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Aircraft Mechanics picture    Aircraft Mechanics image

Aircraft Mechanics are also known as: Airframe or Power Plant Mechanics and Avionics or Aviation Technicians. As a valued and critical member of an airline's chain of operations, the primary responsibility of this professional is aircraft preventive maintenance that ensures peak operation, performance, and safety. This is achieved through aircraft servicing, repairing, overhauling, and testing.

A Mechanic performs all required maintenance and inspections of aircraft engines, landing gear, pressurized sections, instruments, and accessories (e.g., pumps, valves, brakes, air conditioning), including parts replacement and maintenance. With larger and more complex planes, the Mechanic will retrieve valuable diagnostic data from the electronic boxes and consoles that track a plane's central or basic functions. They also maintain all records related to maintenance performed on each aircraft. The inspection schedule for each aircraft is based on one or any combination of factors: the number of flight hours that the aircraft has accumulated, the length of time (in days) that have elapsed since its last inspection, and the cycles of operation.

When examining an engine in all plane types, the Mechanic will stand on a scaffold or ladder, or use a lift to reach a special door/opening that allows direct access to the engine in order to examine, repair, or remove it completely. If needed, the Mechanic will disassemble the engine, and with specialized tools and instruments, evaluate various components while looking for any wear or corrosion. X-ray and magnetic inspection equipment may also be used to detect any unnoticeable or invisible cracks. Once the Mechanic's evaluation is completed, they will replace or repair any deteriorated or defective parts.

A Mechanic also evaluates and services various other parts of an aircraft, including:

  • repairing sheet metal or composite surfaces
  • measuring control cable tension
  • looking for and evaluating corrosion, distortion, and cracks in the wings, tail, and fuselage (the central structure or body of an aircraft, to which the wings, tail assembly, and engines are attached)
  • Once all necessary repairs have been made, the Mechanic will run the equipment through a battery of tests so as to ensure safe and optimal function.

Specialty Mechanics

Some Mechanics specialize in repairs where they will find and repair abnormalities or problems as described by a pilot. They work as quickly as safety allows so that the aircraft can get back on track and may safely proceed with its flight. For example, before takeoff, a pilot may discover that the plane's fuel gauge is not functioning properly. The mechanic will locate and diagnose the problem, and through specialized testing equipment, test the electrical system to find and replace any wires that have shorted out or broken.

There are also Mechanics who work on only one type of aircraft, while others will work on many different types, such as propeller-driven planes, jets, and helicopters. Some Mechanics will specialize in a specific type of aircraft but work on only one section of that aircraft (e.g., hydraulics, engine, or electrical system). Following are some examples:

  • Power Plant Mechanics have the authority to work on engines but perform limited work on propellers. The power plant is the engine and propellers (if utilized) of an aircraft.
  • Airframe Mechanics have the authority to work on any part of an aircraft, with the exception of power plants, instruments, and propellers.
  • Combination Airframe-and-Power Plant Mechanics, more generally known as A&P Mechanics, perform work on all parts of an aircraft, excluding the instruments. The airframe includes the fuselage, wings brakes, tail assembly, and the fuel and oil tanks. Mechanics who work in small, independent aircraft repair shops, will typically perform inspections and repairs on a variety of aircraft. Most of today's Mechanics who perform work on civilian planes, are A&P Mechanics.
  • Avionics Technicians repair and maintain the avionics systems of an aircraft (i.e., parts used for aircraft navigation and radio communications, weather radar systems, and other integral instruments and computers that control primary functions such as flight and engine). Today, these systems are an integral part of overall aircraft design and have significantly increased and improved aircraft capabilities. With the advancements and increased use of technology, a greater amount of time is spent by the Technician in repairing electronic systems (e.g., computerized controls). In fact, sometimes a Technician will perform an analysis on a problem and will also be expected/required to develop a solution to a complex electronic problem. Some duties may require the Technician to obtain additional licensing (e.g., a radiotelephone license issued by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC)).

Job Characteristics

Aircraft Mechanics will generally work a 40-hour workweek, but on an eight-hour shift and around the clock. They can expect to also put in frequent overtime hours and work on weekends and holidays. These professionals will work in a variety of areas and conditions, such as indoors, on the airfield on "flight lines" (where aircraft are parked for emergency repairs), in hangars, and repair shops. If repairs are to be made rapidly and the hangars are at capacity, the Technician may work outdoors, and at times, in inclement weather conditions.

Physical demands are important element in this profession, as a Mechanic will frequently need to pull or lift heavy objects that can weigh up to or over 70 pounds. Often times, the Mechanic will need to stand, lie, or kneel in uncomfortable positions, crawl under wings, fit into tight spaces, or work in potentially risky positions such as on ladders or scaffolds. When engines undergo testing, planes take off and land, and power tools are being used, vibration and noise can be very loud and uncomfortable, so ear protection is often necessary.

Mechanics are also no strangers to working under pressure or being exposed to stresses. While they work under tight time pressures in order to keep flights as close to their schedules as possible, or keep customers from experiencing any inconvenience, they cannot and must not sacrifice high safety and work standards. The responsibility for maintaining these standards is a tremendous one and can cause stress.

Individuals in this profession must possess the following characteristics and attributes:

  • high degree of mechanical aptitude
  • aptitude and ability to detect, diagnose, and solve complicated mechanical problems
  • ability to work in a careful and thorough manner
  • strong work ethic
  • self-motivation
  • devotion and enthusiasm
  • hard-working nature
  • ability to perform a variety of duties
  • no fear of heights
  • agility and physical dexterity

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (USDL BLS), employment for Aircraft Mechanics is expected to grow by 10 percent and "about as fast as average for all occupations" from 2006 to 2016. Due to the growing population and an expanding economy, passenger traffic is expected to increase. These factors will have a positive impact on the need and growth of Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians. Additionally, through 2016, there will be a need to replace retiring Mechanics, as well as those who will move on to a related field such as auto repair, as their skills are highly transferable into various other repair and maintenance occupations.

Aircraft Mechanic Training and Certification

The majority of individuals in this profession learn the necessary skills offered through trade schools that are Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified. Approximately one-third of the 200 certified schools offer two- and four-year degrees in aviation technology, avionics, or aviation maintenance management. Very few Mechanics learn the trade through on-the-job training. Until an individual secures their FAA certificate, they can work only under the supervision of a certified Mechanic.

As established by law, FAA standards require certified schools to offer students at least 1,900 class hours. Generally, students will attend courses that run between 18 to 24 months and train with tools and equipment that are used on the job. Aircraft trade schools will continue to place a greater amount of emphasis on the technologies, which are increasingly being used in new aircraft construction (e.g., turbine engines, aviation electronics, and composite materials, such as fiberglass, graphite, boron). Learning the principles involved in aircraft operation is also very important, as a Mechanic will often use this knowledge when making repairs. Thus, students will take courses that support these principles (e.g., physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, electronics, and mechanical drawing). It is important to note that technological advances in aircraft maintenance enforce the importance that all Mechanics fully understand and develop a solid background in electronics in order to secure and maintain a job in this profession. Mechanics must also possess the ability to read, write, and fully understand the English language, since part of their job includes submitting reports.

For some Aircraft Mechanics, the experience gained while in the Armed Forces will satisfy the FAA work experience requirement to obtain a certificate. However, further study will aid in their ability to pass the certification exam. Generally speaking, jobs held in the military are too specialized and do not provide the vast experience required by the FAA. While few individuals receive credit for what they learned while in the Armed Forces, the majority must complete an entire FAA training program. It's important to note that experience gained while in the military provides an individual with a significant advantage and leverage when looking to secure employment. Applicants with this type of training background are the most desirable and sought after by prospective employers.

FAA Certification

All applicants for FAA certification must be at least 18 years of age.

To secure an Airframe or Power Plant certificate, the FAA requires a minimum of 18 months' on-the-job work experience. However, program completion at a mechanic school that is FAA certified may be applied as a substitute for the required on-the-job experience. Additionally, both Mechanics and Technicians are required to pass a certification exam and attend a minimum of 16 hours of training every two years in order to keep their certificate current. Most Mechanics attend training courses that are offered by employers or manufacturers but taught by outside contractors.

To secure a combined A&P certificate, the FAA requires that Mechanics achieve a minimum of 30 months' on-the-job experience working on both airframes and engines, or experience that is combined with completion of a program from an FAA-certified mechanic school. The FAA also requires current work experience (1,000 work hours in the previous two years) in order to keep an A&P certificate valid. Otherwise, a refresher course must be taken. The majority of airlines require Mechanics to possess a high school diploma and an A&P certificate. All certificate applicants are required to pass both a written and oral test and demonstrate that they are able to perform the work as authorized by a certificate.

Avionics Technicians require an FAA mechanic's certificate. Individuals must also be trained, qualified, and possess the appropriate tools required to work on avionics equipment. Many Mechanics possess avionics repair experience from having worked for avionics manufacturers or from the military.

Moving Up the Ladder

As a Mechanic gains experience, they may take on supervisory responsibilities that come with higher-level roles such as Crew Chief, Inspector or Lead Inspector, or Lead Mechanic. Those who possess the authority to perform inspections will have the greatest chance in securing such roles. For individuals in a supervisory role, the opportunity also exists to move up the ladder into an executive position in their company. The FAA also seeks to employ inspectors with a significant amount of experience in various areas ranging from maintenance to overhauls. After completing additional business training, some of these individuals may start their own service facility. Also, since Mechanics continually learn a wide variety of skills, they can leverage their expertise in other industries as Technicians or Repairers.

Resources

Major Employers

Mechanics and Technicians will find employment in a limited number of industries. According to the USDL BLS, in 2006, more than one-half of these professionals "worked in air transportation and support activities for air transportation. Around 18 percent worked in aerospace product and parts manufacturing and about 16 percent worked for the Federal Government. Most of the rest worked for companies that operate their own planes to transport executives and cargo."

Major airports that are close to large cities will be the main source of employment for most Airline Mechanics and Service Technicians. Civilian Mechanics who secure jobs with the U.S. Armed Forces will find themselves working at military sites. Those who seek employment for aerospace manufacturing firms will generally find employment in the state of Washington or California. FAA employed Mechanics will work at facilities in Atlantic City, Oklahoma, Washington, D.C., or Wichita.

Mechanics who seek employment with private repair shops generally work at airports nationwide.

Schools for Aircraft Mechanics are listed in the column to the left.

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for:
Aircraft Mechanics

Listed below are metro areas sorted by the total number of people employed in Aircraft Mechanics jobs , as of 2015

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

     
Metro Area (Alabama) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Mobile 260 $42,290
Huntsville 190 $53,650
Montgomery 180 $59,510
Birmingham 140 $49,770
Hoover 140 $49,770
Daphne 80 $56,050
Fairhope 80 $56,050
Foley 80 $56,050
     
Metro Area (Alaska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anchorage 860 $62,850
Fairbanks 170 $59,130
     
Metro Area (Arizona) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Mesa 3160 $61,070
Scottsdale 3160 $61,070
Phoenix 3160 $61,070
Tucson 1090 $57,430
Yuma 60 $82,110
Flagstaff 50 $36,050
Lake Havasu City N/A $49,180
Kingman N/A $49,180
     
Metro Area (Arkansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Conway 430 $49,770
North Little Rock 430 $49,770
Little Rock 430 $49,770
Hot Springs 30 $24,210
     
Metro Area (California) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anaheim 5510 $64,820
Long Beach 5510 $64,820
Los Angeles 5510 $64,820
San Francisco 2500 $80,060
Hayward 2500 $80,060
Oakland 2500 $80,060
Carlsbad 1430 $59,520
San Diego 1430 $59,520
Riverside 880 $63,600
Ontario 880 $63,600
San Bernardino 880 $63,600
Bakersfield 660 $65,390
Fresno 580 N/A
Sacramento 390 $65,320
Roseville 390 $65,320
Arden 390 $65,320
Arcade 390 $65,320
Sunnyvale 180 $68,980
Santa Clara 180 $68,980
San Jose 180 $68,980
Thousand Oaks 130 $60,630
Ventura 130 $60,630
Oxnard 130 $60,630
Lodi 70 $50,360
Stockton 70 $50,360
Santa Maria 60 $66,670
Santa Barbara 60 $66,670
Santa Rosa 50 N/A
Redding 50 $60,910
Paso Robles 40 $63,120
Arroyo Grande 40 $63,120
San Luis Obispo 40 $63,120
Salinas N/A $38,640
Porterville N/A $51,680
Visalia N/A $51,680
Yuba City N/A $59,130
     
Metro Area (Colorado) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lakewood 1140 $71,470
Aurora 1140 $71,470
Denver 1140 $71,470
Colorado Springs 240 $53,660
Greeley N/A $38,800
     
Metro Area (Connecticut) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Stamford 340 $62,290
Norwalk 340 $62,290
Bridgeport 340 $62,290
East Hartford 230 $63,610
West Hartford 230 $63,610
Hartford 230 $63,610
     
Metro Area (Florida) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Fort Lauderdale 5130 $52,800
West Palm Beach 5130 $52,800
Miami 5130 $52,800
Kissimmee 1820 $66,270
Sanford 1820 $66,270
Orlando 1820 $66,270
Jacksonville 1650 $46,630
Tampa 600 $56,860
St. Petersburg 600 $56,860
Clearwater 600 $56,860
Palm Bay 580 $59,810
Melbourne 580 $59,810
Titusville 580 $59,810
Brent 490 $54,500
Ferry Pass 490 $54,500
Pensacola 490 $54,500
Crestview 350 $60,480
Destin 350 $60,480
Fort Walton Beach 350 $60,480
Panama City 290 $55,420
Port St. Lucie 160 $28,320
Ormond Beach 110 $44,080
Daytona Beach 110 $44,080
Deltona 110 $44,080
Fort Myers 80 $51,430
Cape Coral 80 $51,430
Winter Haven 50 $49,060
Lakeland 50 $49,060
Sarasota 40 $63,820
North Port 40 $63,820
Bradenton 40 $63,820
Sebastian N/A $43,960
Vero Beach N/A $43,960
Tallahassee N/A $55,690
     
Metro Area (Georgia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Atlanta 5410 $80,020
Roswell 5410 $80,020
Sandy Springs 5410 $80,020
Warner Robins 1090 $54,620
Savannah 1010 $56,960
     
Metro Area (Hawaii) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Urban Honolulu 1050 $67,700
Lahaina 170 N/A
Wailuku 170 N/A
Kahului 170 N/A
     
Metro Area (Idaho) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Boise City 320 $55,270
     
Metro Area (Illinois) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Springfield 160 $60,180
Peoria 60 $59,700
     
Metro Area (Indiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anderson 1110 $49,660
Carmel 1110 $49,660
Indianapolis 1110 $49,660
Fort Wayne 100 $57,330
     
Metro Area (Iowa) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Des Moines 100 $47,970
Des Moines 100 $47,970
     
Metro Area (Kansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Wichita 950 $59,780
Topeka 80 $56,820
     
Metro Area (Kentucky) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Fayette N/A $55,440
Lexington N/A $55,440
     
Metro Area (Louisiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Bossier City 430 $55,020
Shreveport 430 $55,020
Lake Charles 430 $55,160
Metairie 430 $62,450
New Orleans 430 $62,450
Houma 240 $69,450
Thibodaux 240 $69,450
Lafayette 230 $67,370
Alexandria 50 $69,700
     
Metro Area (Maine) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Bangor 90 $49,120
     
Metro Area (Maryland) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lexington Park 1040 $71,460
California 1040 $71,460
Towson 530 $60,700
Columbia 530 $60,700
Baltimore 530 $60,700
     
Metro Area (Massachusetts) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Barnstable Town 90 $52,040
     
Metro Area (Michigan) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Dearborn 1240 $59,980
Detroit 1240 $59,980
Warren 1240 $59,980
Ann Arbor 370 $49,130
Wyoming 130 $41,480
Grand Rapids 130 $41,480
East Lansing 50 $68,340
Lansing 50 $68,340
Portage 40 $39,550
Kalamazoo 40 $39,550
     
Metro Area (Mississippi) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Pascagoula 200 $62,130
Biloxi 200 $62,130
Gulfport 200 $62,130
Jackson 180 $50,680
     
Metro Area (Missouri) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Springfield 120 $46,600
     
Metro Area (Montana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Great Falls 180 $54,860
Billings 100 $44,230
     
Metro Area (Nebraska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lincoln 120 N/A
     
Metro Area (Nevada) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Paradise 1170 $60,130
Henderson 1170 $60,130
Las Vegas 1170 $60,130
Reno 140 $57,400
     
Metro Area (New Jersey) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Hammonton 120 $60,800
Atlantic City 120 $60,800
     
Metro Area (New Mexico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Albuquerque 220 $54,750
Santa Fe 30 $52,250
     
Metro Area (New York) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Niagara Falls 170 $61,450
Buffalo 170 $61,450
Cheektowaga 170 $61,450
Rome 110 N/A
Utica 110 N/A
Troy 100 $55,600
Schenectady 100 $55,600
Albany 100 $55,600
Syracuse 70 $57,160
Rochester 60 $58,200
     
Metro Area (North Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
New Bern 650 $55,240
Raleigh 240 $55,580
Fayetteville 200 $45,450
Goldsboro 90 $48,590
Durham 60 $59,050
Chapel Hill 60 $59,050
Jacksonville 40 $48,040
     
Metro Area (Ohio) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Cleveland 530 $55,510
Elyria 530 $55,510
Dayton 260 $59,250
Toledo 190 $63,540
Akron 150 $47,850
     
Metro Area (Oklahoma) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Oklahoma City 2180 $53,850
Tulsa 880 $43,850
     
Metro Area (Oregon) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Medford 150 $46,230
Salem 60 $60,240
Redmond 40 $46,780
Bend 40 $46,780
     
Metro Area (Pennsylvania) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Pittsburgh 900 $57,100
Carlisle 100 $53,290
Harrisburg 100 $53,290
Lancaster 60 $45,920
Reading 40 $62,130
     
Metro Area (Puerto Rico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Caguas 250 $25,080
Carolina 250 $25,080
San Juan 250 $25,080
Isabela 80 $44,070
Aguadilla 80 $44,070
     
Metro Area (South Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Greenville 300 $55,310
Mauldin 300 $55,310
Anderson 300 $55,310
Columbia 230 $51,290
Charleston 200 $57,280
North Charleston 200 $57,280
     
Metro Area (South Dakota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Sioux Falls 170 $52,600
Rapid City 120 $58,580
     
Metro Area (Tennessee) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Knoxville 430 $50,140
Franklin 390 $49,990
Murfreesboro 390 $49,990
Davidson 390 $49,990
Nashville 390 $49,990
     
Metro Area (Texas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Arlington 7540 $59,260
Dallas 7540 $59,260
Fort Worth 7540 $59,260
Houston 2460 $65,910
The Woodlands 2460 $65,910
Sugar Land 2460 $65,910
New Braunfels 2190 $49,060
San Antonio 2190 $49,060
Corpus Christi 1140 $59,690
Killeen 860 $52,530
Temple 860 $52,530
Wichita Falls 430 $59,330
Round Rock 160 $58,130
Austin 160 $58,130
El Paso 130 $61,210
San Angelo 60 $55,620
Longview 50 $32,840
Tyler 40 $64,140
Waco N/A $47,080
Lubbock N/A $58,090
Laredo N/A $79,910
     
Metro Area (Utah) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Clearfield 800 $56,540
Ogden 800 $56,540
Salt Lake City 760 $55,300
Provo 60 $38,810
Orem 60 $38,810
St. George 30 N/A
     
Metro Area (Vermont) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
South Burlington 140 $60,960
Burlington 140 $60,960
     
Metro Area (Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Richmond 110 $61,800
     
Metro Area (Washington) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Bellevue 3540 N/A
Tacoma 3540 N/A
Seattle 3540 N/A
Spokane Valley 180 $53,180
Spokane 180 $53,180
Bellingham N/A $76,980
     
Metro Area (West Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Charleston 40 $53,920
     
Metro Area (Wisconsin) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Waukesha 410 $55,400
West Allis 410 $55,400
Milwaukee 410 $55,400
Madison 190 $50,400
Oshkosh 70 $44,670
Neenah 70 $44,670
Green Bay 30 $42,070
     
Metro Area (Wyoming) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Cheyenne N/A $53,740

Most Popular Industries for :
Aircraft Mechanics

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Air Travel 32,600 28% $57,470
Transportation Support Services 26,670 23% $43,560
Automotive And Vehicle Manufacturing 23,010 20% $50,890
Government 17,380 15% $51,850
Delivery Services 4,540 3% $83,730
Office Services And Staffing 3,220 2% $39,280
Professional And Technical Services 2,120 1% $47,440
Education 1,160 1% $42,430
These schools offer particularly quick info upon request, and we have written detailed profiles for each (click school names to see the profiles). Request info from multiple schools, by clicking the Request Info links.
 
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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Aircraft Mechanics.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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