Plane Technician Professionals: Career Options & Education Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a plane technician professional, also called an aircraft mechanic. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certifications to find out if this is the career for you.

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Aspiring plane technicians should consider that a plane technician's job is physically and mentally demanding. Once they have passed all the required schooling, training, and certification programs, plane technicians can choose to specialize in a certain type of aircraft or one specific aircraft system.

Essential Information

Plane technicians must pass a formal training course or relevant FAA examinations. After certification, they often work on long lines of parked planes, in hangars and in repair stations. They do their jobs under strict time constraints, in noisy and polluted conditions and often in severe weather. They must perform their duties in time for planes to be ready for their scheduled flights.

Required Education FAA-approved training program
Alternative Education On-the-job training and FAA examinations
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 3% for Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians
Mean Salary (2018)* $62,920 Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options for Plane Technician Professionals

Some plane techs specialize in maintenance. They perform regular inspections of engines, instruments and other components. They follow strict inspection schedules based on factors such as the hours each plane has been in the air and the number of days since it was last inspected. They use diagnostic equipment to determine what needs to be done, check parts to see how much they've worn and inspect for various signs of damage.

A plane technician may also work in repair, dealing with more advanced, case-by-case mechanical issues. Issues may be identified by pilots, who report them during the hours before takeoff or after they land. The mechanic pinpoints a problem in a part or system and repairs or replaces it.

Plane technicians may choose to perform their work on a variety of aircraft, from helicopters to commercial airliners. Others stick to one type of aircraft or focus on one system, such as hydraulics. Many mechanics have technical specialties for which they are certified. Powerplant mechanics, for example, deal mainly with engines and propellers. Airframe mechanics fix anything on planes, aside from engines and propellers. Many plane technicians do the work of both types mentioned above; these individuals are known as A&P mechanics.

Educational Requirements

In addition to various general requirements, plane technicians typically must complete an FAA-approved training program. These programs must include at least 1900 classroom hours, during which students must use the same equipment that professional aircraft technicians use. Agencies that accredit plane technician schools include the Council on Occupational Education (COE) and the National Center for Aircraft Technical Training (NCATT).

More rarely, aspiring mechanics learn on the job and then take the necessary tests. Those who go this route must have at least a year and a half of experience in their technical specialties before pursuing FAA certification. To receive a certificate, candidates are required to take multiple exams overseen by an FAA-approved examiner. The tests must be taken and passed over a period of no more than two years.

At a private aviation school, A&P course topics may include reciprocating and turbine engines, as well as ignition, fuel and lubrication systems. Students practice checking engines in accordance with manufacturer requirements, while they disassemble, inspect, repair and clean them.

An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Aviation Maintenance may provide a comprehensive view of airplanes while preparing students for FAA testing. Such a program may include focused studies of aircraft materials, structure, engines, systems and repair techniques, as well training in algebra, trigonometry, blueprint reading and computer-aided design (CAD). Depending on a school's credit transfer policies, it may be possible A&P licensed technicians to get an Associate of Applied Science degree by applying for the aircraft credits and meeting general education requirements.

The main focus of anyone wanting to become an airplane mechanic is to find a training program that will prepare them for FAA testing. This can be accomplished through a private aviation school, an apprenticeship, or through technical or vocational schools.

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