Becoming an Airframe Mechanic
Airframe mechanics perform repairs and maintenance on the body and structure of an aircraft, excluding propellers, powerplants, and avionics instruments. The examination of the outside of an airplane for any structural weaknesses or damage and the repair of parts and panels of a plane are two components of the job. Additionally, airframe mechanics must keep detailed records of imperfections found, any repairs made, and recommendations for the future.
Airframe mechanics, like other types of aircraft mechanics, usually work full-time, with overtime and weekend work as a common requirement. Such mechanics typically work on aircraft in hangars, repair stations, or even on airfields. They work as a team, and this job can be physically demanding. Airframe mechanics must be comfortable working in small, uncomfortable spaces and with heights.
|Degree Level||Associate's or bachelor's degree|
|Degree Field(s)||Aviation maintenance or aviation technology|
|Certification||Must be certified or must work under the supervision of a certified mechanic|
|Key Skills||Physical agility; attention to detail; manual dexterity; familiarity with hand and power tools, welding tools, and gauges|
|Salary||$58,370 (2015 median for all aircraft mechanics and service technicians)|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), School websites, O*NET OnLine
Let's go over some of the steps necessary to secure this position in more detail:
Complete a Training Program
There are three paths to fulfilling FAA requirements as an airframe mechanic. One is to graduate from an approved aviation maintenance technician program. These programs may take two to four years to complete, and a high school diploma or its equivalent is necessary for admission. A second option is to be trained under the supervision of a certified airframe mechanic for a minimum of 18 months. The last is to serve in the military and obtain FAA-approved airframe maintenance training as a military occupational specialty.
Many airframe mechanics are also trained in aircraft powerplants, which means learning to repair and maintain engines and turbines. Many employers prefer applicants who have Airframe & Powerplant (A&P) certification from the FAA.
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Pass Airframe Certification Exams
The FAA requires all certified airframe mechanics to successfully complete written, oral, and practical examinations. Candidates must be 18 years of age with the ability to read, write, and speak English. Those who haven't completed an FAA-approved training program must have at least 18 months of hands-on airframe experience.
Applicants present proof of experience or training to a local FAA office and then are directed to an approved computer testing facility for the multiple-choice written exam. An FAA-designated mechanic examiner administers the oral and practical examinations. Applicants must pass all of the tests within a 24-month period in order to be eligible for certification.
Apply for a Position
Mechanics are often hired by aerospace parts manufacturers, commercial airlines, airports, and government agencies. In addition to examining, fixing, and testing aircraft parts, airframe mechanics must document all service and repairs. Most of these professionals work full time, though overtime may be required.
Airframe mechanic certification is valid for two years. To maintain this credential, mechanics must complete one refresher class in that two-year period and perform at least one inspection or repair every 90 days.
Airframe mechanics can advance in the field both through work experience and education. In order to work as an aircraft inspector, a mechanic must have held A&P certification for three years and must have at least two years of relevant work experience. Additionally, pursuing a bachelor's degree in a related subject, such as avionics or aviation maintenance, can lead to advancement in the field.
In conclusion, airframe mechanics typically need to complete a degree program, supervised training, or military training in order to qualify for FAA certification and secure a job in the field.