Aircraft Mechanic

How to become an Aircraft Mechanic
Aircraft Mechanic Job Duties
Skills and Qualities needed to become an Airplane Mechanic
Aircraft Mechanic Salaries
Influential Airplane Mechanics
Leading Organizations in this Field
Top Cities for Airplace Mechanic Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become an Aircraft Mechanic

Aircraft mechanics, sometimes called airplane mechanics, airframe mechanics or avionics technicians, are essential to the maintenance and operation of any airplane, whether private, military, or commercial. Aircraft must be kept in excellent working condition, both for safety and business reasons. Airplanes, which are not operating in peak condition, are not only dangerous, but can reduce efficiency in military and commercial operations.

Most aircraft mechanics learn their trade in technical schools, which in the United States are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Applicants to these schools usually need a high school diploma or its equivalent, and preferably mechanical experience. Some of these schools offer two and four year degree programs in aviation technology, aviation maintenance management, or avionics.

Certified aircraft mechanic schools in the United States are required to offer students at least 1,900 class hours, and the coursework generally takes between 18 months and two years to complete. These courses include electronics; chemistry, computer science, physics, and mechanical drawings, all of which can help students understand the principles involved in operating and maintaining aircraft. Students are trained with the same equipment and tools as professional aircraft mechanics, and learn new technologies such as composite materials, aviation electronics, and turbine engines.

Although most aircraft mechanics complete an aircraft mechanic program at a certified school, some are trained on the job. This is fairly rare, but experienced certified mechanics can train others on the job, supervising them until the apprentice mechanics earn their FAA certificates. While an aircraft mechanic typically learns how to repair and maintain many different types of airplane engines, most mechanics have a specialty or area of expertise and may train under a mechanic with the same specialty.

What does an Airplane Mechanic do?

Preventative maintenance is an important area of aircraft mechanics. Mechanics who specialize in preventative maintenance try to find maintenance or repairs that need to be performed before there is a problem. These mechanics inspect all parts of the aircraft - engines, instruments, brakes, pumps, air-conditioning systems, and much more - and replace parts or perform maintenance as necessary. They are responsible for keeping records of maintenance performed and conducting inspections at regular intervals. Many modern planes have computer driven instruments and monitoring systems that can provide mechanics with necessary diagnostic information to make efficient repairs.

Other aircraft mechanics may specialize less in inspection and preventative maintenance and more in repair work. These mechanics repair problems that have already been identified, either by the pilot, a diagnostic system, or another mechanic. Repair mechanics have to troubleshoot the problem and determine the best course of action, often under a great time pressure.

There are a variety of employment opportunities for aircraft mechanics. Some mechanics choose to work in aircraft manufacturing facilities, while others are employed by the military. Owners and pilots of private planes need the services of aircraft mechanics, as do commercial airlines. Other options include teaching aspiring aircraft mechanics or providing continuing education in certain areas of aircraft mechanics.

Most aircraft mechanics work in some type of hangar, or in a factory setting. Occasionally mechanics must work on aircraft outside, and often under a great deal of time constraint to maintain schedules. In addition to the pressure of meeting deadlines, mechanics must be very careful to maintain high safety standards. The job usually requires heavy lifting and manual labor, often in extremely noisy settings, which require hearing protection.

What skills or qualities are needed to become an Aircraft Mechanic?

Aircraft mechanics need to have mechanical aptitude and be able to perform thorough and precise work. It is important for aircraft mechanics to be able to perform physical tasks that require some strength and agility. As with most Mechanic careers, attention to detail will take your career to the next level. Other skills important for potential aircraft mechanics are the ability to problem solve, work in teams and the willingness to keep up with new technology.

How much do Aircraft Mechanics make?

The range of salaries for aircraft mechanics varies by location and specialty. In 2006, the median hourly wage for aircraft mechanics was about $22.95, with the middle 50 percent of all aircraft mechanics in the United States earning between $18.96 and $28.12 per hour. Aircraft mechanics working in scheduled air transportation made the most, with a median hourly wage of $27.46, followed by $23.33 for those in nonscheduled air transportation and $23.19 for aircraft mechanics working for the Federal Government. Aircraft mechanics working for major commercial airlines tend to earn the most, and competition is highest for these jobs.

Job prospects for aircraft mechanics are good as of 2008, partly due to the large number of mechanics expected to retire in the next ten years. As airline passenger traffic increases, so does the need for aircraft mechanics, providing more jobs in the field. The job skills necessary to be an aircraft mechanic are very highly transferable to other jobs, which involve maintenance and repair.

Who are some influential Professionals in this field?

Although not commonly known, there are several people who have greatly influenced and furthered the field of aircraft mechanics. One of these figures was General Henry H. Arnold, who led the development of the United States Air Force as it became its own separate service after World War II. Arnold got a group of aircraft mechanics together to establish the military naming processes for airplane parts and flying procedures. Another important figure was Mary Utterback Barr, who became an aircraft mechanic during World War II and was later the first female pilot and smokejumper in the United States Forest Service.

Who are some leading organizations in this field?

About a third of all American aircraft mechanics belong to at least one labor union or are covered by a union agreement. The main unions for aircraft carriers are the Transport Workers Union of America and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, with other mechanics belonging to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Another important association is the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, which is a union for aviation technicians and mechanics. Any Military branch should be considered a leading organization as they provide a significant amount of innovation and jobs in this field. Some of the larger commercial companies in this space include, Boeing, Airbus, Cessna, Bombardier, Gulfstream, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Saab, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Lufthansa, Air France, Northwest Airlines, Japan Airlines, US Airways and many more Airlines and Aircraft Manufacturers.

What are the top cities for Airplane Mechanic Jobs?

One of the top cities in the United States for aircraft mechanic jobs is Wichita Kansas, the headquarters for Aerotek Aviation, LLC, Cessna and major hubs for Boeing, Raytheon and several others. This is closely followed by Hammond Louisiana and Klamath Falls Oregon, both locations where the Air National Guard is a major employer. Savannah Georgia and Phoenix Arizona are also cities, which offer many jobs for aircraft mechanics. In addition, aircraft mechanic jobs can generally be found in cities that have large airports.

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