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Aircraft Mechanic Defined
Aircraft mechanic and maintenance professionals are trained to properly maintain and repair avionics equipment and mechanical structures required to safely operate aircraft vehicles and helicopters. Professionals in this trade will routinely inspect, maintain, and repair vital elements of an aircraft (mechanical, electrical, and structural). Trained aircraft mechanics will leverage computer diagnostic tools recommended by the FAA coupled with manual inspections to assess each aircraft on a set schedule or as needed.
An aircraft mechanic and maintenance degree 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.
Top Aircraft Mechanic & Aircraft Maintenance Training
Not all aviation maintenance programs are the same. In fact, within a particular school you may have several training options to consider. The top aircraft maintenance and aircraft mechanic tracks you may consider include the following as outlined by the aviation institute of maintenance:
- Maintenance Technician - A degree in maintenance tech prepares students to properly maintain aircraft by introducing a number of key concepts such as: electricity, hydraulics, power systems, surfaces, controls, power systems, transportation structures, and electrical control systems.
- Aviation Maintenance Technician - The AMT program helps students acquire the requisite knowledge and skills to thrive as an aircraft mechanic or helicopter mechanic. Students will be equipped with the ability to pass the FAA examination and earn a certification in Airframe and Powerplant Tech.
- Avionics Technician - An avionics tech training program is typically geared towards helping experienced techs advance their careers in vocations such as aviation electronic systems, aircraft electrical systems, system troubleshooting, and aircraft repair.
- Aviation Maintenance Technical Engineer - AMTE degree programs take a formal approach to learning the technology and mechanics of an aircraft. Disciplines include tracks such as aircraft fabrication, aviation repair, landing gear, instrumentation, turbine engines, pneumatics, piston engines, hydraulics, and sheet metal fabrication.
Aircraft Mechanic Job 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.
The larger the organization, the more likely mechanics are to specialize in a targeted discipline such as engine repair, pneumatics, or electrical systems. On the other hand, aircraft mechanics that are employed by smaller companies will typically be asked to perform a wide array of duties and be a jack-of-all-trades. 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.
Aircraft Mechanic Work Environment
The work environment of an avionics specialist will typically be busy and loud. Mechanics working on avionic equipment will spend a great deal of time off the ground near the aircraft units. To perform this task, they 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.
Top Aircraft Mechanic Degrees
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.
Accredited colleges and trade schools 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”). Powerplant, airframe, and A&P license tracks may be available at select colleges around the nation.
For students asking themselves how to find a top ranked aircraft mechanic school near me, simply request admissions information from colleges listed on this page today.
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, systems engineering, 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
Educational Requirements for Aircraft Mechanics
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
Schools Other Students Requested Information From:
Employment Opportunities and Mechanic Certifications
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
Career Outlook for Aircraft Mechanics
Job growth is expected to be steady for mechanics in aviation over the next decade due to a variety of factors, such as air travel demand and heightened safety considerations. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 5% increase in aircraft mechanics over the next decade resulting in nearly eight thousand new jobs. The current average airplane mechanic salary is $61,260 annually or $29.45 an hour.
States paying the greatest aircraft mechanic salary include Kentucky, Connecticut, Maryland, and Georgia. Income will tend to fluctuate by geographic location, demand, and organization type. Additionally, an aviation mechanic salary will increase based on work ethic, tenure, promotion, advancement in certification(s), work experience, and education.
Individuals interested in aircraft mechanics and maintenance may also be interested in aircraft power plant technology, machine shop technology, avionics maintenance technology, aerospace engineering, welding, or engine machinist.