To become a helicopter mechanic, candidates must first complete a certified training program through the Federal Aviation Association (FAA). Significant work experience in the field is also required before someone is eligible to apply for FAA certification.
Helicopter mechanics work in hangars or on runways with simple tools such as wrenches and hammers, as well as more refined diagnostic equipment. Candidates for this career must have knowledge of tools and be able to work under pressure and in various weather conditions. They generally train through programs at aviation maintenance technology schools. Like airplane mechanics and service technicians, helicopter mechanics are required to obtain certification from the Federal Aviation Association (FAA).
|Required Education||FAA-certified training program|
|Certification||FAA certification required|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||1% for aircraft mechanics and service technicians|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$58,370 for aircraft mechanics and service technicians|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Salary of a Helicopter Mechanic
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2015, most aircraft mechanics and service technicians, including helicopter mechanics, made anywhere from $16.71 per hour or less for the lowest-paid 10% to $42.81 per hour or more for the top-paid 10%. This is between $34,770 and $89,050 annually. The median average annual salary of aircraft mechanics and service technicians, including helicopter mechanics, was $58,370.
Mechanics who work in the scheduled air transportation industry tend to earn more those working in the nonscheduled air transportation industry, but competition for employment can be fierce. Another factor that affects compensation is geographical location. The BLS states that higher salaries are paid to individuals working in certain states, including Kentucky, New Jersey and Washington (www.bls.gov).
Helicopter mechanics conduct inspections of aircraft according to specific regulations. They use instruments to measure parts in order to determine if they are worn and need replacement. Mechanics work with many different types of tools including hammers, lifts, metal cutters and punches. They also are responsible for some of the technological aspects of the aircraft and must use various software programs to diagnose the problem a particular craft may be having. Helicopter mechanics must have fine-tuned troubleshooting and problem-solving skills.
There are two types of certification offered to aviation mechanics through the Federal Aviation Association (FAA): airframe mechanics and powerplant mechanics. Many employers prefer to hire someone who has a combined A&P certificate. The FAA requires candidates to complete 18 months of work experience before they are eligible to apply for certification and 30 months if they are attempting a combined powerplant and mechanics certificate (www.faa.gov).
Most helicopter mechanics learn the necessary skills from an aviation maintenance technology school that is certified by the FAA. As of 1992, the FAA requires that a minimum of 1,900 hours of coursework be offered at certified mechanic schools training individuals for combined certification. Only 1,140 hours are needed to train students in either airframe or powerplant maintenance. In order to receive any certification, mechanics must pass written and oral exams to demonstrate their skills.
Helicopter mechanics are largely responsible for inspecting helicopters and other aircraft to ensure they are ready for flight and meet specific regulations. A helicopter mechanic must have excellent problem-solving and computer skills, in addition to a solid understanding of mechanics. Completion of an FAA-certified training program is required for this career, and job growth is expected to be minimal over the 2014-2024 decade.