard causes. First, I gave his microphone plug a firm push to make sure it was in properly. "Click". Ah, that might be it. I flicked the power back on and called the control tower. No worries. I tried the second VHF radio. That's good too.

Thanking me profusely, the pilot said it was a good thing, because he had left his lunch box in his car and he would have left without it.

I went back inside, shaking my head. Just another minor occurrence in another very busy day in the life of an Avionics maintenance engineer.

Avionics is an abbreviation of "Aviation Electronics". In the aircraft maintenance industry, an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) in avionics looks after all the electrical, instrument and radio systems. This may include installing, maintaining, troubleshooting and repairing avionics systems and components.

If you want to get into avionics, you need to know which avenues to try. Do you want to cut your teeth on the big stuff? Are you strictly a hi-tech person? Are you willing to work your way up from the bottom? I hope this article will help answer these questions.

First, let's introduce the three main branches of Aviation:

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