Pilot vs. Maintenance Technician: Licenses and Ratings

Pilots and maintenance technicians are trained and certified to perform certain tasks when it comes to flying and maintaining aircraft. Pilots can fly the airplane and perform some types of preventative maintenance, like changing the aircraft’s oil. Maintenance technicians can’t fly airplanes unless they also have a pilot’s certificate. However, they can perform all the aircraft maintenance required to keep the airplane in airworthy condition.

Pilot’s Licenses

Pilot’s licenses authorize individuals to fly aircraft. They do not necessarily allow for the performing of maintenance on aircraft beyond certain types of preventative maintenance, and that is typically only if the pilot is also the owner of the aircraft.

Types of Pilot’s Licenses

  • Student Pilot – A Student Pilot’s license allows an individual the opportunity to fly airplanes for the purpose of gaining experience with an end goal of obtaining one of the following licenses. The person must first complete an application and pass an FAA medical examination.
  • Sport Pilot – A Sport Pilot’s license allows an individual to pilot light aircraft with one passenger in the local area below 10,000 feet during the day in good weather (VFR).
  • Recreational Pilot – A Recreational Pilot’s license allows all privileges of the Sport Pilot Certificate, plus the ability to fly up to 50 miles away from their home airport. However, they cannot fly at night and must remain outside of controlled airspace.
  • Private Pilot – Most individuals opt to get a Private Pilot’s license, which allows the pilot to operate a specific category of aircraft. The most common category is single-engine land. They can fly at night in good weather and in controlled airspace, but they cannot fly for hire.
  • Commercial Pilot – A Commercial Pilot’s license allows a pilot to fly and carry passengers for hire. If the commercial pilot also receives his or her Instrument (IFR) Rating, they can fly in certain types of bad weather.
  • Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) – An ATP license is the highest level of aircraft pilot certification and allows the pilot to fly for a commercial airliner.
  • Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) – A CFI license allows a pilot to teach individuals how to fly airplanes. He or she must hold either a Commercial or Airline Transport Pilot license to be eligible to become a CFI.
  • Instrument Flight Instructor (CFII) – Similar to a CFI license, a CFII license allows the flight instructor to teach instrument ratings.

Pilot License Ratings and Endorsements  

  • Instrument (IFR) Rating – An IFR Rating allows pilots to fly in inclement weather. This rating is subdivided into a single-engine certification (SEIR) and a multi-engine certification (MEIR).
  • Single/Multi-Engine Seaplane Rating – A Seaplane Rating allows a pilot to operate either a single-engine seaplane (ASES rating) or a multi-engine seaplane (AMES rating).
  • Tailwheel Endorsement – This endorsement allows a pilot to fly a tailwheel aircraft.
  • Complex Airplane Endorsement – A Complex Airplane Endorsement is required to fly airplanes with a controllable pitch propeller, retractable landing gear, and flaps for a land plane. Seaplanes are complex when they have a controllable pitch propeller and flaps.
  • High-Performance Endorsement – This endorsement is needed to fly any aircraft with an engine that exceeds 200HP.
  • High-Altitude Endorsement – This endorsement is needed to fly an aircraft above 25,000 feet or an aircraft that has a max service ceiling of 25,000 feet.

Types of Maintenance a Pilot Can Perform

The training required to obtain a pilot’s licenses does not include instruction on aircraft maintenance. However, the FAA does allow aircraft owners to perform some of their own preventative maintenance. The regulations for preventative maintenance are listed under FAR Part 43. Some of these basic maintenance items include:

  • Changing Aircraft Tires
  • Changing the Aircraft’s Oil
  • Filling Hydrophilic Fluid Reservoirs
  • Filling Landing Gear Struts/Shocks with Air or Oil
  • Making Small Repairs of the Interior – Patching/Replacing Seats
  • Replacing and Cleaning Spark Plugs
  • Replacing Batteries
  • Replacing Interior and Exterior Light Bulbs
  • Replacing worn Cotter Keys and Safety Wires
  • Switching from Wheels to Skis

While aircraft owners are allowed to perform some maintenance, they are not allowed to perform any maintenance that interferes with the major components of the aircraft, any primary structure or the flight characteristics or control systems.

In addition, if the owner of the aircraft has never performed these maintenance tasks, it is best to locate a licensed maintenance technician to oversee the work and to double-check any pilot-made repairs. Most maintenance technicians, including the ones here at Double M Aviation, are happy to show owners the proper way to perform preventative maintenance on their own aircraft and can ensure that all pilot preventative maintenance was performed correctly.

Maintenance Technician Licenses

In the United States, there are three types of aircraft maintenance technician certifications, and they do not require flight training to attain. This means that unless a maintenance technician also gets his or her pilot’s license, they are not legally authorized to pilot an aircraft. The license requirements for aircraft maintenance technicians are listed under 14 CFR Part 65.

Types of Maintenance Technician’s Licenses

  • Repairman Certificate – The repairman certificate is generally for technicians employed by a Certificated Repair Station and specialize in repairing or maintaining specific aircraft components, as opposed to working on the aircraft as a whole.
  • Airframe and Powerplant License (A&P) – A&P maintenance technicians hold certificates to work on both airframes and powerplants. As the airframe and powerplant certificates are tested separately, some individuals may hold only an airframe or a powerplant license. For those who wish to work on only airframes or powerplants, they must complete 18 hours of practical training and experience in their preferred category under the supervision of a certified technician. For those who wish to work on both airframes and powerplants, they must complete 30 hours of combined practical experience in both categories under the supervision of a certified technician. Graduating an FAA-approved maintenance technician school in lieu of working experience is another option to qualify for airframe or powerplant testing.
  • Inspection Authorization (IA) – An IA has all the training of an A&P and can also perform aircraft maintenance inspections in accordance with the FAA rules and regulations. An IA is the only individual authorized to sign off on Annual Inspections or approve a major repair or alteration performed on an aircraft requiring a FAA Form 337. Unlike other licenses, an IA must be eligible for renewal every other year by proving they are still actively performing IA duties.

Aircraft Maintenance at Double M Aviation

At Double M Aviation, we employ multiple technicians who hold A&P and IA ratings to ensure your aircraft inspections are performed correctly and your aircraft remains airworthy. Our pilots on staff have the ability to complete a post maintenance flight after each scheduled inspection giving us the opportunity to ensure that your aircraft flies safely and properly upon completion of the maintenance event.

To learn more about our aircraft maintenance services in Lakeland, call us at 863-940-3450.


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