Aircraft mechanics employed by the airlines perform either line maintenance work including routine maintenance, servicing, or emergency repairs at airline terminals, or major repairs and periodic inspections at an airline's overhaul base.
Aircraft mechanics in general aviation perform maintenance and repair jobs similar to those performed by airline mechanics, but they may work on small piston-engine or larger turbine- powered aircraft, depending on the type of business the facility specializes in.
An aircraft mechanic maybe licensed or unlicensed. The licensed mechanic may receive from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mechanic Certificate (with an airframe rating, powerplant rating, or rating for both) or a Repairman Certificate. FAA Mechanic Certificates are issued upon successful completion of oral, written, and practical examinations. A mechanic with an airframe, powerplant or airframe and powerplant (A&P) rating can work only on the specific parts of the aircraft for which he or she is rated. Similarly, a mechanic with an FAA Repairman Certificate can work only on those parts of the aircraft that the certificate specifically allows, such as radio or instruments, propellers, etc. The repair person who works on transmitting equipment aboard the aircraft does not need a license from the Federal Communications Commission; however, experts encourage these individuals to take the FCC exam because they may eventually become involved in satellites and satellite communication systems the next logical step.
If you have an interest in electronics, you may choose to specialize in avionics: aircraft navigation and communication radios, weather radar systems, autopilots, and other electronic devices. This field is becoming more interesting and challenging as the technology expands. In the past, avionics were added to an airplane almost as an afterthought; today's digital aircraft depend upon sophisticated avionics systems as part of their design.
Industry observers say there is a demand for avionics specialists who are prepared to master the intricacies of the aircraft and work shoulder to shoulder with A&Ps. Because of a shortage of technicians and the complexity of aircraft systems, the industry needs more people who are cross-trained. They want A&Ps who can troubleshoot the black boxes, as a time-saver in the maintenance operations. Avionics technicians with the licensing that enables them to work on the airplane, either removing or reinstalling equipment, are especially in demand.
Aviation maintenance mechanics (including air-frame and powerplant technicians, avionics technicians and instrument repairmen) have the important responsibility of keeping airplanes in a safe condition to fly. In this effort they service, repair, and overhaul various aircraft components and systems including airframes, engines, electrical and hydraulic systems, propellers, avionics equipment, and aircraft instruments. The has changed greatly in recent years and will continue to change rapidly because of advances in computer technology, solid-state electronics, and fiber composite structural material.
Aircraft mechanics employed in general aviation do maintenance and repair work similar to airline mechanics; however, the equipment they service is generally smaller in size but may be just as complex.
Depending upon the type of work they do, aircraft mechanics and repairmen work in hangars, on the flight line, or in repair shops. They use hand and power tools along with test equipment. Noise levels are high and flight line mechanics often work outdoors in inclement weather conditions when making emergency repairs. Sometimes the work requires the use of ladders or scaffolds and the physical demands can be heavy. Frequent lifts or pulls of up to 50 pounds are normal and the physical requirements include stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling, reaching, handling, fingering, and feeling.
Aircraft mechanics often work under pressure to maintain airline flight schedules or, in the case of general aviation, to minimize inconvenience to customers beyond a reasonable period of time. While doing so, the aircraft mechanic cannot sacrifice high standards of workmanship to speed up the job.
Typical Requirements and/or Experience
The successful aircraft mechanic should have an above average mechanical ability and a desire to work with his hands. He or she should also have an interest in aviation, appreciation of the importance of doing a job carefully and thoroughly, and the desire to learn throughout a career.
While a high school diploma is not required to become an apprentice aircraft mechanic, employers give preference to applicants who are high school or vocational school graduates; thus, such a diploma is essential. Mathematics, physics, computer science, chemistry, English, and aerospace education courses are suitable subjects to pursue while in high school, because the aircraft mechanic avionics technician must understand the physical principles involved in the operation of the aircraft and its systems. Also, a high school diploma is normally recommended as a prerequisite for attending a technical school or a college offering A & P training. The aircraft mechanic is expected to continue his or her education, even after hiring, in order to keep abreast of the continuing technical changes and improvements in aircraft and associated systems.
Married and unmarried men and women, with or without children are eligible. Persons who are widowed or divorced, also are eligible.
It is the policy of most aviation companies to provide equal employment opportunity to all individuals regardless of their race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, military and veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status, or any other characteristic protected by state or federal law. Most aviation companies are strongly committed to this policy, and believe in the concept and spirit of the United States law.
Most aviation companies are committed to assuring that:
All recruiting, hiring, training, promotion, compensation, and other employment related programs are provided fairly to all persons on an equal opportunity basis without regard to race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, military and veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status or any other characteristic protected by law;
Employment decisions are based on the principles of equal opportunity and affirmative action;
All personnel actions such as compensation, benefits, transfers, training, and participation in social and recreational programs are administered without regard to race, creed, color, sex, age, national origin, disability, military and veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status or any other characteristic protected by law, and;
Employees and applicants will not be subjected to harassment, intimidation, threats, coercion or discrimination because they have exercised any right protected by law.
Most aviation companies believe in and practice equal opportunity and affirmative action. All employees are responsible for supporting the concept of equal opportunity and affirmative action and assisting the company in meeting its objectives.
Most aviation companies maintain Affirmative Action Plans for minorities, women, disabled persons and veterans.
EEOC has jurisdiction of the prohibitions against employment discrimination codified in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. These laws prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age and disability.
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) enforce the prohibitions against federal employment discrimination codified in the CSRA. The OSC will defer those bases of discrimination under EEOC's jurisdiction to the respective federal agency and its EEO process. The CSRA also prohibits employment discrimination in the federal government based on marital status, political affiliation and conduct which does not adversely affect the performance of the employee, none of which are within EEOC's jurisdiction. Moreover, the law defines ten other prohibited personnel practices in the federal government, all of which fall under the jurisdiction of the OSC and the MSPB. See Prohibited Personnel Practices at http://www.osc.gov/ppp.htm.
Additional information may also be found on the the EEOC web site located at http://www.eeoc.gov/
Wages and Benefits
Aircraft mechanics generally work 40 hours a week on eight-hour shifts around the clock, and overtime work is common. The basic airline mechanic's starting wage is dependent on the size of the company, location in the United States or other part of the world, experience, and type of craft worked. Avjobs provides a current look at today’s first day on the job earnings at AviationSalary.com. There are also increases in salary for longevity, licenses held, line work, or shift work. A lead airline mechanic with an A & P certificate and 10 years experience can expect to make in excess of $73,000 per year when salaried or $45.00 per hour in hourly positions.
In general aviation, mechanic's salaries are determined largely by the size of the aircraft serviced. Mechanics without an A & P license make considerably less and usually have more difficulty finding work. It is anticipated that wages for general aviation mechanics will increase over the next few years, but will remain lower than the salaries paid by the large airlines.
Paid holidays, vacations, insurance plans, retirement programs, and sick leave are some of the benefits offered by both airline and general aviation employers. Airlines also give their employees free or reduced price transportation to destinations within their route structure and exchange travel privileges with other airlines. General aviation offers more local points of employment.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and the Transport Workers Union of America are the principal unions representing aircraft mechanics, but some mechanics are also represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Salaries and benefits can vary. For an updated look at salaries in the aviation industry, view the current first day on the job earnings at AviationSalary.com.
Where the jobs are and who hires
The scheduled airlines employ approximately 50,000 mechanics at various terminals and overhaul bases located throughout the U.S.A. and overseas. The major overhaul facilities are located in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Denver, Atlanta, Kansas City, Tulsa, and Minneapolis.
In addition, approximately 85,000 A & P licensed mechanics are employed in general aviation for air taxi and fixed base operators, aerial applicators, flight training schools, supplemental airlines, corporations owning fleets of aircraft and aircraft manufacturers. Also, mechanics and technicians are employed at some 4,000 FAA certified repair stations in the U.S.A.
Another large employer is the U.S. Government which employs approximately 100,000 civilian air-craft (Certificated/Uncertificated) mechanics and avionics technicians to work on military aircraft at Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force installations in the U.S. and overseas. In addition, FAA employs approximately 150 maintenance personnel who work at various locations in the U.S. and overseas. A majority of these persons work at the FAA's main overhaul base located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
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Opportunities for Advancement
An apprentice mechanic who has gained the required experience with engines and airframes, or an applicant who is a graduate of an approved aircraft mechanics course can acquire the A & P I Mechanic Certificate. Mechanics with 30 months combined experience or 18 months airframe experience or powerplant experience may take the Airframe, Powerplant, or the Airframe amp; Powerplant exams based on practical experience. Mechanics who attain these top ratings have an increased opportunity to advance to higher paying jobs as lead mechanics, crew chiefs, inspectors, or shop foremen. Promotion to these higher grade jobs with the airlines is usually attained as a result of company seniority.
Applicants for a repairman certificate must have 18 months of practical experience in the maintenance duties of the specific job for which the person is to be employed by the repair station or have completed formal training acceptable to FAA. Avionic repair stations usually employ technicians who may be required to hold an FCC license.
A few mechanics with advanced ratings and administrative ability reach supervisory and executive positions, while those who have broad experience in maintenance and overhaul facilities become designated inspectors for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Mechanics with the necessary pilot licenses and flying experience may take FAA examinations for the position of flight engineer, with opportunities to become pilots.
Outlook for the Future
The long-term employment outlook for aviation maintenance personnel (including A &P, Airframe, Powerplant, and Avionics technicians) is very encouraging. One study indicates that over the next few years there will be an annual average of 10,000 job openings for aircraft avionics maintenance personnel, increasing to 40,000 openings per year. These numbers are the result of analysis of anticipated aviation industry growth rates and projected retirements of the World War II and Korea era veterans, who presently hold many of the aviation maintenance jobs in airline and general aviation activities. Other studies are less optimistic about employment opportunities, but all emphasize the fact that the well trained, licensed individual with a strong background in technical subjects will have little trouble finding work in aviation of associated technical fields.
The qualified student who wishes to become an aircraft mechanic can follow one of several paths:
1. He or she can begin work for an airline or an independent repair station as an apprentice mechanic, learning as one earns. This method of earning an A & P / Repairman's Certificate or the FCC license normally takes longer and earning power remains at a lower rate over a longer period of time.
2. She or he can take aircraft mechanic courses at one of the many FAA Certificated private or public technical schools. A high school diploma is normally recommended for entrance to these schools, but the period of training is normally shorter than on-the-job-training and earnings upon completion of the course are higher. Also, the graduate of such a course is qualified to take the FAA exams when the course is finished.
3. He or she can also receive training as an aircraft mechanic while in the military service and, with some additional study, can qualify for a civilian mechanic job when the period of military service is completed.
Public and private vocational institutions along with the military services are major suppliers of aviation mechanics. In the past, many airlines had standing orders with FAA approved aviation maintenance training schools and other educational institutions for all graduate mechanics, but the recent recession combined which deregulation of the airline industry has decreased job opportunities. At the present time, many licensed A &P mechanics are not working in their chosen field. The price of technical school training is expensive, costing several thousand dollars for an 18 to 24 month course. Fortunately, financial assistance is available through the U.S. Department of Education. For information, write to:
Office of Student Financial Assistance, 400 Maryland Ave., SW., Washington, D.C. 20202.
A free list of FAA Certificated aviation maintenance technician schools, (Advisory Circular 147-2W), is available from:
U.S. Department of Transportation, Publications Section, M-494.3, Washington, D.C. 20590.
The World Aviation Directory, which is available in the reference section of many libraries, has the most comprehensive listing of aircraft operators, manufacturers, and associated companies that design, produce, overhaul, and maintain aircraft.
The Air Transport Association of America, 1709 New York Ave., NW., Washington, D.C. 20006
can furnish a list of their members as can: Regional Airline Association, 1101 Connecticut Ave., NW., Suite 700, Washington, D.C. 20036
To locate educational facilities with programs related to this position, search Avjobs Aviation School Directory. The Avjobs Aviation School Directory makes researching and finding an aviation college, university, flight school or professional training facility simple.