Aviation Assembler Career Info
Aviation assemblers work in factories to build airplanes and other aircraft. They use power tools, robotic devices and computers to help assemble each aircraft. Assemblers are divided into teams that each focus on a different part of the project, such as riveting the exterior panels in place or installing the landing gear. Assembly leaders conduct quality control checks to make sure each part was put together correctly and work with designers to develop new products. Aviation assemblers are expected to have math skills, mechanical skills and the ability to understand the schematics for many different machines and parts. In 2016, Payscale.com reported that individuals that assemble aircraft structures, surfaces, rigging and systems earned a median annual salary of $41,711.
Get Technical Training
Although assemblers may be able to learn some of these skills through on-the-job training, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that assemblers and fabricators in the field of aviation usually needed technical training beyond high school.
Community colleges and vocational schools offer certificate programs in aircraft assembly technology. Most programs can be completed in less than one year, which can prepare students for entry-level positions in aviation assembly. Coursework generally includes blue print reading, assembly tools and aircraft systems.
Some colleges and universities offer associate's degrees in aviation maintenance technology, which include assembly training. A college degree may be needed for highly specialized assembly positions.
College degree programs may offer an internship option for students. Internships allow potential aviation assemblers to apply classroom instruction to an actual work environment. The time spent in an internship may also count as work experience on an assembler's resume, giving him or her an advantage over students who decided against pursuing an internship.
Choose a Specialty
Employers don't always require aviation assemblers to have experience assembling airplanes; they often look for candidates who have worked with blueprints, know how to rivet and have handled similar materials to those used for aviation. Once an assembler has some knowledge of basic assembly techniques, he or she can move on to more specialized aviation work.
Assembling an airplane can involve multiple teams of assemblers working on different parts of the plane. For example, electrical teams assemble electronic components, such as on-board computers and electrical panels, while other teams may strictly work on installing external components. Assembly specialties can include engine installation, aircraft structure and rigging, metal cutting and finishing. Assemblers who have practice working on a particular area of aircraft assembly may have an advantage over other candidates who don't have that specific experience.
Certification is not often required by employers in this field and is usually a voluntary step. However, certification shows competency in a specific area and may give aspiring aviation assemblers an edge over the competition. The Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International (FMA) offers the Precision Sheet Metal Operator (PSMO) designation, which requires the candidate to pass a 100-question exam. PSMO holders must renew their certification every three years by completing 24 recertification credits through continuing education courses, conferences, webinars and other activities.
To recap, aviation assemblers typically need to have some technical training from a vocational or technical school before they choose a specialty in aviation assembly and build experience in the field.