Job Description for Airframe Specialists
Airframe specialists, also called airframe or aircraft mechanics, work on all parts of an aircraft with the exception of its instruments, power plant and propulsion system. They use precision instruments, X-rays and magnetic equipment to look for cracks. In addition, they repair and replace worn or defective parts, sheet metal and composite materials, and they check for problems such as corrosion in an aircraft's fuselage, wings and tail. Most airframe specialists who work on civilian aircraft have combined certification in airframes and power plants and are qualified to work on all parts except instruments; they are called combination airframe and power plant mechanics, or A&P mechanics.
|Required Education||Training program through affiliated school; it is possible to enter the field with no training or certification|
|Job Skills||Mechanical aptitude, manual dexterity, problem solving, stress management, physical fitness|
|Median Salary (2017)*||$62,650 (avionics technicians), $61,020 (aircraft mechanics)|
|Career Outlook (2016-2026)*||5%|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Although it is possible to enter this field without training and certification, the majority of airframe mechanics new to the field have completed formal training programs through one of approximately 170 schools certified by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Using the tools and equipment they'll employ on the job, students must take a minimum of 1,900 class hours; courses in physics, math, chemistry, computer science, mechanical drawing and electronics are also recommended. According to O*Net Online, 60% of aircraft mechanics and service technicians had completed some college education but did not hold a degree.
Following the completion of a training program, airframe specialists must receive certification from the FAA. The examination includes oral, written and practical components. For students who complete an FAA-approved program, the certification exam is typically scheduled by the school at program's end.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that airframe specialists needed the following qualities:
- Strength and agility
- Ability to climb and crawl on a plane with no fear of heights
- Detail-oriented personality
- Ability to tolerate high-stress levels
- Manual dexterity
- Ability to work well on a team
- Well-developed mechanical and problem-solving skills
Employment and Salary Outlook
According to the BLS, employment of aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians was projected to grow by of 5% from 2016-2026, largely because of the outsourcing of jobs that require similar skills. The BLS noted that the median salary for aircraft mechanics and service technicians was $61,020 in May 2017. In the same year, avionics technicians earned a median of $62,650.