Individuals working as a plane maintenance technician are certified and have typically completed an aviation maintenance program that is approved by the FAA. Some plane maintenance technicians receive on-the-job training by working with a fully certified mechanic. It is possible for technicians to specialize in a specific area of maintenance, such as airframe, avionics, or powerplant.
Plane maintenance technicians specialize in plane service, repair and inspection. Most technicians have graduated from one of the approximately 170 FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician schools. Mechanics are divided into aircraft mechanics, who perform work on all parts of the plane excluding the instruments, and avionics technicians, who work on airplane instruments.
|Required Education||Aviation maintenance program|
|Other Requirements||Certification and on the job training|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||1% (aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians)*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$58,370 (aircraft mechanics and service technicians)*|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Education for a Plane Maintenance Technician
The FAA requires that all mechanics and technicians who work on planes be certified or work directly under a certified mechanic. Accordingly, plane maintenance technicians are either trained on-the-job, under the supervision of a certified mechanic, or in an aviation maintenance program. Mechanics may specialize as airframe, powerplant, airframe and powerplant (A&P) or avionics technicians. Programs typically last 1-2 years and include classroom and hands-on training, including instruction on tool and equipment use.
Airframe mechanics are trained to service all parts of the plane except for the instruments, engines and propellers. Students take courses in welding, rigging, cleaning and finishing aircraft coverings. Powerplant mechanics learn about turbine engines, including instruction in exhaust, ignition and cooling. A&P mechanics take technical courses on all aspects of the plane.
Avionics technicians are trained to work on electrical systems, such as navigation and radio communication. Technicians use diagnostic equipment to test and troubleshoot flight controls, electrical components and other computerized systems. If service is necessary, technicians use hand tools, soldering irons and other equipment to perform maintenance.
Technicians who service radio or radar must be certified by the Federal Communications Commission. Licensure includes submitting an application and passing a certification exam. Technicians may also be required to have additional certifications from electronic or telecommunications professional associations such as the National Association of Radio Telecommunications Engineers or the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians.
Career Information for a Plane Maintenance Technician
In order to become certified, airframe and powerplant mechanics must either accrue 18 months of work experience under a certified mechanic or complete the respective schooling, including at least 1,900 class hours. A&P mechanics require a minimum of 30 months of work experience or an aviation maintenance program with the appropriate combined coursework. Once the required experience or training is complete, applicants may take the written, oral and practical certification exams to attain their license.
Due to ongoing technological advancements, the FAA requires all mechanics to take at least 16 hours of training and log 1,000 hours of work, at minimum, every 24 months. This is necessary so that technicians keep their certifications valid and stay abreast of industry changes.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians was expected to increase by one percent between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The average annual salary for aircraft mechanics and service technicians was $58,370 as of May 2015. The highest salaries were in the couriers and express delivery services, with mean annual wages of $89,480 as of May 2015. Technicians may advance to become lead mechanic, crew chief or shop supervisor. A&P technicians who have been licensed for at least three years, with 24 months of hands-on experience, may become aircraft inspectors.
Plane maintenance technicians may work as either an aircraft mechanic or avionics technician. With exception to the engine, propellers and instruments, mechanics typically maintain every part of a plane. An avionics technician focuses on servicing the plane's electrical systems, including devices for navigation and radio communication.