Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic

Stacey Rudser, STS Aviation Services, Orlando International Airport, Florida.

Stacey Rudser
Stacey Rudser leans on the engine nacelle of an Airbus A321 at Florida’s Orlando International Airport. The A321 is powered by a CFM56 engine—nice enough, but Rudser says she’s awed by the technology in the newer CFM LEAP engine.

Rudser had just started a new high school in a new state when a friend introduced her to the JROTC program. One of her instructors, an Air Force major, expressed his enthusiasm for his work as a maintenance officer on C-130s. After a tour of an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter, Rudser was hooked. Shortly after high school, she enrolled in an A&P school.

The job: Do maintenance checks on five airplanes a night. The team does everything from routine maintenance to “A” checks, periodically mandated inspections that take the aircraft out of service overnight.

The path: It takes 18 months to two years of school to earn an A&P license; after graduating, Rudser took a job doing passenger-to-freight aircraft conversions for FedEx. “It’s the coolest thing you’ll ever see,” she says. “We actually take a circular saw and cut a giant hole in the airplane for a cargo door.” She hoped eventually to become a commercial mechanic, but wasn’t sure how to get the necessary experience.

The scholarship: “In order to work on different aircraft,” says Rudser, “you must have a  familiarization course—a ‘fam’ school, as we call them. They can be difficult to get.” In 2013, Rudser received a scholarship offered by UPS Airlines through the Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance. She was able to take a technical training course on Boeing 767s. “That scholarship changed my career,” says Rudser.

Best thing about the job: “It’s always different. Even if an airplane has the same problem that you ran into the other day, it might have a different cause. Also, seeing the [new] engines they’re coming out with. The ones we see have the LEAP-1A engine from GE—it’s got 3D-printed [composite] fuel nozzles. [Engineers figured out how to place] composites in the hot section! It’s brilliant. It’s like being in a sci-fi novel sometimes.”

Neat fact: Disney, Universal Studios, NASCAR, and Formula One all hire A&Ps.

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This story is a selection from the August issue of Air & Space magazine

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