By Laura Cronin 03 Apr 2023 6 min read

My career path so far as an A Licensed Engineer

We recently spoke to Rachel Holmes, EASA/CAA Cat A Licensed Engineer at Storm Aviation, about her journey into engineering, what she loves most about working in aircraft maintenance, and her career advice for aspiring aircraft engineers.


What originally made you want to pursue a career in engineering?

I’ve always had an interest in how things worked and how different parts would interact with each other to form a bigger machine. I also knew that I wanted to work with my hands while also problem solving, engineering seemed like it would fit this although it wasn’t until quite late on that I came to aircraft engineering.


Where did you look for information about the possible career paths open to you as an engineer?

I probably went into the industry quite blindly, just knowing that I could eventually end up being a licensed engineer looking after aircraft. I didn’t really know what that involved or how to get there as it’s quite hard to find unless you know what you’re looking for. A lot of general googling and help from my parents got me started but I really didn’t know where it might lead me until I got into the industry.


Could you describe the path that you’ve taken to get to your current role?

I first started applying for apprenticeships while I was doing a BTEC that eventually got me to specialise in aeronautical engineering however, I was unsuccessful for two consecutive years leaving me looking for something else once I finished the BTEC. I managed to find a college that I now know was Part-147 approved to teach the one-year A licence course. I did the course and they helped us to all get jobs to get our experience and start working for our licences. After around two years of working and a little disruption from COVID I gained my A licence in mid-2020 and I’ve now been working as an A licensed engineer for just over a year.


What are the main responsibilities of your role at Storm Aviation?

As an A licensed engineer on the line, I normally look after 2-3 aircraft per night with light scheduled work that falls under the scope of my authorisation. Any problems with them, I reach out to one of the B1’s in the team for help but overall, I’m on my own. Occasionally I will team up with a B1 for the night if there are no aircraft that I can certify for myself and then I’ll swap back to being a mechanic and get stuck into the big jobs.


What do you love most about your job?

The variety that you get with seeing multiple aircraft in one night - while your planned workpack might look quite easy it only takes a few defects to throw the night off completely and that’s when you need your problem-solving head on. I also enjoy interacting with the crews that we meet when they bring the aircraft back for the night; sometimes it’s a chat about how their day was, sometimes we start opening engines and they’ll come to have a look and ask us what we’re doing – it’s different every time.


What’s been the biggest challenge of your career so far?

The hardest thing for me has always been having confidence in my decisions, something that has become even more important since I began certifying. It’s a challenge when you remember what’s at stake – 200 people’s lives could depend on what you do, but you have to trust yourself and your experience to make the right judgement. It gets easier the more you do it, it’s just the first leap that’s the hardest.


What has been your proudest moment?

So far, I think the proudest moment would be when I got my licence back in the post. It might not be the full B1 yet, but it showed that all the work I had done; passing exams, filling out my logbook and gaining experience had paid off, I finally had something to show for it.


Do you have any specific career goals that you’re working towards?

Next month I have my B1 essays booked, so all being well I’m hoping to have my B1 later this year. Once I have that it’s about getting my first type and getting used to the role of a B1 engineer.


What’s something that people outside of the industry may not know, or find surprising, about being an Aircraft Engineer?

That most of us probably don’t have a university degree. All our training is industry specific and not much from outside is useful. Most people do regard us as highly trained/skilled so they think we must have done university, but I’d say most of us wouldn’t last very long in such an academic setting, we’re too hands-on!


What has been the most useful advice that you’ve received, or a piece of advice you wish you’d received, that you would pass onto any aspiring aircraft engineers?

I would say the most useful thing anyone has said to me is to remember that everyone has started in the same place as you. They might be the most experienced person you’ve met but one day they were the newbie, so one day you can be the most experienced person someone else meets. You’ll make it eventually; everyone just has their own path.

Discover more first-hand career advice from engineers here.

Browse all the latest engineering roles here.