How do you know if a mechanic really knows a particular aircraft, engine or whatever? I'm considering looking into buying my own airplane, but I don't know how to go about finding someone knowledgeable in a particular aircraft model.
Getting work done on your aircraft isn't like driving to a mechanics shop with your car and asking if they service Fords or Audi's. Aircraft maintenance is very different, firstly all maintenance (not including owner maintained aircraft) will be done by a AMO (Approved maintenance organization) where the mechanics will trained in accordance with FAA, EASA,Transport Canada regulations and standards where all work must be done with the proper paper trail behind it and in respect to the proper reference, something as little as changing a light bulb must be in writing in the aircraft log book and signed off by the mechanic or technician that completed the work. This means that should you roll into your local AMO in a C172 the mechanics will know the aircraft but they will also not know the aircraft. Work on a aircraft is all done via a aircraft maintenance manual with references to AC 43-13 or the CARs depending on the work, doesn't matter if your working on a Airbus or a Cessna, they all have a Aircraft Maintenance manual. These manuals are even broken down further into part catalogs and wiring diagrams, structures repair manual just to name a few.
One thing you should also know is that aircraft are all different for example you might own a Cessna 172 with a full Garmin G1000 avionics package but the Cessna that is parked right next to you being the exact same model of aircraft as you will be equipped with King navigation and radio systems and vacuum driven gauges. The same plane body? Yes. Same weight and balance? No Same electrical load analysis? No Different plane? Yes
This sentence my very a bit from country to country also depending on the governing aviation authority and the AMO itself: Mechanics have two types of licences here in Canada a M1 and a M2. Mechanics with a M1 are allowed to work on all aircraft that are less then 12,500LBS and non turbojet aircraft. M2 are all aircraft that are not covered under M1 including turbojet aircraft but not including balloons. E licence is for Avionics that can work on your radios, autopilot, navigation systems just to name a few. S is for Structures that specialize in aircraft structures, skins etc. With all these licences laid out, Yes you could get a mechanic that is a M2 working on your Cessna 172 for example and they will do a perfect job just like a mechanic with a M1 licence will do, while all in accordance with the AMM,CMM, SRM. Yes it is true that Mechanics can do some Avionics jobs and Avionics can do some mechanics jobs as long as it falls under elementary maintenance. A mechanic cannot sign off on a autopilot overhaul without holding a E licence as a Avionics tech cannot sign off on a engine overhaul without holding a M licence because at the end of the day should something happen to you while you are flying a investigation will be launched and due to there being a paper trail they would be able to see who did what and when it was done before the event happend and work to solve the problem in the correct manner.
It's not a matter of finding a specific individual that is an expert in said aircraft because at the end of the day all the work that is done and documented. All mechanics let it be Avionics, Maintenance or Structures will be following the manual as it is laid out by the aircraft manufacturer to the T and ensuring all paper work has been completed and properly documented. So rest assured who ever will be working on your aircraft in the future will be doing everything in accordance to a proper reference. You would truly be surprised how much information the maintenance manual tells mechanics.