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Old 04-08-2020, 00:48   #1
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Transition from Aviation

Aloha all,
I'm an aircraft mechanic currently, and have a job only for the next 60 days. Aviation is looking a little rough, so I've been wondering:
How hard would the transition be from working on aircraft, to boats? I'm a good mechanic specifically in sheetmetal and fiberglass repair. It might be a long shot, but does anyone have experience transitioning over? Is it possible to make a living off of mobile repairs without a certificate? I can't really afford to go back to school at the moment, but would consider it if absolutely necessary.
Mahalo in advance!
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Old 04-08-2020, 05:44   #2
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Re: Transition from Aviation

I'm a retired engineer/A&P, been refitting my own boat, and have a friend who takes care of boats in several marinas. Working on boats is comparatively easy and a LOT translates. Not all, but a lot. One of the strangest parts is how much cruder the boat stuff is and how much more the emphasis is on fastest job completion. Too many boat techs will do whatever it takes to get a wire from A to B rather than wiring to the standards of AC43.13 or even ABYC 11. Of course that also means that somebody doing things right will have owners seek them when the owners want something done right.

That said, there are significant differences and boats have a lot of traditional things to learn too. It's kinda like going back to the first times you timed a single versus double magneto and learned that how you do it on a Cessna just won't work in the tight confines of a Mooney.

For the knowledge/tech side, I'd suggest checking into one of the ABYC electronic courses. They are relatively inexpensive and that certificate could make a good pay check. That's the tech side.

The harder side may be getting to work on boats and growing your customer base in the first place. While it's easy to place a Craigslist ad to let people know you exist, a lot of marinas will not allow repairmen in without registering and showing insurance. It's not unknown for marinas to want a cut of the profits too.

I'd suggest talking to some repair guys in your area and working for them for a bit, even if the pay is meager. See how things work around there.

And start hitting the job ads for work outside of aviation. Repair of medical devices, refrigeration, photocopiers, etc all LOVE A&Ps, pay well, have benefits, and the conditions are usually much better.
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Old 04-08-2020, 07:02   #3
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Re: Transition from Aviation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Checkswrecks View Post
I'm a retired engineer/A&P, been refitting my own boat, and have a friend who takes care of boats in several marinas. Working on boats is comparatively easy and a LOT translates. Not all, but a lot. One of the strangest parts is how much cruder the boat stuff is and how much more the emphasis is on fastest job completion. Too many boat techs will do whatever it takes to get a wire from A to B rather than wiring to the standards of AC43.13 or even ABYC 11. Of course that also means that somebody doing things right will have owners seek them when the owners want something done right.

That said, there are significant differences and boats have a lot of traditional things to learn too. It's kinda like going back to the first times you timed a single versus double magneto and learned that how you do it on a Cessna just won't work in the tight confines of a Mooney.

For the knowledge/tech side, I'd suggest checking into one of the ABYC electronic courses. They are relatively inexpensive and that certificate could make a good pay check. That's the tech side.

The harder side may be getting to work on boats and growing your customer base in the first place. While it's easy to place a Craigslist ad to let people know you exist, a lot of marinas will not allow repairmen in without registering and showing insurance. It's not unknown for marinas to want a cut of the profits too.

I'd suggest talking to some repair guys in your area and working for them for a bit, even if the pay is meager. See how things work around there.

And start hitting the job ads for work outside of aviation. Repair of medical devices, refrigeration, photocopiers, etc all LOVE A&Ps, pay well, have benefits, and the conditions are usually much better.
Thank you for the really helpful information! I'm glad to know my a&p won't go to waste, even if the industry is in shambles at the moment.
I'll look into the cert, hopefully it's not too pricey.

Cool to see another aviation person into boats!
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Old 04-08-2020, 07:36   #4
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Re: Transition from Aviation

Aviation maintenance has been interesting for years. Many years ago I noticed that it cost more per hour to get my John Deere lawnmower worked on than an A&P charges, last year I paid a Rigger to do some work and was astonished at the hourly rate, more than twice what an A&P gets.
A&P’s just don’t make much, although I’ve heard that the Airlines pay well, but I’ve never been around those, and for an A&P to really work for themselves pretty much takes an IA ticket.
I surrendered my IA last year. I think I’ll work to get it back after cruising is done, without an IA your very limited.

But so far as working in boats, it’s clearly a matter of being personable and likable more than anything, I’ve never heard of any customers asking about Certification. I’ve only hired out heavy maintenance myself, but I think being on time, being dressed neat and clean and not smoking goes a long way.
Reputation is by world of mouth of course and I think many if not most find mechanics that way, often asking the dock master.

Insurence is going to be mandatory, I don’t think any Marina will let you in the gate without it.

As I see it the major difference is anyone can claim themselves to be Marine mechanic, and there is no oversight either. I have seen some unbelievable “professional “ work done.
The previous owner paid a Pro to install a secondary bilge pump / high water alarm on my boat. I have the receipt. The Pro T’d the discharge into the propane lockers drain hose, thereby connecting the propane locker directly to the bilge.
Do that in Aviation and you’ll be lucky if you just lose your ticket.

On edit, apparently now boats are selling like hot cakes, if your going to make your move I’d say now is a good time, as most any boat that is just bought gets some kind of work done by the new owner.
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Old 04-08-2020, 07:37   #5
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Re: Transition from Aviation

Other than being a trained mechanic, an A&P's skills don't really cross over to sailboats that well. I think the area where you could get some work would be doing electrical work. Our training in electrical systems is far superior to the usual boat stuff.
Buy a boat and hang out in a marina, meet people.
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Old 04-08-2020, 08:18   #6
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Re: Transition from Aviation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Checkswrecks View Post
I'm a retired engineer/A&P, been refitting my own boat, and have a friend who takes care of boats in several marinas. Working on boats is comparatively easy and a LOT translates. Not all, but a lot. One of the strangest parts is how much cruder the boat stuff is and how much more the emphasis is on fastest job completion. Too many boat techs will do whatever it takes to get a wire from A to B rather than wiring to the standards of AC43.13 or even ABYC 11. Of course that also means that somebody doing things right will have owners seek them when the owners want something done right.

That said, there are significant differences and boats have a lot of traditional things to learn too. It's kinda like going back to the first times you timed a single versus double magneto and learned that how you do it on a Cessna just won't work in the tight confines of a Mooney.

For the knowledge/tech side, I'd suggest checking into one of the ABYC electronic courses. They are relatively inexpensive and that certificate could make a good pay check. That's the tech side.

The harder side may be getting to work on boats and growing your customer base in the first place. While it's easy to place a Craigslist ad to let people know you exist, a lot of marinas will not allow repairmen in without registering and showing insurance. It's not unknown for marinas to want a cut of the profits too.

I'd suggest talking to some repair guys in your area and working for them for a bit, even if the pay is meager. See how things work around there.

And start hitting the job ads for work outside of aviation. Repair of medical devices, refrigeration, photocopiers, etc all LOVE A&Ps, pay well, have benefits, and the conditions are usually much better.
Sounds like pretty sound advice.

This description above is more getting into the professional boat maintenace scene. But obviously less feasable if you're in the move

I'm still in the trade. But yes as you say it's carnage at the moment.

I dont know your situation boat wise. It sounds like you are looking to get a boat.

I have a boat. I have learnt a lot refitting and maintaining my tub. But most guys in the Aviation maintenance game dont 'fall' into the trade. It takes a fair bit of jumping through hoops to get on a hangar floor. So most aviation guys are enthusiasts.

It sounds like you are asking about doing work as you're travelling around in your boat.

My experience is that most boaters know each other in the same area. And help each other to sort out issues with typically helping in the spirit of "what goes around comes around" basis. Or maybe trading skills or bater goods etc. Ie its not done successfully as making a living.
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Old 04-08-2020, 12:23   #7
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Re: Transition from Aviation

[QUOTE=Q Xopa

My experience is that most boaters know each other in the same area. And help each other to sort out issues with typically helping in the spirit of "what goes around comes around" basis. Or maybe trading skills or boater goods etc. Ie its not done successfully as making a living.[/QUOTE]


Being an aircraft mechanic is great cuz you know lots of stuff and you can do almost everything on your own boat. Helping others is about as far as that goes.
Look into getting "carded" by the USFS etc, come out west and fight fire with an aircraft unit.
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Old 04-08-2020, 15:09   #8
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Re: Transition from Aviation

You should be able to use your skills in a boat yard. I know welders are needed now on the US West Coast. But if you're looking for a future career, make some contacts with companies in the offshore wind business. It's just starting to get going off the US East Coast, but the potential is huge.
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Old 07-08-2020, 14:05   #9
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Re: Transition from Aviation

Ecos - It's not the A&P knowledge about airplanes that translates, it's the processes and wide variety of systems that having an A&P meal a person has been exposed to. For example, somebody who has been framing houses or working on cars probably won't be familiar with the idea an autopilot will always have the same basic sensor -> processor -> actuator -> feedback to begin troubleshooting. The basics of wiring, fiberglass, corrosion protection, etc, all apply. But as mentioned, diesels, how to change prop shafts, balsa core, etc, mean that it's not apples to apples either.

I mentioned the ABYC cert not for the certificate, but because it is a quick way to be able to pick up a lot about boat systems and their differences.

Q Xopa - Thanks for the thought but I'm semi-retired and have a 32' Ericson. Still teach forensics and consult on the side at www.howitbroke.com. That is, when I'm not running my new Grand Daddy Day Care private biz for the Little Princess because of COVID.

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Old 07-08-2020, 14:17   #10
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Re: Transition from Aviation

Medical equipment is a great idea. Donít skip over semiconductor manufacturing equipment as well.
Huge direct transfer from A&P skill set to servicing that stuff. I used to design and service it and worked with former A&P and Navy techs.
Procedures to follow, and complicated stuff that will hurt or kill people or cost a lot of money.
And the procedures are never ever complete or quite accurate. Until the equipment has been around long enough to be obsolete.
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Old 15-08-2020, 13:51   #11
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Re: Transition from Aviation

Former avionics tech/installer/prototype engineer here. I've tried working on boats professionally three times, mostly because I enjoy them and aviation has been a dumpster fire of a career option for a decade. Each of those times was a complete disaster. Those were all working for companies, not individuals on specific jobs.



For the companies, nobody - and I honestly mean NOBODY - cared how nice the wire harnesses or installed components looked when they're actually built and designed to not chafe or be crushed by ill-fitted panels or submerged in bilge slime and there is sufficient support via clamps or zip ties with proper bend radii on coaxes, etc. You'll just get yelled at because it took too long. When you try to explain why you did things the way you did, you'll get labeled as a backtalking prima donna who's costing the company money because you're too slow. Three completely different companies over a span of about 14 years. Exactly the same result each time.



I will NEVER reduce my quality or safety standards, so I only work on my own boat and those very few specific individual boat owners I encounter that appreciate aviation-quality workmanship, know that doing it right takes time, and are happily willing to pay a proper rate for such services. It's wonderful to do those one-off projects for people and at that point, it's not even about the money anymore. Working as a marine mechanic/electrician for some company, not so much.


There are always exceptions and it's very likely I just had a run of bad luck. I've heard of marine shops that work more like a smooth running hangar than a hostile lawnmower repair shop being run by children, so they do exist out there. If you can find one, be prepared for a pay cut. You'll be on par with the night manager at McDonalds, roughly. And if you thought poking around in the dark recesses of old airplanes turned up some disgusting, nasty surprises, you'll love working in deep bilges that haven't seen fresh air or light in a decade.



*Of course, it's ok when it's my bilge nastiness, just unthrilled about someone else's bilge nastiness
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Old 15-08-2020, 15:23   #12
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Re: Transition from Aviation

I’d say they cross over VERY well, I’d market yourself as such, the level of detail, I mean leaving three threads after a nut, high low torque for a castle nut, heck even having a torque wrench, let alone a properly calibrated one, that will set your miles ahead of most.

I know more than a few boat owners who have money and would LOVE a person to work on things who gives a f’ and actually has real knowledge of the right way to do things.

If you got some training on rigging, below the waterline stuff, I think you could do well if you market yourself well.

Heck if you can weld, the amount of “pros” who make arches and davits, even I can see from 10’ away it’s going to go wet noodle in any seas, I think if you do it right, you will be very busy
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Old 16-08-2020, 01:32   #13
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Re: Transition from Aviation

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Originally Posted by SV Melody View Post
Former avionics tech/installer/prototype engineer here. I've tried working on boats professionally three times, mostly because I enjoy them and aviation has been a dumpster fire of a career option for a decade. Each of those times was a complete disaster. Those were all working for companies, not individuals on specific jobs.



For the companies, nobody - and I honestly mean NOBODY - cared how nice the wire harnesses or installed components looked when they're actually built and designed to not chafe or be crushed by ill-fitted panels or submerged in bilge slime and there is sufficient support via clamps or zip ties with proper bend radii on coaxes, etc. You'll just get yelled at because it took too long. When you try to explain why you did things the way you did, you'll get labeled as a backtalking prima donna who's costing the company money because you're too slow. Three completely different companies over a span of about 14 years. Exactly the same result each time.



I will NEVER reduce my quality or safety standards, so I only work on my own boat and those very few specific individual boat owners I encounter that appreciate aviation-quality workmanship, know that doing it right takes time, and are happily willing to pay a proper rate for such services. It's wonderful to do those one-off projects for people and at that point, it's not even about the money anymore. Working as a marine mechanic/electrician for some company, not so much.


There are always exceptions and it's very likely I just had a run of bad luck. I've heard of marine shops that work more like a smooth running hangar than a hostile lawnmower repair shop being run by children, so they do exist out there. If you can find one, be prepared for a pay cut. You'll be on par with the night manager at McDonalds, roughly. And if you thought poking around in the dark recesses of old airplanes turned up some disgusting, nasty surprises, you'll love working in deep bilges that haven't seen fresh air or light in a decade.



*Of course, it's ok when it's my bilge nastiness, just unthrilled about someone else's bilge nastiness
I would agree with you assessment of the average srandard of work done. Most yachties dont want to pay for the time required to do that level of quality.

Of course there is alway a few exceptions, but from what I have seen 'barely, or not even, good enough' is the norm. Of course everything is a balance of practicality. I agree its easy to get carried away but mostly I like to devote and spend some time to make a job that I am happy with.

There are some fastidious owners. Most in that category are dedicated enough to learn how to do these jobs themselves. The group that do want this standard of work, dont want to do it themselves, but have the money are pretty thin on the ground.

So from what I have seen, if you want to accept lower standards and lower rates there is always a demand.

Mechanical, electrical and glass work is ok and will stop you starving.

I dont do jobs for others as I am flat out doing my own boat at the moment.

SS welding was mentioned. I bought an Inverter TIG a few years back. I hadnt welded since my apprenticeship, (for many years), but it didnt take me too long to get my eye in again.

Every time I get mine out to do some work, currently building a hard bimini, I am asked by other boaters in the yard to do stuff for them. Sometimes they just want this or that repaired, which I will usually do, basically for a favor/ trade/ or beers. Its amazing how easy it is to blow out your project timeline. But I have to decline taking on any sort of project, otherwise I will never get mine done, lol.

I also bought a Sailrite LZ 2nd hand off here. Same story with that. I am just learning with canvas work. So far have started with Lee cloths. But again as soon as I get it out people ask me if I can do stuff for them.

Refrigeration is the other 'service' yachities often want. Again doing this on aircraft and wanting to do it myself, I got a manifold gauge and hose set.

If you have-
A multimeter, welder, Sewing machine, Refrig gear etc that you know your way around enough to work things out you can always find work. This isnt huge money.

Like many of us I have started small and slowly collected lots of tools over the years as my jobs come up. Mostly after I am not so satisfied with the availabilty of reasonable guys or their standard of work.

Just some of my thoughts and experiences.
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