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What is Aircraft Mechanic and Maintenance?
An aircraft mechanic and maintenance program prepares individuals for entry into the workforce to work on airplanes, either on the body or engines, maintaining performance and repairing problems as they arise under strict timetables as established by the employer. Individuals will work under the supervision of professionals with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), certification until such time that they complete the requirements for personal certification.
Top 5 Skills of an Aircraft Mechanic
For many aviation maintenance professional, there will be a basic set of skills needed regardless of geographic location or company affiliation. Based on a recent survey from the U.S. Department of Labor, an aircraft mechanic will need to be able to:
- Carefully examine aircraft systems and components to detect issues.
- Understand FAA regulations and inspect aircraft accordingly.
- Manage inspection process to ensure aircraft are flight-worthy.
- Document and properly track maintenance repair logs.
- Process maintenance manuals & timely apply changes or modifications.
Aircraft Mechanic College Degree Basics
The job responsibilities associated with the aircraft mechanic role are often interchangeable with an avionics technician, avionics equipment mechanic, aviation maintenance technologist, or an aircraft technician. All types of aviation tracks help prepare students to maintain, inspect, and repair various types of aircraft. As you would expect, aircraft mechanics work in and around aircraft in repair stations, hangars, and airfields.
An aircraft mechanic will need to adhere to a regimented maintenance schedule and perform under strict timelines to ensure pre-defined flight times are met. In addition to being a loud work environment, mechanics working on avionic equipment will utilize scaffolding and ladders to help access mechanical parts and instrumentation. Mechanics will need a number of specialized tools in their respective tool boxes that may include: sockets, torque wrench, drive ratchet, wire cutters, wire pliers, picks, punches, hammers, files, mirrors, magnets, SAE spanners, hydraulic jack, channel lock pliers, micrometer, hack saw, and welding equipment.
Aircraft Mechanic College Degree Options
There are three primary tracks for prospective college students to consider when thinking about a career in aircraft mechanics or aviation maintenance technology: certificate, associate’s degree, and bachelor’s degree. Either option has pros and cons to weigh prior to making a final decision and are outlined below for further consideration. Additionally, a college or trade school will provide three training paths in aviation maintenance: mechanical systems and engines (abbreviated as “P” for powerplant), structural and airframe systems (designated as “A” for airframe), or both structural and mechanical (denoted by “A&P”).
Aircraft Mechanic Certificate Programs
With new certificate programs being created to meet the ever-evolving demands of the aircraft industry, it is important to reach out to schools directly to get the most current programs and courses. The following certificate programs are a requirement for every FAA approved AMT college or trade school in the United States. A sampling of corticate programs in aviation technology include a:
- Certificate of Completion in Basic Aviation Maintenance Technology
- Certificate of Achievement in Powerplant Maintenance Technology
- Certificate of Achievement in Airframe Maintenance Technology
Aircraft Mechanic Associate’s Degree
The associate degree program in aircraft mechanics combines technical avionics courses with general education courses. The general education courses may include creative writing, philosophy, or history to help students cogently think about the world differently. On the technical side, an associate’s degree will prepare avionics students with the skills and techniques necessary to understand the various mechanical and structural systems of an aircraft. A typical set of courses in the associate degree program include: piston and gas-powered engines, physics, basic instrumentation, electrical systems, FAA guidelines, principles of aerodynamics, and materials science.
Aircraft Mechanic Bachelor’s Degree
The bachelor degree program in aircraft mechanics include a similar set of courses found in an associate’s degree program plus additional business courses. The leadership, management, and business classes are designed to help students understand the role of a mechanic while preparing them for managerial roles in avionics after completing their degree. In addition to the general education requirements, students in a bachelor’s degree program will take a variety of the following classes: physics, airframe maintenance, propeller design, exhaust systems, powerplant architecture, FAA guidelines, operations management, materials science, and electrical systems.
What are the Different Types of Aircraft?
Aircraft mechanics and aviation maintenance professional will be equipped to work on a variety of aircraft after receiving the proper training and certification(s). The different types of aircraft are listed below to help current and future mechanics establish a working baseline of vessels they may maintain or repair. These could include:
- Seaplane and Floatplane
Individuals wishing to enter this field will typically begin their education through a technical school that offers an FAA accredited program that takes between 18 and 24 months to complete. Programs are also available that allow students to pursue a bachelor's degree, which is becoming more common as technological upgrades and improvements to avionics are requiring more inter-disciplinary skill and greater knowledge of how current aircrafts operate. Some programs may remove the typical 30 month experience requirement to pursue certification in part or whole.
A curriculum may include:
- Airframe and Structure
- Instruments and Diagnostics
- FAA Rules and Regulations
Employment Opportunities and Certification
Individuals in this field will seek employment at airfields, hangars, or any other location where testing, maintenance or repair of aviation equipment is required. Individuals are responsible for the repair and maintenance of planes, ensuring they are flight ready within a short period of time, and working to ensure the safety of passengers and crew between flights. Certification is required to move beyond the entry level positions available, particularly into supervisory or chief engineer positions. Certification is accomplished through the completion of a program, obtaining 30 months of experience or equivalent, and passing the written, oral and practical exam given by the FAA. Certification is available for Airframe or Engine Mechanics, though most employers prefer the combined Airframe and Power plant certification.
Additional Resources for Aircraft Mechanics
- Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association
- Aviation Maintenance Magazine
- Federal Aviation Administration
- National Business Aviation Association
- National Center for Aerospace & Transportation Technologies
- Professional Aviation Maintenance Association
Job Growth and Related Fields
Job growth is expected to be minimal for mechanics in aviation over the next decade due to a variety of factors, including the export of jobs to other countries. As a result, most jobs will come from retiring individuals, or persons who are seeking new forms of employment. Increased air travel that is expected over the next decade may increase job potential in the future. The average salary for aircraft mechanic is $34,000 annually, but will increase based on promotion, certification, experience and education.
Individuals interested in aircraft mechanics and maintenance may also be interested in aircraft power plant technology, avionics maintenance technology, or engine machinist.