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Career Guide to Aircraft Mechanics

aircraft mechanics career
Did you know that aircraft mechanics careers are continually ranked as one of the best jobs out there? Careers in aircraft maintenance is one of the hottest tickets in the job market today and for good reason. This probably has to do with the job security and strong wages that come with the job. It also could have to do with the men and women employed as A&P professionals who make this one of the greatest jobs out there.

We’re not going to lie, working as an aircraft mechanic is tough work but the sky is the limit on the satisfaction and prestige you will get from this amazing career. Trained and qualified A&P professionals are very much in demand right now and should continue to be so for the next decade. So we just have to ask, would you like to learn more about aircraft maintenance jobs?

The aircraft mechanics career guide found on this page should answer most questions you may have. Among the topics will let you in on includes what you can do to start one of these careers, what skills you should have and licensing you will need to earn. This is your chance to get an inside look at one of the best jobs out there today.

After you are done reading about careers in aircraft mechanics please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions to make this page better. Just email us directly and we will respond ASAP.

What Are Aircraft Mechanics?

Whether they are called aircraft mechanics, aircraft maintenance technicians (AMT) or airframe and powerplant mechanics (A&P), their job is vital to the safety of air travel. From jumbo jets to helicopters to small privately owned single engine craft these mechanics are in charge of performing repairs and maintenance to nearly every part of today’s aircraft. All aircraft mechanics must receive certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in order to work on planes, jets and helicopters.

Most aircraft mechanics specialize in one area, each is responsible for performing preventative maintenance and repairs. There are three basic specializations or positions for aircraft mechanics. These are:

  • Powerplant Mechanics: Mainly responsible for repairing and maintenance on the engines and propellers on a prop plane
  • Airframe Mechanics: Their responsibility is basically ensuring everything else except the engines, propellers and electronics are working correctly
  • Airframe and Powerplant mechanics (A&P): This is a combination of the two other specializations and they are responsible for everything on an aircraft except the electronics
Those who work on the electronics of an aircraft are called aviation technicians. This is entirely a different occupation to aircraft mechanics.
EducationPersonality TraitsJob DescriptionWork EnvironmentSalary and Outlook

Recommended Education for A&P Mechanics

Unlike a lot of other mechanic positions, aircraft mechanics are required to complete post-secondary education. On top of that, the school they attend must be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The following recommendations may help you if you are considering an aircraft mechanics career.

  • Aircraft mechanics training must be completed at a school certified by the FAA
  • There are about 172 FAA approved schools in the United States
  • These schools may be private or public technical schools, career centers, community colleges or colleges or universities
  • Most of these schools offer certificates, associate degrees and bachelor degrees
  • Most Certificate programs can be completed in 9 months
  • Completion of a certificate program is considered the bare minimum for employment
  • Typically associate degree programs are completed in 20 to 24 months
  • Those with associate degrees may see better job opportunities and higher wages than those with certificates
  • In general, bachelor degree programs are held at colleges and universities and can take up to 4 years to complete
  • Bachelor degrees are becoming more commonplace in the industry and a growing number of employers prefer this level of education
If you would like to read more about A&P schools and programs, please see our Guide to Aircraft Mechanic Schools.

Traits and Skills of Aviation Mechanics

To say that anyone can have an aircraft mechanics career is a bit misleading. There are certain amount of skills and traits you should have to be successful at your job. Here is a list of a few of the traits and skills you will need to be one of the good aircraft mechanics.

  • Dexterity: Having the hand-eye coordination to make precise movements with your hands or arms while holding, moving or assembling objects
  • Information Ordering: The ability to follow a pattern, checklist or a set of rules without deviating
  • Deductive Reasoning: Being able to use logic to figure out answers to problems
  • Focused Attention: The ability to stay attentive to one task or tasks while ignoring any distractions
  • Color Perception: The ability to tell the difference between colors (aka not colorblind)
  • Coordination: The ability to use more than one part of your body at the same time
  • Observational Skills: The ability to recognize noises, see changes and detect information or behavior that isn’t normal
  • Detail Oriented: The ability to adjust, fit and follow through tasks thoroughly and correctly
  • Agility: The ability climb, walk, balance, reach and basically not fall over
  • Troubleshooting Skills: The ability to diagnose, evaluate and correct complex problems
  • Mechanically Inclined: To have knowledge and understanding of machinery and tools
  • English Language: To be able to speak, understand and write fluently in the English language
  • Reading Comprehension: The ability to understand the meanings of the written word
  • Near Vision: The ability to be able clearly see objects at a close range
  • Far Vision: The ability to see objects clearly at a long distance
  • Inductive Reasoning: Being able to collect and combine pieces of information to form a conclusion
  • Problem Sensitivity: Being able to suspect that something is wrong or it could go wrong
  • Oral Comprehension: The ability to understand information, ideas and plans when told you
  • Written and Oral Expression: The ability to write and speak ideas and information in way that others can understand the meaning
  • Depth Perception: Being able to judge the distance between two objects or how far something is away from you
  • Mathematics: The ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide quickly and correctly
  • Strength: The ability to lift, carry, move, push and pull objects, tools and parts
  • Night Vision: The ability to see in dimly lit areas or in low light

Aircraft Maintenance Job Description

As you can probably imagine, aircraft mechanics have a lot of duties and responsibilities to attend to each day. Here is a list of some of the tasks that fall under the job description of aircraft mechanics.

Airframe Mechanics and A&P

  • Inspect and examine systems and components including hydraulics, landing gear and deicer systems for any breaks, leaks or cracks
  • Perform routine inspections according to regulations
  • Keep a repair log which should document all maintenance performed
  • Take samples of fuel and oil to check for contamination
  • Read and check through the pilots’ log for descriptions of problems to examine
  • Provide maintenance, repair or rebuild components, structures and parts on the wings, tail and fuselage such as gaskets, seals, fuel system, rigging or hydraulics
  • Refuel, clean and change oil and fluids according to regulations
  • Full inspection of airframes to find defects or wear
  • Use x-ray and magnetic inspection equipment to check for corrosion, distortion or invisible cracks tail, fuselage and wings
  • Examine, remove, repair and install refueling stores and external fuel tanks
  • Prime and paint aircraft surfaces
  • Install, adjust and align repaired or replaced parts using wrenches and clamps
  • Provide a full report to supervisors about any issues or problems including those that may keep the plane grounded
  • Using portable curing equipment to cure bonded structures
  • Sand, clean, strip and prime structural surfaces for bonding
  • Inventory and order supplies, materials, parts and equipment
  • Keep up on the latest service manuals and bulletins for changes in regulations or procedures for replacing or repairing components
Powerplant Mechanics and A&P
  • Read through pilots’ paperwork for reported problems
  • Perform test of engine using the proper equipment like ignition analyzers, distributor timers, ammeters and compression checkers
  • Use forklift trucks or hoists to remove and reinstall engines
  • Disassemble and reassemble engines after performing inspection and or repairs
  • Examine turbine blades and cylinders for wear, warping, cracks corrosion or leaks using x-ray and magnetic inspection devices
  • Make a judgment on the repair limits for engine hot section parts
  • Perform cleaning of engines, sediment bulk and screens
  • Clean carburetors and adjust the float levels
  • Thorough inspection of engines through the designed openings or have engines lifted out to inspect
  • Double check completed work to make sure that it meets safety standards
  • Listen and try to detect any malfunctions such as burned or sticking valve while engines are operating
  • Record all work performed including parts and maintenance in repair log according to regulations
  • Discuss and advise supervisors on problems or suspected problems you have seen in your inspection of the engines
  • Perform routine maintenance according to regulations
  • Order and inventory parts, components, materials and equipment
  • Replace or repair worn or defective parts

Where Do Aircraft Mechanics Work?

Most aircraft mechanics are employed near major airports either working outside on the airfield or in shops and hangars. As you can guess, these areas are fairly noisy and it is recommended that some sort of hearing protection is used. Safety precautions must be followed to avoid unnecessary injury as well as following strict deadlines to keep the aircraft in the air.

The top industries that hire aircraft mechanics are listed in the chart below

Work Location % of Employed
Transportation 59%
Manufacturing 16%
Local, State and Federal Government 15%
Other 10%

Source: O*Net OnLine

Aircraft Mechanics Job Outlook and Salary Expectations

Fast Facts: Aircraft Mechanics
2012 Median Pay (Yearly) $55,230
2012 Median Pay (Hourly) $26.55
2012 Number of Jobs 138,900
2012-22 Added New Jobs 3,500
2012-22 % Job Growth 2%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Are There Any Certifications for A&P?

As previously mentioned, you will need to earn a certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to be able to work without an FAA certified supervisor watching over you. You may also find that most airlines would rather you have FAA certification before they will hire you as one of their aircraft mechanics. The best part about having certification is that often improves your chances for employment and getting higher wages.

Certification TypesFAA RequirementsTesting

Types of Certifications

Aircraft Mechanics certificationThe FAA offers few different certifications for aircraft mechanics depending on what you are looking for. These certifications are:

  • Airframe (A)
  • Powerplant (P)
  • Airframe and Powerplant (A&P)

Typically you will find that most employers would prefer to hire aircraft mechanics with the A&P certification to create more options

FAA Requirements

A&P mechanicsIn order to eligible, you must meet certain requirements as stated below:

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Must be able to speak, read, write and understand English
  • Must have at least 18 months practical experience (on-the-job training) with either airframes or powerplants or 30 months practical experience (on-the-job training) working on both at the same time. Or you must successfully complete training at one of the FAA-approved aircraft mechanics schools

Testing

aircraft mechanics testsThese certifications are given after passing an oral, written and practical tests. The oral and practical exams are given first and typically cover 43 subjects. It normally takes about 8 hours to complete either the airframe or power plant exam.

There are three types of written tests. These are airframe, powerplant and general. Each of these tests are multiple choice and taken on a computer. You will have 2 hours to complete each of the written tests.

  • Airframe – 100 questions
  • Powerplant – 100 questions
  • General – 60 questions
If you pass the general test, you do not have to take it again. If you fail any part of the test, you will need to wait 30 days before you can take it again. You must pass all the tests with 24 months.

Thoughts on Aircraft Mechanic Careers

A career in aircraft mechanics can be an incredible experience. It is a fairly stable career with lots of potential upside. The pay is fairly good and the demand for new workers is growing each year.

If you are mechanically inclined and really want to have a career worth being proud of, then aircraft mechanics is the way to go. We cannot stress the importance of these jobs since they literally can be lifesavers. Becoming one of the aircraft mechanics in this country is one way to have a sound and exciting career that will never go out of style.

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