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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
Huntsville 210 $56,590
Mobile 180 $40,810
Montgomery 170 $61,360
Birmingham 80 $54,320
Hoover 80 $54,320
Foley 70 $56,430
Daphne 70 $56,430
Fairhope 70 $56,430
     
Metro Area (Alaska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anchorage 760 $65,760
Fairbanks 200 $60,270
     
Metro Area (Arizona) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Scottsdale 3960 $60,630
Mesa 3960 $60,630
Phoenix 3960 $60,630
Tucson 1000 $56,170
Lake Havasu City 140 $44,930
Kingman 140 $44,930
Flagstaff 70 $38,360
     
Metro Area (Arkansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Conway 300 $50,600
North Little Rock 300 $50,600
Little Rock 300 $50,600
     
Metro Area (California) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anaheim 5160 $59,570
Long Beach 5160 $59,570
Los Angeles 5160 $59,570
Hayward 2750 $68,380
Oakland 2750 $68,380
San Francisco 2750 $68,380
Riverside 1220 $63,540
San Bernardino 1220 $63,540
Ontario 1220 $63,540
Carlsbad 1120 $62,260
San Diego 1120 $62,260
Bakersfield 540 $67,660
Sacramento 450 $66,410
Roseville 450 $66,410
Arden 450 $66,410
Arcade 450 $66,410
San Jose 210 $70,490
Santa Clara 210 $70,490
Sunnyvale 210 $70,490
Fresno 150 $51,560
Thousand Oaks 150 $60,090
Ventura 150 $60,090
Oxnard 150 $60,090
Santa Rosa 70 $-1,111
Lodi 70 $47,060
Stockton 70 $47,060
Santa Maria 70 $58,510
Santa Barbara 70 $58,510
Yuba City 70 $59,920
Redding 60 $58,710
Hanford 60 $59,340
Corcoran 60 $59,340
Salinas -2222 $40,700
Modesto -2222 $52,230
     
Metro Area (Colorado) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lakewood 1090 $72,990
Aurora 1090 $72,990
Denver 1090 $72,990
Colorado Springs 210 $59,000
Fort Collins 60 $54,070
Greeley -2222 $43,940
     
Metro Area (Connecticut) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
East Hartford 410 $66,450
West Hartford 410 $66,450
Hartford 410 $66,450
Stamford 350 $65,140
Norwalk 350 $65,140
Bridgeport 350 $65,140
New Haven 40 $55,900
     
Metro Area (Delaware) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Dover 150 $61,060
     
Metro Area (Florida) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Miami 5750 $53,550
Fort Lauderdale 5750 $53,550
West Palm Beach 5750 $53,550
Kissimmee 1850 $66,580
Sanford 1850 $66,580
Orlando 1850 $66,580
Jacksonville 1770 $49,790
Melbourne 630 $58,280
Titusville 630 $58,280
Palm Bay 630 $58,280
St. Petersburg 580 $60,340
Tampa 580 $60,340
Clearwater 580 $60,340
Pensacola 540 $60,530
Ferry Pass 540 $60,530
Brent 540 $60,530
Port St. Lucie 140 $24,020
Deltona 110 $46,390
Ormond Beach 110 $46,390
Daytona Beach 110 $46,390
Fort Myers 80 $52,950
Cape Coral 80 $52,950
Sarasota 70 $49,650
North Port 70 $49,650
Bradenton 70 $49,650
Winter Haven 40 $50,440
Lakeland 40 $50,440
Sebastian -2222 $42,630
Vero Beach -2222 $42,630
Panama City -2222 $45,230
     
Metro Area (Georgia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Roswell 5720 $83,050
Sandy Springs 5720 $83,050
Atlanta 5720 $83,050
Warner Robins -2222 $55,180
     
Metro Area (Hawaii) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Urban Honolulu 990 $65,010
Lahaina 170 $55,760
Wailuku 170 $55,760
Kahului 170 $55,760
     
Metro Area (Idaho) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Boise City 250 $54,720
Coeur d'Alene -2222 $47,990
     
Metro Area (Illinois) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Peoria 90 $60,510
Springfield 60 $54,360
Decatur 50 $-2,222
     
Metro Area (Indiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anderson 880 $43,370
Carmel 880 $43,370
Indianapolis 880 $43,370
Fort Wayne 90 $58,110
     
Metro Area (Iowa) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Des Moines 100 $47,540
Des Moines 100 $47,540
     
Metro Area (Kansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Wichita 920 $60,440
Topeka 80 $57,590
     
Metro Area (Louisiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lake Charles 510 $53,050
Metairie 460 $59,470
New Orleans 460 $59,470
Shreveport 200 $56,840
Bossier City 200 $56,840
Thibodaux 200 $70,100
Houma 200 $70,100
Lafayette 190 $63,910
Alexandria 60 $63,140
Hammond 30 $68,290
     
Metro Area (Maine) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Bangor 80 $48,590
     
Metro Area (Maryland) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lexington Park 1000 $73,210
California 1000 $73,210
Towson 530 $62,180
Columbia 530 $62,180
Baltimore 530 $62,180
     
Metro Area (Massachusetts) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Barnstable Town 80 $62,410
     
Metro Area (Michigan) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Warren 1240 $61,020
Dearborn 1240 $61,020
Detroit 1240 $61,020
Ann Arbor 420 $50,390
Kalamazoo 60 $37,770
Portage 60 $37,770
East Lansing 60 $64,390
Lansing 60 $64,390
Grand Rapids 50 $46,750
Wyoming 50 $46,750
     
Metro Area (Mississippi) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Pascagoula 210 $60,800
Biloxi 210 $60,800
Gulfport 210 $60,800
Jackson 110 $55,270
     
Metro Area (Missouri) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Springfield 150 $47,660
     
Metro Area (Montana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Great Falls 170 $53,590
Billings 90 $45,700
     
Metro Area (Nebraska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lincoln 120 $48,310
Grand Island 30 $39,680
     
Metro Area (Nevada) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Paradise 1340 $70,410
Henderson 1340 $70,410
Las Vegas 1340 $70,410
Reno 140 $59,150
     
Metro Area (New Jersey) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Atlantic City 110 $61,640
Hammonton 110 $61,640
Trenton 70 $69,800
     
Metro Area (New Mexico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Albuquerque 250 $59,300
Santa Fe 70 $43,430
     
Metro Area (New York) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Niagara Falls 140 $60,070
Cheektowaga 140 $60,070
Buffalo 140 $60,070
Albany 120 $51,890
Schenectady 120 $51,890
Troy 120 $51,890
Rochester 80 $58,410
Syracuse 50 $57,930
     
Metro Area (North Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
High Point 910 $48,730
Greensboro 910 $48,730
New Bern 450 $54,960
Salem 350 $44,150
Winston 350 $44,150
Raleigh 200 $50,650
Goldsboro 90 $48,960
Jacksonville 90 $57,180
Durham 40 $59,260
Chapel Hill 40 $59,260
     
Metro Area (North Dakota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Bismarck -2222 $75,580
     
Metro Area (Ohio) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Columbus 1980 $51,580
Elyria 560 $58,120
Cleveland 560 $58,120
Dayton 320 $55,440
Toledo 180 $63,980
Akron 130 $50,170
     
Metro Area (Oklahoma) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Tulsa 2780 $68,720
Oklahoma City 2390 $52,520
     
Metro Area (Oregon) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Medford 140 $52,750
Redmond 50 $51,240
Bend 50 $51,240
Eugene 30 $50,900
     
Metro Area (Pennsylvania) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Pittsburgh 900 $59,660
Carlisle 110 $55,770
Harrisburg 110 $55,770
Lebanon 90 $54,000
Lancaster 60 $46,620
Hanover 40 $52,590
York 40 $52,590
     
Metro Area (Puerto Rico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Caguas 320 $45,710
Carolina 320 $45,710
San Juan 320 $45,710
     
Metro Area (South Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
North Charleston 280 $59,570
Charleston 280 $59,570
Columbia 200 $51,820
Spartanburg 90 $47,790
Beaufort 50 $66,050
Hilton Head Island 50 $66,050
Bluffton 50 $66,050
     
Metro Area (South Dakota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Sioux Falls 220 $52,930
Rapid City 140 $58,780
     
Metro Area (Tennessee) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Franklin 530 $54,280
Murfreesboro 530 $54,280
Davidson 530 $54,280
Nashville 530 $54,280
     
Metro Area (Texas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Dallas 8870 $59,870
Fort Worth 8870 $59,870
Arlington 8870 $59,870
Houston 2550 $67,940
Sugar Land 2550 $67,940
The Woodlands 2550 $67,940
San Antonio 1640 $49,700
New Braunfels 1640 $49,700
Killeen 850 $53,440
Temple 850 $53,440
Corpus Christi 840 $60,610
Wichita Falls 430 $60,300
Waco 310 $46,710
Austin 180 $59,130
Round Rock 180 $59,130
Abilene 120 $55,240
El Paso 90 $60,100
Amarillo 60 $69,530
Longview 50 $35,440
Tyler 50 $65,770
Midland 30 $50,870
Lubbock -2222 $57,920
     
Metro Area (Utah) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Ogden 930 $56,250
Clearfield 930 $56,250
Salt Lake City 680 $56,780
Orem 110 $48,770
Provo 110 $48,770
     
Metro Area (Vermont) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
South Burlington 200 $58,310
Burlington 200 $58,310
     
Metro Area (Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Richmond -2222 $58,480
     
Metro Area (Washington) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Spokane 190 $56,720
Spokane Valley 190 $56,720
Bellingham 50 $52,570
Tumwater 40 $55,800
Olympia 40 $55,800
     
Metro Area (West Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Charleston 100 $50,340
Vienna 30 $49,910
Parkersburg 30 $49,910
     
Metro Area (Wisconsin) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Allis 360 $55,690
Waukesha 360 $55,690
Milwaukee 360 $55,690
Madison 140 $51,100
     
Metro Area (Wyoming) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Cheyenne -2222 $55,030

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
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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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