Since the subject of an airplane mechanics' work is incredibly complicated and technical, airplane mechanics have strict training requirements and established certification. Technicians and mechanics must complete an FAA-approved program, which can result in a certificate or an associate's or bachelor's degree. Mechanics and technicians can specialize in one aspect of an airplane, such as electronics, engines, or communications, and can specialize in a type of aircraft, such as helicopters or jets.
Airplane mechanics, along with avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians, are individuals who perform routine inspection, maintenance and repairs on aircraft. In order to ensure human safety and proper operation of the aircraft, they make certain that the planes are in compliance with the standards set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
|Required Education||FAA-approved training program and/or military training|
|Other Requirements||FAA certification typically required|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)||3% for aircraft mechanics and service technicians, 2% for avionics technicians*|
|Average Salary (2018)||$65,230 for aircraft mechanics and service technicians, $65,330 for avionics technicians*|
Source *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Duties of an Airplane Mechanic
Although many who work in this field specialize their trade, preventative maintenance, inspection and repair are the most important duties of all airplane mechanics. Airframe mechanics are authorized to work on any part of the airplane except instruments, propellers or power plants. Power plant mechanics perform work on engines, turbines and some propellers. Avionics technicians take care of the airplane's instruments, including communication, flight control, monitoring, weather, navigation and anti-collision systems. Individuals who have received training in both airframe and power plant mechanics--A & P mechanics--are responsible for everything except avionics.
Specialization can take a different turn in that some aircraft mechanics only work on one type of aircraft, such as only jets, helicopters or propeller-driven machines. Others may concentrate on only one particular aircraft system, such as engines or electrical systems.
Nationally, there are roughly 170 aviation maintenance technician schools that have been certified by the FAA. These schools must offer students a minimum of 1,900 actual hours of classroom and practical training. Although certificate and associate's degree programs are more common, some schools also offer a bachelor's degree in various aspects of aviation technology, aviation management or avionics. Most programs take from 12-24 months to complete.
A 41-semester-hour program leading to a certificate in airframe mechanics includes such subjects as hydraulic, pneumatic and fuel systems. It also covers auxiliary systems, sheet metal science and landing gear systems. A 40-semester-hour program leading to a certificate in power plant mechanics typically includes courses in electrical systems, engine overhaul, reciprocating engines, turbines and aircraft composites. An Associate of Applied Science in Aircraft Maintenance Technology lasts approximately 63 semester-hours and combines general education courses with airframe and power plant mechanics. Graduates are designated A & P mechanics. Meanwhile, avionics technicians concentrate on communication and navigation systems, AC electronics and power supplies, pulse systems and autopilot systems; typically, they can graduate in as little as 18 months.
Certification and Licensure Requirements
The FAA mandates that all airplane maintenance must be performed by, or under the supervision of, certified mechanics. Certification is acquired by successfully passing an FAA-administered, 3-part examination which consists of written, oral and practical application sections. Airframe and power plant mechanics must have 18 months of work experience before applying for an individual certification. A & P mechanics are required to have 30 months of work experience in order to apply for combined certification.
Although avionics technicians are not required to be FAA-certified if they have experience with avionics manufacturers or the military, those who work on communications equipment must apply to the Federal Communications Commission in order to obtain a restricted radio-telephone operator license. To qualify as an aircraft inspector, an individual must have held an A & P certification for at least three years and have had at least 24 months of hands-on experience.
In order to keep certification and licensure current, airplane mechanics must have at least 1,000 hours of work experience over the preceding two years, or take a refresher course. In addition, all mechanics must complete 16 hours of continuing education courses every 24 months.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) predicted that during the period of 2018-2028, the occupations of aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians will show three percent growth. Avionics technicians may grow two percent, while aircraft mechanics and service technicians come in at roughly three percent.
While mechanics who work on jets for large airlines usually make more than those working on other types of airplanes, the mean annual wage for aircraft mechanics and service technicians was $65,230 in May 2018. At the same time, the mean annual wage for avionics technicians was $65,330.
Airplane mechanics and technicians must not only complete a training program and get certified, but they must also continue their training and work experience in order to keep their certification and license current. Experience can replace a certification requirement if a mechanic or technician has military training or has worked for avionics manufacturers.