Aircraft mechanics perform repairs and maintenance, scheduled and otherwise, on both airplanes and helicopters. They also perform inspections on airplanes and helicopters as mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
If you’re interested in working with high-tech mechanical equipment in a fast-paced environment, you may want to consider a career in aviation as a mechanic.
Aircraft Mechanic Job Duties
Aircraft mechanics are employed by airports of all sizes and a number of corporations and government organizations. Over the course of a typical day, the mechanic will:
- Examine frame and parts for defects
- Perform electrical and mechanical diagnostics
- Use precision instruments
- Identify defects and appropriate methods of repair
- Repair wings, electrical systems, brakes and all other aircraft components
- Replace defective parts
- Test aircraft parts with diagnostic tools
- Ensure that work is inspected and meets required standards
- Keep records of maintenance and repair work
Aircraft Mechanic Schools
Most aircraft mechanics learned their trade at an FAA-Approved Aviation Maintenance Technician School. Courses typically last 18 to 24 months and provide training with the equipment and tools commonly used on the job.
Many schools offer 2- or 4-year degrees in avionics, aviation technology, or aviation maintenance management. More and more employers are looking for those with a bachelor’s degree. Also many aircraft trade schools are putting more emphasis on the technologies being used in new airplanes, such as composite materials, turbine engines and aviation electronics. These technological advances also require mechanics to have much stronger backgrounds in these areas.
Courses in physics, chemical engineering, mathematics, electronics, mechanical drawing and computer science are useful because they teach the principles involved in the operation of an airplane. Aircraft Mechanics often need this knowledge to figure out what is wrong and how to fix it. Aircraft mechanic programs develop management and communication skills that are vital for aircraft mechanics who want to potentially move into senior positions.
Aircraft Mechanic Certification
The FAA requires that all aircraft maintenance must be done by certified mechanics or under the supervision of a supervised certified aircraft mechanic. The FAA also offers separate certifications for airframe mechanics and engine mechanics. However, in most cases, most airlines prefer to hire aircraft mechanics with a combined Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certification.
To officially qualify, aircraft mechanics must be at least 18 years old, must be fluent in English, and have at least 30 months of experience working on airframes and engines. However, the completion of a program at an FAA-Approved Aviation Maintenance Technician School can substitute for the work experience requirement. Along with the work experience and training, all applicants must pass practical, written and oral exams. These exams demonstrate the required skills. An FAA-appointed aircraft mechanic examiner provides the oral and practical tests. The written test is done on a computer at multiple places around the world. To get the certification, candidates must pass all the tests within two years.
To maintain their certification, aircraft mechanics must do an inspection or repair every three months and also must attend an aircraft mechanic refresher course every 2 years. This can be done with their employer or an airplane manufacturer.
Aircraft Mechanic Salary in California
In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median annual wage of aircraft mechanics in California was $58,440 or $28.10 per hour. Employment of aircraft mechanics is projected to grow 6 percent from 2010 to 2020, Job prospects will be best for mechanics who hold an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certificate and a bachelor’s degree in aircraft maintenance.
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