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Can I work at a place where I pull parts, drop engines, hang engines which get sold back into the aircraft market? Am I allowed to do so without a A&P License? I've been told that it is legal if you're supervised. If so what is considered supervision? I live in California with no aircraft schooling at all if that matters.

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    $\begingroup$ Supervision means under the direction of a licensed A&P, but yes, you can. The A&P is the one who needs to sign the log books for the work performed, so they are ultimately responsible. This is exactly how you build hours to get your A&P. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Dec 14 '16 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ There are several books all mechanics must know about that you can likewise mine for knowledge. I would suggest, for a start, Aviation Maintenance Technician Handbook—General; the Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics Powerplant Handbook, AC 65-12A; and the Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics Airframe Handbook, AC 65-15A. They are free on the FAA website. $\endgroup$ – JScarry Dec 14 '16 at 20:48
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Anyone can work on a plane. Only an A&P can certify the work and return the airplane to service, with a few exceptions. A plane cannot (legally) fly unless the work has been signed off by an A&P, with a few exceptions found in pt43 Appendix A Para C (preventive maintenance). Even if the work is allowed by pt43 App A Para C, the person performing the maintenance must be at least a private pilot, the airplane must belong to (or be operated by) that pilot, and the airplane cannot be in commercial service.

"Supervision" is loosely defined and is up to the A&P to decide in the field. The idea is that the supervising mechanic should be observing while you work but the language allows the mechanic to determine exactly what must be observed while work is being performed. Some will want to be over your shoulder the whole time, some will trust your word, but most are somewhere in the middle (trust but verify).

You may work in a shop as an apprentice and do all of the work you describe but you will be subject to the directions of your supervising mechanic. Your time as an apprentice counts toward A&P certification, too. They will likely start you at very low pay and assign menial tasks until you prove yourself to be reliable. Sweep the floors with a smile and don't be offended that they don't throw cylinder replacements at you on day one. You need to build up trust before shops will let you do any fun work on customers' airplanes that can easily exceed the price of most middle class homes.

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  • $\begingroup$ “Only an A&P can certify the work and return the airplane to service, however.” Not true. There are lots of things per Part 43 “(f) A person holding at least a private pilot certificate may approve an aircraft for return to service after performing preventive maintenance under the provisions of §43.3(g).” $\endgroup$ – JScarry Dec 14 '16 at 20:00
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    $\begingroup$ Also not true, “airplane must belong to that pilot”. The airplane must be operated by the pilot. If I rent a plane from a flight school and it needs any of the maintenance in Part 43 that I am allowed to do, e.g landing light, spark plug cleaning, replace a flat tire, etc. then I can perform the maintenance. Also, Part 135 operators have specific list of things in their Op Specs that their pilots are allowed to do in the field. $\endgroup$ – JScarry Dec 14 '16 at 20:04
  • $\begingroup$ I think supervision is pretty much spelled out in the Part 43. “if the supervisor personally observes the work being done to the extent necessary to ensure that it is being done properly and if the supervisor is readily available, in person, for consultation.” I have been working on my own planes since 2000 and every A&P I have worked with insists on being in the hangar when we do anything except the items in Part 43—preventive maintenance. There are probably A&Ps out there that bend the rules, but the ones I know value their certificate too much to risk losing it with unsupervised work. $\endgroup$ – JScarry Dec 14 '16 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ @JScarry FAR 43 isn't really prescriptive - "to the extent necessary" is really entirely up to the mechanic's discretion (and their confidence in the person swinging the wrench), and the readily in "readily available, in person" has wiggle room: Certainly being in the hangar is "readily available", but being in the office doing paperwork or on the ramp changing a tire could also qualify since you could easily call them over if needed. (The paperwork is perhaps more "ready" than than if they're in the hangar but elbow-deep in work on another plane when you need their consultation.) $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Dec 14 '16 at 23:05
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for sweeping floors alone. Crucial task but so many people think it below them. $\endgroup$ – jwenting Jan 6 '17 at 7:31
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You can, but on a certified aircraft, you will need your work reviewed and approved by a licensed A&P which will be documented as such in the airframe, powerplant, or propeller logbooks.

On the other hand if you own an amateur built, experimental category aircraft which you completed at least 51% of the construction on, you are allowed to do your own maintenance on that aircraft without A&P signoff. A&P and Repairman can sign of conditional on experimental. Anyone can work on experimental.

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  • $\begingroup$ If you own a special light-sport aircraft (S-LSA) you can also obtain a repairman‘s certificate that allows you to work on that particular class of airplane. See §65.107 Repairman certificate (light-sport aircraft): Eligibility, privileges, and limits. $\endgroup$ – JScarry Dec 14 '16 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ One minor nit. In order to perform maintenance on an experimental aircraft that you built, you need to get a repairman certificate. It will allow you to do maintenance without an A&P signoff, but you will still need an IA to do the annual condition inspection. $\endgroup$ – JScarry Dec 14 '16 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ I'm curious as to how the 51% is defined. $\endgroup$ – kevin Jan 7 '17 at 14:25

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