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Thread: Question About Working in the Vintage Aircraft Maintenance/Restoration Industry

  1. #1
    CRedd89's Avatar
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    Question About Working in the Vintage Aircraft Maintenance/Restoration Industry

    Hi Everyone,

    I'm not 100% sure this is the right place to post this question but thought I'd give it a try. I am a recent college graduate with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, currently preparing to acquire my Airframe & Powerplant Certification. My goal is to work in the aviation industry, specifically in the field of restoration and maintenance of vintage aircraft. Does anyone here have any experience or advice they would be willing to pass along that could help me in this? If anyone on here currently works in that field, is there anything you wish you'd known when you were breaking into that business?

    Thanks!

  2. #2

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    I don't work in the field, but I fly a vintage and volunteer in my local air museum. I strongly recommend finding your closest air museum and volunteering in a restoration project. Even if you only have a few hours occasionally, it will be appreciated and is much-needed. You'll get some real world experience and make lots of acquaintances who can offer you good contacts and advice.

  3. #3
    FlyingRon's Avatar
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    Being in Northern Virginia, the nearest air museum which is the National Air And Space Museum. While there are a few historical volunteers in the restoration facility (these are guys who have been around for 20 years) the current person in charge is steadfastly opposed to taking on volunteers in that area regardless of their qualifications. Many at the museum have been pressuring them to change this. The next closest museum is down in Richmond, I believe. There are however some CAF and smaller museum opportunities he might be able to get in with (CAF at CJR, there's a group up at HGR, etc...).

    The other option is to find a facility that specializes in older aircraft and see if they can take on a grunt worker. My wife used to "volunteer" at the mechanics shop cleaning up the place and doing things like repacking wheel bearings, etc... while she worked out the backlog ahead of our Navion on annual and then did the owner assist. I figure I'd have come out ahead even on my own aircraft if I'd sent her to A&P school rather than to get her Masters in Education.

  4. #4
    crusty old aviator's Avatar
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    You can make a small fortune restoring old planes...of course you'll need a large fortune to get started.

    Seriously, get your A&P, which is basically a "license to learn," and go to work for an existing restoration shop. There are plenty around, dedicated to warbirds, and a lot of smaller ones that specialize in antiques. They may even pay you just enough $ to meet all your living expenses, but the real pay is the experience and knowledge you'll gain. One caveat: there are a LOT of sheisters out there in this game who cut corners, do shoddy work, and overcharge their customers. You can learn a lot from them (in addition to how NOT to run your own business) but move on to another shop, once you've learned about all they have to offer you. I hope you're willing to relocate and don't mind living in rural areas, as "antique" shops tend to be in "low rent" areas or on private airports. Read lots of antique/classic articles, see who's been winning the awards: you'll soon learn who the top restorers are (like Tim Talen in Oregon, who is passionate about his craft), and you can try approaching them about an "apprenticeship." You have to pay your dues...and always be courteous to everybody with an old plane that you meet.

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