What Does An Aircraft Mechanic Do?
Aircraft mechanics (or Aviation Maintenance Technicians) spend their days working on a variety of airplanes and/or helicopters. It is a great career in aviation for those that might be a little fearful of actually flying.
A related opportunity if you are looking for a flying career, is to become a crop duster. You can still use some mechanical chops – while flying slow and low and keeping crops healthy.
There are a large variety of tasks that might be done on any given day including making repairs or doing general maintenance. Aircraft mechanics are responsible for the safety of passengers, pilots, and flight attendants, so this is not a career for the light-hearted.
Some typical day-to-day activities might include:
- Repairing damaged engines
- Diagnosing issues using a variety of machines
- Replacing worn plane parts
- Maintain plane records either with a computer or ledger
- Testing repairs with diagnostic equipment
Becoming an aircraft mechanic is a generalized career but opportunities are also available to specialize in certain sections or even aircraft types.
Some mechanics can even work with airplane repossession professionals to fix up planes that need to be repossessed. This can be a lucrative career in the transportation industry and have you flying all over the world.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) offers what is called the “A&P Certificate”. This represents two unique specialties within the aircraft mechanic training process.
- A is for Airframe mechanics.
- P is for Powerplant aircraft mechanics.
You can opt to be dual certified in both or just be certified in one specific area, but for the best future opportunities, we would highly recommend obtaining the full A&P Certification.
How To Become An Aircraft Mechanic
Becoming an aircraft mechanic does require some education, training, and practical experience. You might want to specialize in a certain type of aircraft as well, which you would need to decide upfront so you can pick the right school.
For example, you may want to help commercial helicopter pilots with their maintenance and upkeep or work for a private jet company. While some classes might apply to all types of planes, working on specific types may differ in the hands-on training you require.
Many who want to be plane mechanics will choose to attend FAA-approved aircraft technician schools.
Below is everything you need to know to become a mechanic in the aviation industry.
- Must be at least 18 years of age
- Fluent in English
- High school diploma or GED
Education Requirements or On-The-Job Training
There are 2 options to get into this career. The recommended option is to attend an FAA-certified training school but this can be replaced with on-the-job training if it meets requirements.
FAA Approved Training School
This is the preferred option for becoming an aircraft mechanic. Attending an FAA-approved trade school (a “147 school” which is in accordance with 14 CFR part 147) will help you get the required education and real-world experience you need to be successful.
Below are some basics you can expect from a trade school experience:
- 400 hours of aircraft fundamentals
- 750 hours of airframe classes
- 750 hours of powerplant classes
On The Job Training
Another option is to gain experience with on-the-job training. It is important to note that there are very specific requirements to becoming a mechanic this way and you must always be under the watchful eye of a certified aircraft mechanic.
The one bonus to becoming an aviation mechanic this way is the savings on school costs.
- If looking to become A& P certified you will need at least 30 months working in an aircraft mechanic position that is split between aircraft and powerplant skills.
- If you only want to be A OR P certified you will need at least 18 months working in either aircraft or powerplant mechanics.
- If you are military, some specialties offer training through the Joint Service Aviation Maintenance Technician Certification Council.
- It is required that you document every on-the-job training hour in a log which should include tasks performed, time spent, and signed off on by a certified airframe or powerplant technician.
- 30 hours of experience or completion of Part 147 FAA-approved school
- Written exam
- Oral test
- Practical test
Related: Is air freight delivery services a good career path?
Recommended Skills For Aircraft Mechanics
A love of planes and mechanics are just small pieces of what is needed to be successful in the aviation field!
Ensuring you have the traits and basic skills needed before you take this journey will help set you up for a successful career.
The ability to match parts to exact specifications is a critical for this career. Details as small as the exact tension a bolt should be are all in a days work.
Definitely not a job for the weak! Having some strength will go far with this job. From turning a wrench on very tight nuts and bolts to lifting big parts you will get a workout on most days.
Much of the job entails finding problems. It is important to have the ability to analyze noises and data to determine if things are working properly.
Coordination & Dexterity
Fine motor skills and coordination are a must – especially when dealing with those small parts and tools that are needed to repair or build airplane engines.
Pros & Cons Of Being An Aircraft Mechanic
- Good earning potential
- No advanced degree required
- Advancement opportunities
- Growing demand
- Possibility of working nights and weekends
- Physical strain on the body can result in issues as you age
- Most jobs are near big cities
- High pressure
Be sure to check out our in-depth article on the pros and cons of being an aircraft mechanic.
How Much Do Aircraft Mechanics Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average median salary for an aircraft technician is $65,380.
Median means that half of the workers in the industry earned more and half earned less.
This range can vary based on location, level of training, and experience.
Aircraft Mechanic Job Outlook
The general outlook for aircraft mechanics is expected to rise by 12% through 2030.
The growth of air travel has been steady and consistent over the years with an increase in that growth expected. Post COVID air traffic passenger demand was up 18% in 2021 and expected to grow more in 2022.
This makes a career in the aviation sector a great option for job security.