Avionics technicians install, calibrate, test, maintain and repair aviation equipment such as jet engines, missile guidance systems and flight control circuitry. A lot of the job is preventative maintenance. Many aviation technicians have a speciality such as computerized guidance systems or microcircuit television microscopy. Due to the continual changes in technology, a technician's specialty may change over time.
Some sample job titles are avionics electronics technician, aircraft electrical systems specialist, aviation electronics technician, avionics installer, aviation electrical technician and avionics systems integration specialist.
Some technicians specialize in the designing and testing stages of new types of electronic equipment. Some aviation technicians install and maintain aviation electronics. Many in this group specialize in preventive maintenance.
Airframe mechanics are allowed to work on any part of an aircraft except power plants, instruments and propellers. Power plant mechanics are authorized to work on engines and may do limited work on propellers. A&P mechanics have the skills of airframe and power plant mechanics. Most mechanics that work on civilian aircraft are A&P mechanics.
- Inspect aviation equipment
- Perform inspections
- Test aviation equipment
- Take engines apart and measure parts for wear
- Repair sheet metal or composite surfaces
- Prepare or replace defective or worn parts
- Keep maintenance records
- Troubleshoot electrical systems
- Maintain safety standards
They often work unusual hours and under time pressure. Most airline mechanics and service technicians work at major airports. Civilian mechanics that work for the U.S. Armed Forces work at military installations. They work in repair stations, hangars or out in the field. Avionics technicians often work in awkward positions. They usually work 40 hours per week using eight hour shifts around the clock. They frequently work overtime and on the weekends.
Many avionics technicians work as part of a team. Communication skills and being able to write thorough reports are very important for the occupation. They should be well organized and attentive to detail. They should be able to diagnose and solve complex mechanical problems.
Employment for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians is projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to increase by 7 percent between 2008 and 2018 which is about as fast as average for all occupations. Avionics technicians are expected to have an 11 percent employment growth from 2008 to 2018.
The median hourly wage for avionics technicians in 2008 was $23.71. The highest paid 10 percent earned more than $30.87 per hour.
Aviation technicians may continue their education and advance into positions such as aviation engineer, communication engineer or electrical engineer. Some aviation technicians become electronics designers.
Education, Certification, and Licensing
Most aviation mechanics attend aviation maintenance technician schools which are certified by the FAA. Two and four year degrees are available in avionics, aviation maintenance management and aviation technology. A few mechanics receive on-the-job training. Certified mechanics have to supervise and document the work of these trainees until they have earned FAA certificates. The armed services and large aerospace firms provide on-the-job training specific to their requirements for avionics technicians.
Those involved in aircraft maintenance need a very strong background in electronics and computers in order to acquire and keep a job in this field. Useful courses include physics, mathematics, computer science and mechanical drawing. Classes that enhance writing skills are important since mechanics need to write and submit reports.
Aircraft mechanics can move up to a lead mechanic, shop supervisor, inspector or lead inspector position. Due to continual changes in technology, aviation technicians are involved in continuing education through company sponsored seminars, professional reading, conferences and industry sponsored events.
The FAA requires that all maintenance work performed on aircraft must be done by certified mechanics or performed under the supervision of a certified mechanic. Most airline mechanics working for airlines have earned FAA certification. Most airlines prefer to employ mechanics that have an A&P certificate.
Mechanics are required to have at least 30 months of experience working with airframes and engines before applying for a combined A&P certificate, however completing a program at a FAA certified school may be substituted for theses work experience requirements. In addition to experience or formal training candidates for all certificates need to pass oral, written and practical tests. They need, at a minimum, 18 months of work experience before they can apply for a power plant or airframe certificate.
Some avionics technicians may be required to obtain a radiotelephone license from the Federal Communications Commission. Avionics technicians often need to acquire certifications from associations including International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians, National Association of Radio and Telecommunications Engineers and the Electronics Technicians Association International.
Most armed forces mechanics need to complete the entire FAA training program, however some have acquired enough general experience to fulfill the work experience requirements for the FAA certificate.
The top employment sectors are air transportation, aerospace products and parts manufacturing, and the federal government.