Trade Schools with Aircraft Mechanic Programs
Aircraft mechanics restore function to broken airplane and helicopter components, as well as maintain properly functioning aircrafts. They troubleshoot issues with brakes, wings, and landing gear. Workers use hand and power tools to swap out faulty parts, fixing electrical or mechanical problems to keep planes in service.
Rigorous training is necessary, as team members are responsible for the safety of the plane and therefore it’s passengers. Prospects study airplane maintenance manuals to understand unique repair techniques required for each model. Students learn how to test replacement parts for errors or defects and restore service to faulty electrical systems.
Aircraft Mechanic Job Description: What Do They Do?
Aircraft mechanics test a plane’s systems and instruments, including weather radars and navigation units. They update aircraft assemblies when safety or environmental standards change. These upgrades often involve components such as landing gear, engines, wings, or fuselages.
Carrying out standard maintenance routines is a large part of the job. Employees adjust hydraulic or pneumatic setups that help to power crucial parts. They calibrate radio communications in order for pilots to speak with air traffic control. Workers must also align and place aircraft in their proper places, a practice known as rigging.
Aircraft mechanics use x-ray and ultrasonic technology during inspections to find flaws or cracks on an aircraft. After making repairs, workers test equipment to ensure proper function. Associates may issue airworthiness certificates, which are seals of approval from maintenance staff that airplanes are safe to fly.
All active airplanes require tuning in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration standards. To fulfill these obligations, workers maintain structural components of aircraft. They scrutinize parts for faults that could lead to problems during flight.
These skilled laborers augment their knowledge with digital technology to diagnose a plane’s mechanical and electrical issues. In ideal cases, they are able to return planes to the air within hours. The complex and detailed nature of this job makes it one of the highest-paid technical occupations
What Are Aircraft Mechanic Job Duties?
Aircraft mechanics inspect airplanes for problems and make repairs where needed. They diagnose a plane’s mechanical or electrical issues using their expertise and the help of technology. Upon reviewing their findings, workers choose the most efficient repair procedure and gather the necessary tools.
Associates scrutinize parts for faults that could lead to troubles during flight. Another task involves keeping track of airplane mileage in order to know when to replace parts or perform inspections. Ensuring the safety of passengers, pilots, and crewmembers is the number one priority of an aircraft mechanic.
Workers must perform engine oil changes, replacing drive belts if they contain cracks or tears. At times they assemble components such as junction boxes, which help to route electrical cables underneath floor panels.
Laborers work both underneath and above airplanes, using trolleys or ladders to access hard-to-reach areas. They need agility to climb in tight quarters and execute precise work in low lighting conditions. Aircraft mechanics use diagnostic gear and gauges to perform routine tests on aircraft parts.
At times, associates perform bodywork, buffing out scratches and repainting scuffed areas. They pound out dents and fix broken wings, replacing panels or other pieces as needed. Laborers also look for other signs of wear such as component distortion or panel warping. Many entry-level aircraft mechanic jobs include checking for oil leaks, foreign object damage, and burn evidence.
Employees check for cracks in fuselages. A fuselage is an airplane’s tubular-shaped body frame. Pilots sit in its front within a cockpit, while passengers ride in the back area. Planes often store fuel in portions of both the fuselage and wings. Fissures in an airplane’s structure may cause loss of cabin pressure, which can lead to unsafe drops in onboard oxygen levels.
How Do Aircraft Mechanics Perform Inspections?
Manufacturers and the FAA establish unique upkeep procedures for each model of plane. Certain levels of checks take place every four to eight months, with workers looking over crucial components. Inspectors also review fluid levels as well as gage the condition of evacuation slides. These checks take about one to three days to complete.
There are more thorough check as well. In fact, they are so detailed that performing them make take up to two weeks to complete. These inspections happen approximately every two years. Workers remove outer panels to look over internal components. Seats are taken out of the cabin to check the aircraft’s structure. Another check happens at the six-year mark, and lasts approximately one month. During this inspection, there is a complete removal and review of every single aircraft component.
The following elements are examined during standard inspections:
- Wing panels
- Fuselage (body)
- Landing equipment
- Cockpit avionics
- Flight controls
- Safety systems (oxygen supplies, pressurization systems)
What Types of Skills Should Aircraft Mechanics Possess?
Aircraft mechanics need time management skills in order to meet deadlines. They must follow FAA rules and regulations that dictate repairs, inspections, and upkeep routines. Strict aircraft maintenance is a must in order to ensure safety during flights.
Many repair shops receive jobs from owners of all types of different aircraft. In these environments, workers need a versatile skillset. Aircraft mechanic training prepares students to diagnose and fix the following:
- Commercial planes
- Water-landing aircraft
What's It Like in an Aircraft Mechanic's Workspace?
Many aircraft mechanic jobs take place on airfields, repair stations, or hangars near major airports. Environments are often loud due to the use of heavy equipment and eruptive aircraft motors. These powerful engines cause fierce heat and intense vibrations, which mechanics must endure daily. Some professionals even work with the military aboard aircraft carriers or within foreign bases.
What Is in an Aircraft Mechanic Tool Set?
Safety gear is necessary for these professionals. Commonly used equipment includes goggles, respirators, and high-end dust filters. OSHA-approved hearing protection also prevents tinnitus and hearing loss. Brightly colored vests help easily identify workers to prevent collisions. While performing everyday tasks, associates use the following tools:
- Allen wrench sets
- Hammers and plastic mallets
- Screwdrivers and pliers
- Micrometers and ohmmeters
- Aircraft snips and scissors
- Hacksaws and utility knives
- Rat tail files and pin punches
- Magnifiers and flashlights
- Pry bars and wrenches
- Inspection mirrors and flashlights
- Tape measures and rulers
- Air blower guns and drills
What Are Useful Skills for People in This Field?
- Hand-eye coordination for manipulating and assembling aircraft components
- Decision-making skills for choosing aircraft mechanic tools and thinking of methods to fix issues
- Proficiency in time management for finishing repairs quickly and properly
- Observational qualities to decipher gauge readings and subtle engine noises
- A detail-oriented mindset to fill out checklists and parts paperwork
- The ability to both follow detailed instruction and teach others when needed
- Self-motivation in order to work unsupervised for long periods
- Troubleshooting talents to find the root cause of problems
What Are Aircraft Mechanic Requirements?
Those wondering how to become an aircraft mechanic will be pleased to learn that initially, they only need a high school diploma. Students may attend trade schools to receive aviation maintenance certificates. They can enroll in associates or bachelors programs for advanced training.
During or after schooling, most prospects complete an aircraft mechanic apprenticeship. This gives them the opportunity to learn from experienced workers in real-life job environments. Recruits must be 18 years or older and should have knowledge of technical software. Many workers in the field are unionized.
Aviation classes provide an educational foundation with courses in physics, math, and electronics. Students then learn about all of the parts and systems that make up airplanes and allow them to fly. Prospects will want as many math and physics credentials as possible on their aircraft mechanic resume.
Before working on commercial aircraft, the FAA requires recruits to be certified. An Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certification is usually preferred, which takes about two years to earn. Upon receiving A&P credentials, craftsmen can carry out many alteration and maintenance tasks. They upkeep and repair the most important parts of an aircraft, such as the landing gear, engines, and braking systems.
Some mechanics choose to focus on a certain type of aircraft, while others service all types. During aircraft mechanic training, students learn about structural maintenance. They discover how to decide if parts need repaired or replaced. Recruits inspect aircraft for problems and make assisted repairs where needed.
Depending on the types of credentials desired, aircraft mechanic school cost can vary greatly. Two-year associate’s degrees usually run around $30k, while four-year bachelor’s degrees require investments of up to $80k. Certain test prep courses can cost over $2k, while the FAA certification exams themselves may carry fees of up to $600.
What Is the Outlook for
Aircraft Mechanic Jobs?
Job growth is around 5 percent, which is on par with the national average for all occupations. A typical aircraft mechanic salary is about $30 an hour, adding up to approximately $60k per year. The industry’s biggest earners make over $95k annually.
There are about 131,000 people working as aircraft mechanics in the United States. As aging staff members continue leaving the profession, there is demand for talented aircraft mechanics to take their place. Also, overall air traffic is growing, leading to an increase in the number of laborers needed. Benefit packages may include the following:
- 401(k) retirement plan
- Medical insurance
- Vision and dental coverage
- Maternity and paternity leave
- Paid time off
- Profit sharing
- Discounted airfare
- Performance bonuses
- Relocation reimbursement packages
- Tool allowances
What Should Workers Expect?
Some aircraft mechanics enjoy four ten-hour workdays per week. New hires often receive paid onsite training. Prospects should expect constant bending, twisting, and stretching in cramped environments. Standing on ladders and working high off the ground is common.
Colleagues routinely handle harmful chemicals and must do so with care. Heavy lifting of items up to 80 pounds is common, and associates may work weekends, nights, or holidays.
Where Can Prospects Find Work?
Prospects have many options while looking for full-time employment. For example, an Air Force aircraft mechanic works for the military in crucial and sometimes classified roles. Hopefuls often look for jobs with the following entities:
- Government entities
- Law enforcement agencies
- Private plane and helicopter owners
- Airfields, hangars, and repair stations
- Air transportation companies
- Aerospace parts manufacturers
- Rescue teams
Do Aircraft Mechanics Have Any Other Options?
Mechanics who are intrigued with the aircraft design process should look into the field of aerospace engineering. This career involves planning, building, and testing brand new types of aircraft and spacecraft. Workers produce and install the parts or systems needed to achieve evolving performance goals of tomorrow’s aircraft.
While designing products, aerospace engineers make heavy use of computer models and simulation software. Workers also perform quality assurance and functionality tests. The average yearly wage for these associates is over $67k.
What are Alternate Careers for Aircraft Mechanics?
Those looking to take their skills outside of the aviation industry have many options. Body repair mechanics restore cars that have sustained collision damage. These workers make over $40k per year refinishing vehicles in body shops and custom car garages.
Similarly, auto mechanics repair technical issues with cars. While they don’t restore damaged frames and bent fenders, these workers focus on issues like faulty engines or brake replacements. On average, automotive mechanics earn yearly salaries upwards of $40k.
Interview with an Airline Mechanic
An interview with Steven Vaughn, an airline mechanic, who works for a company in Dyess, Texas.
Q: Can you tell us who you are currently employed with?
A: I am an Electrical Repair Mechanic for the C 130 airframe for U.R.S. and I work out of the AFB in Dyess, TX.
Q: What is the most requested service you provide?
A: I am responsible for troubleshooting malfunctions throughout the plane’s controls, landing gear, pneudraulics, engines, auxiliary power, ventilation and heating systems.
Q: How long have you been involved with the airline industry?
A: I have been working with the C-130 airframe structure for the past 8 years.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your training and school experience?
A: During high school, I enrolled in the early enrollment program for the Air Force and, in 2000, I began my enlistment with the Air Force. I was trained as a C-130 electrical master technician and, when I left the Air Force, I was hired at URS. I began working here in 2004 and have been working with the same group of people since then.
Q: What’s your favorite part about having your position and what is the worst part?
A: I grew up in Texas and the fact that I have been able to do all that I have done and still stay close to home has been what makes this the position I wanted to sign up for. The heat is the worst part of this job.
Q: Tell us about an average day.
A: An average day involves doing the 100-hour periodic and progressive calendar inspections on the planes we are responsible for. Besides those tasks, we take on repairs and inspections of current airframes that are in for more than just an inspection. I arrive at work around 7:00 AM and leave the hanger about 6:00PM. Many of the procedures take a number of hours to perform, so our work days are a little longer than most, but it’s worth the time spent here to get the job done right.
Q: If you ever take the next step in business, what would that be?
A: I would like to get promoted to a supervisor for URS. It would take me out of the hanger and give me more of an office position as supervisor. As I get older, I would want to be able to accomplish my goals with less physical labor than I do now.
Q: Did your previous work history have anything to do with your current business position?
A: I was doing the same thing for the Air Force as I do here. The Air Force just does it a little different. The Air Force works on Air Force time. Here, we can schedule our work to fit the schedule of a civilian and that makes it much better.
Q: In your field of work, what kind of benefits do you receive?
A: I think I have some real good benefits. All the insurance I need. I have health and dental. I can go to a specialist if I would like. Our company pays for all our benefits and there is accrued time off for vacations and sick time. As most professional companies run their benefit program, URS runs theirs.
Q: Can you tell me about the money you make?
A: My salary is over $49,000 a year.
Q: What makes someone good at this profession?
A: What makes someone good at this profession is an ability to always have high standards for the work they perform. Without high standards, they would not like working with these planes. It comes with the job. You must always be performing at the highest level when you have so much you are responsible for.
Q: Would you recommend this career path to others who are interested in working with airplanes?
A: I would recommend my job to many of my friends. Many of my friends want my job, but they never went into it like I did. I’m sure they can go get trained, but I think the time I spent in the service gave me more than any school will. I think the real-time work I did on the C-130 of the Air Force allows me to be so good at what I do now.