CAVU Café: Royboy’s Prose & Cons

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Certifications For Avionics Technicians

Many of you buy and sell avionics parts and/or have Repair Stations/Approved Maintenance Organisations. As such I’d like to share with you the options that exist globally regarding the credentials which avionics technicians may bring to your attention during the hiring process, including the relatively new NCATT (National Center for Aircraft Technician Training) Certification.

Before starting, since this article is addressing a global topic, we need to point out that generally, the terms Technician, Mechanic, and Engineer will all mean the same thing; their use varies geographically.


As with any evolving field of interest, when advancements produce increased levels of complexity, an expected progression would be new fields of expertise, and so it has been for avionics (Aviation Electronics). During and after WW II, aircraft electronic systems became increasingly complex, particularly in the fields of communication and navigation. Technicians who demonstrated talents in these systems were singled out for their aptitude. Despite this recognition, certifications for aircraft maintenance technicians remained stubbornly centered around airframe and powerplant qualifications, with avionics training coming under the airframe category. So, where are we today with certification for avionics technicians? Currently the dominant patterns for maintenance technician certification are the ICAO, EASA, and FAA models.


In past articles I’ve shared my hope that in the future the world would go to a single set of globally recognized and accepted aviation regulations. This desire stems from the dizzying number of duplicative certifications a company might require doing business globally. When this happens, it is likely that ICAO will be the organisation which establishes the standards everyone follows. This is likely because ICAO is not anchored to any nation-state, and therefor does not carry any political or geographic ‘baggage’ which might otherwise arouse the sensitivities of any nations. So, who is ICAO?

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations and is funded and directed by 193 national governments to support their diplomacy and cooperation in air transport. ICAO is always quick to point out that they are not a global regulator but that “The stipulations ICAO standards contain never supersede the primacy of national regulatory requirements.1” This is an important distinction; a country’s civil aviation authority maintains its jurisdictional sovereignty over its nation’s aviation operations while implementing globally accepted ICAO standards. It’s this distinction which makes conceivable the promise of ICAO being the global model.

ICAO’s standards are contained in 19 Annexes, and Annex 1 is titled “Personnel Licensing” and contains a section 4.2, Aircraft maintenance (technician/engineer/mechanic). This section further refers to ICAO Training Manual Doc 7192, and its Part D-1 which specifically addresses Aircraft Maintenance (Technician/Engineer/Mechanic), and includes Avionics, Radio, Autoflight, and Instruments.

The ICAO standards, although valuable as a global influencer, do not require that Aircraft Maintenance Engineers have a specific license for Avionics.


The European Aviation Safety Agency has its part 66 regulation which deals with the licensing of Aircraft Maintenance Engineering personal. This licensing falls into 3 categories:


       Category A1 – Certifying Mechanic Piston Engine powered Fixed-wing Aircrafts.

       Category A2 – Certifying Mechanic Turbine Engine powered Fixed-wing Aircraft.

       Category A3 – Certifying Mechanic Piston Engine powered Helicopter.

       Category A4 – Certifying Mechanic Turbine Engine Powered Helicopters.


       B1.1 – Certifying Technician Piston Engine powered Fixed wing Aircrafts

       B1.2 – Certifying Technician Turbine Engine powered Fixed wing Aircraft.

       B1.3 – Certifying Technician Piston Engine powered Helicopter.

       B1.4 – Certifying Technician Turbine Engine powered Helicopters

       B2 – Certifying Technician Avionics

       B3 – Certifying Technician Ultra Light Aircraft.


       Category C – Certifying Engineer.

Significantly, note that which I have bolded, the B2. To the best of my knowledge this represents the first instance of a Civil Aviation Authority certifying the Avionics specialty. Many countries have copied the EASA model for licensure of AMEs.


The Federal Aviation Administration regulation for mechanics falls under Part 65, Certification, Airmen other then Flight Crew Members, and its subpart D addresses Mechanics. Mechanics can have an Airframe and/or Powerplant certificate (A&P). There is no certificate available from the FAA for avionics. Note however that regarding the privileges and limitations of mechanics, FAR 65.81(a) states that

“A certificated mechanic may perform or supervise the maintenance, preventive maintenance or alteration of an aircraft or appliance, or a part thereof, for which he is rated (but excluding major repairs to, and major alterations of, propellers, and any repair to, or alteration of, instruments)…”

My italics. Note the A&P limitations on instruments. So, how does FAR 1 define instruments?

“Instrument means a device using an internal mechanism to show visually or aurally the attitude, altitude, or operation of an aircraft or aircraft part. It includes electronic devices for automatically controlling an aircraft in flight.”

That definition curiously includes topics which many of us would include as avionics. The go-around for this limitation has always been to obtain a Repairman Certificate for those systems. Repairman Certificates are not quite ‘Certifications’ such as an A&P, however, since they are only active with the employer you are with, and upon your departure must be surrendered. The pesky question in the US then, is how have employers recognized any level of license to equate with avionics/electronics knowledge for hiring purposes?

The FCC, Federal Communications Commission has licensing options for those engaging in operations on the radio frequencies, for example, radio station operators, TV stations, and amateur operators (AKA Hams). Engineers which work on and can sign off on work performed for radio station and TV station transmitters must have a General Radio-Telephone Operators license, commonly called a GRO. In the past this was called the First-Class FCC license. The GRO test is a difficult test whereby you must know electronic circuits of all kinds, a plethora of electronics formulas, and FCC regulations. The GRO has the option to have additional endorsements, and one of those is a ship radar endorsement.

Although not aviation specific, the GRO was for decades, and continues to be, an acceptable measure that the possessor knows their electronics, which applies to avionics. In fact, many job descriptions for avionics technicians included the desired GRO license, and the radar endorsement was very good to have. For example, many repair stations and airlines hired avionics technicians based on their having the FCC GRO. I should know, in addition to my A&P and I have the GRO with the radar endorsement and was hired into a major airline as an avionics technician based on this credential.

Nonetheless, there is the continued and correct perception that the FCC GRO is not aviation specific, and there does not appear to be any FAA efforts to address this or to have any certifications of avionics technicians. In recognition of this, NCATT, the National Center for Aerospace & Transportation Technologies, created the Aircraft Electronics Technician (AET) certification.


In 2014 the standards setting organization ASTM absorbed the aviation technician certification products that the National Center for Aerospace and Transportation Technologies developed.

The NCATT 61-page study guide2 for the Aircraft Electronics Technician details an impressive list of topics the student will be tested on. There are 90 questions and the passing grade is 73%. In addition to these core requirements, there available several endorsements in the following areas:

  • Autonomous Navigation Systems (ANS) (AET Endorsement)
  • Dependent Navigation Systems (DNS) (AET Endorsement)
  • Onboard Communications & Safety Systems (OCS) (AET Endorsement)
  • Radio Communication Systems (RCS) (AET Endorsement)
  • Aerospace/Aircraft Assembly (AAA)
  • Foreign Object Elimination (FOE)
  • Unmanned Aircraft Systems Certification (UAS)

Each endorsement has its own 50 questions with a passing grade of 70%

Significantly, the Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) endorses this program, and the FAA, in response to an October 2018 petition from the AEA, formally recognized ASTM’s National Center for Aerospace and Transportation Technologies (NCATT) Aircraft Electronics Technician (AET) certification as equivalent to formal training when showing eligibility for earning a repairman certificate3.

Keep in mind however, that like the FCC GRO, the AET certificate does not empower you to perform Return to Service actions; you still need an FAA Airframe or Repairman certificate. This contrasts with the EASA model (B2) which does permit this.

Over ‘n out

Roy ‘Royboy’ Resto




Posted By Jeanne Meade | 10/2/2022 11:21:30 AM

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