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Working as an Aircraft Mechanic

Aircraft Mechanic have a big job. There's an emphasis on big because have you seen how big airplanes are? As an aircraft mechanic, you'll be responsible for repairing and providing scheduled maintenance on aircraft.

A lot of aircraft hang out near the airport, but where you'll actually be working could vary. Some work in hangars, others on the airfield. There's several ways you could become an aircraft mechanic. The majority learn through a Federal Aviation Administration approved aviation maintenance technician school. A few learn on-the-job. Some receive their training through the military. Whatever way you decide, just know there is no right way to becoming an aircraft mechanic.

What Does an Aircraft Mechanic Do

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians repair and perform scheduled maintenance on aircraft. They also perform aircraft inspections as required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Duties

Aircraft mechanics typically do the following:

  • Diagnose mechanical or electrical problems
  • Repair wings, brakes, electrical systems, and other aircraft components
  • Replace defective parts, using hand tools or power tools
  • Examine replacement aircraft parts for defects
  • Read maintenance manuals to identify repair procedures
  • Test aircraft parts with gauges and other diagnostic equipment
  • Inspect completed work to ensure that it meets performance standards
  • Keep records of maintenance and repair work

Avionics technicians typically do the following:

  • Test electronic instruments, using circuit testers, oscilloscopes, and voltmeters
  • Interpret flight test data to diagnose malfunctions and performance problems
  • Assemble components, such as electrical controls and junction boxes, and install software
  • Install instrument panels, using hand tools, power tools, and soldering irons
  • Repair or replace malfunctioning components
  • Keep records of maintenance and repair work

Airplanes are highly complex machines that require reliable parts and service to fly safely. To keep an airplane in operating condition, aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians perform scheduled maintenance, make repairs, and complete inspections. They must follow detailed federal regulations set by the FAA that dictate maintenance schedules for different operations.

Many mechanics are generalists and work on many different types of aircraft, such as jets, piston-driven airplanes, and helicopters. Others specialize in one section, such as the engine, hydraulic system, or electrical system, of a particular type of aircraft. In independent repair shops, mechanics usually inspect and repair many types of aircraft.

Most mechanics who work on civilian aircraft have either one or both of the FAA’s Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certificates. Mechanics who have these certificates are authorized to work on most parts of the aircraft, excluding flight instruments and major work on propellers. Maintaining a plane’s electronic flight instruments is typically the job of specialized avionics technicians.

The following are examples of types of aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians:

Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) mechanics are certified generalist mechanics who can independently perform many maintenance and alteration tasks on aircraft. A&P mechanics repair and maintain most parts of an aircraft, including the engines, landing gear, brakes, and air-conditioning system. Some specialized activities require additional experience and certification.

Maintenance schedules for aircraft may be based on hours flown, days since the last inspection, trips flown, or a combination of these factors. Maintenance also may need to be done at other times to address specific issues recognized by mechanics or manufacturers.

Mechanics use precision instruments to measure wear and identify defects. They may use x rays or magnetic or ultrasonic inspection equipment to discover cracks that cannot be seen on a plane’s exterior. They check for corrosion, distortion, and cracks in the aircraft’s main body, wings, and tail. They then repair the metal, fabric, wood, or composite materials that make up the airframe and skin.

After completing all repairs, mechanics must test the equipment to ensure that it works properly. Aircraft equipped with digital monitoring systems can provide mechanics with valuable diagnostic information from electronic consoles. Mechanics also must keep records of all maintenance that they do on an aircraft.

The A&P ratings generally are considered the initial and most basic ratings needed for a worker to be a professional mechanic. Many additional certifications and specializations can be gained to enable mechanics to perform additional duties. Some of these specializations are as follows:

Avionics technicians are specialists who repair and maintain a plane’s electronic instruments, such as radio communication devices and equipment, radar systems, and navigation aids. As the use of digital technology increases, more time is spent maintaining computer systems. The ability to repair and maintain many avionics and flight instrument systems is granted through the Airframe rating, but other licenses or certifications may be needed.

Designated airworthiness representatives (DARs) examine, inspect, and test aircraft for airworthiness. They issue airworthiness certificates, which aircraft must have to fly. There are two types of DARs: manufacturing DARs and maintenance DARs.

Inspection authorized (IA) mechanics are mechanics who have both Airframe and Powerplant certification and may perform inspections on aircraft and return them to service. IA mechanics are able to do a wider variety of maintenance and alterations than any other type of maintenance personnel. They can do comprehensive annual inspections or return aircraft to service after a major repair.

Repairmen certificate holders may or may not have the A&P certificate or other certificates. Repairmen certificates are issued by certified repair stations to aviation maintenance personnel, and the certificates allow them to do specific duties. Repairmen certificates are valid only while the mechanic works at the issuing repair center and are not transferable to other employers.

How To Become an Aircraft Mechanic

Many aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians learn their trade at an FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school. Others enter with a high school education or equivalent and are trained on the job. Some workers enter the occupation after getting training in the military. Aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians typically are certified by the FAA. See Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 65, subparts D and E, for the most current requirements for becoming a certified mechanic.

Education and Training

Aircraft mechanics and service technicians often enter the occupation after attending a Part 147 FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school. These schools award a certificate of completion that the FAA recognizes as an alternative to the experience requirements stated in regulations. The schools also grant holders the right to take the relevant FAA exams.

Some aircraft mechanics and service technicians enter the occupation with a high school diploma or equivalent and receive on-the-job training to learn their skills and to be able to pass the FAA exams. Other workers enter the occupation after getting training in the military. Aviation maintenance personnel who are not certified by the FAA work under supervision until they have enough experience and knowledge and become certified.

Avionics technicians typically earn an associate’s degree before entering the occupation. Aircraft controls, systems, and flight instruments have become increasingly digital and computerized. Maintenance workers who have the proper background in aviation flight instruments or computer repair are needed to maintain these complex systems.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians are not required to get licenses or certifications, most do, because these credentials often improve a mechanic’s wages and chances for employment. The FAA requires that aircraft maintenance be done either by a certified mechanic with the appropriate ratings or authorizations or under the supervision of such a mechanic.

The FAA offers separate certifications for bodywork (Airframe mechanics, or “A”) and engine work (Powerplant mechanics, or “P”), but employers may prefer to hire mechanics who have both Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) ratings. The A&P ratings generally certify that aviation mechanics meet basic knowledge and ability standards.

Mechanics must be at least 18 years of age, be fluent in English, and have 30 months of experience to qualify for either the A or the P rating or both (the A&P rating). If only one rating is sought by the mechanic, 18 months’ experience is required to take either the Airframe or the Powerplant exam. However, completion of a program at a Part 147 FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school can substitute for the experience requirement and shorten the time requirements for becoming eligible to take the FAA exams.

Applicants must pass written, oral, and practical exams that demonstrate the required skills. Candidates must pass all the tests within a timeframe of 2 years.

To keep their certification, mechanics must have completed relevant repair or maintenance work within the previous 24 months. To fulfill this requirement, mechanics may take classes from their employer, a school, or an aircraft manufacturer.

Avionics technicians typically are certified through a repair station for the specific work being done, or else they hold the Airframe rating to work on an aircraft’s electronic and flight instrument systems. An Aircraft Electronics Technician (AET) certification is available through the National Center for Aerospace & Transportation Technologies (NCATT). It certifies that aviation mechanics have a basic level of knowledge in the subject area, but it is not required by the FAA for any specific tasks. Avionics technicians who work on communications equipment may need to have the proper radiotelephone operator certification issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Other licenses and certifications are available to mechanics who wish to increase their skill set or advance their careers. The Inspection Authorization (IA) is available to mechanics who have had their A&P ratings for at least 3 years and meet other requirements. These mechanics are able to sign off on many major repairs and alterations. Mechanics can get numerous other certifications, such as Repairmen of light-sport aircraft and Designated Airworthiness Representative (DAR).

Important Qualities

Strength and agility. Mechanics and technicians may need to carry or move heavy equipment or aircraft parts. They may need to climb on airplanes, balance, and reach without falling.

Detail oriented. Mechanics and technicians need to adjust airplane parts to exact specifications. For example, they often use precision tools to tighten wheel bolts to an exact tension.

Dexterity. Mechanics and technicians must possess dexterity to coordinate the movement of their fingers and hands in order to grasp, manipulate, or assemble parts.

Observational skills. Mechanics and technicians must recognize engine noises, read gauges, and collect other information to determine whether an aircraft’s systems are working properly.

Troubleshooting skills. Mechanics and technicians diagnose complex problems, and they need to evaluate options to correct those problems.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Avionics technicians may begin their careers as aircraft mechanics and service technicians. As aircraft mechanics and service technicians gain experience, they may study independently, attend formal classes, or otherwise choose to pursue additional certifications that grant privileges to work on specialized flight instruments. Eventually, they may become dedicated avionics technicians who work exclusively on flight instruments.

Advancement

As aircraft mechanics gain experience, they may advance to lead mechanic, lead inspector, or shop supervisor. Opportunities are best for those who have an inspection authorization (IA). Many specialist certifications are available that allow mechanics to do a wider variety of repairs and alterations.

Mechanics with broad experience in maintenance and repair might become inspectors or examiners for the FAA.

Additional business and management training may help aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians open their own maintenance facility.

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Average Salary$54,890
Job Growth Rate3%

Aircraft Mechanic Jobs

Aircraft Mechanic Career Paths

Top Careers Before Aircraft Mechanic

Top Careers After Aircraft Mechanic

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Average Salary for an Aircraft Mechanic

Aircraft Mechanics in America make an average salary of $54,890 per year or $26 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $68,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $44,000 per year.
Average Salary
$54,890

Best Paying Cities

Average Salary
Salary Range55k - 68k$61k$61,157
Salary Range54k - 67k$61k$60,653
Salary Range54k - 68k$61k$60,608
Salary Range52k - 69k$60k$60,379
Salary Range51k - 64k$58k$57,840
Salary Range49k - 67k$58k$57,760
$46k
$69k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Aircraft Mechanic W/Avionics-Field/Deployable
Aircraft Mechanic W/Avionics-Field/Deployable
Aerotek
Aerotek
10/30/2020
10/30/2020
$52,17510/30/2020
$52,175
Aircraft Mechanic II Electrician/F-5 Modification Travel Team
Aircraft Mechanic II Electrician/F-5 Modification Travel Team
Affordable Engineering Services
Affordable Engineering Services
10/29/2020
10/29/2020
$66,78410/29/2020
$66,784
Aircraft Mechanic III Electrician/Lead F-5 Modification Travel Team
Aircraft Mechanic III Electrician/Lead F-5 Modification Travel Team
Affordable Engineering Services
Affordable Engineering Services
10/29/2020
10/29/2020
$83,48010/29/2020
$83,480
Aircraft Mechanic II Electrician/F-5 Modification Travel Team
Aircraft Mechanic II Electrician/F-5 Modification Travel Team
Affordable Engineering Services
Affordable Engineering Services
10/29/2020
10/29/2020
$66,78410/29/2020
$66,784
Aircraft Mechanic (2)
Aircraft Mechanic (2)
Army National Guard Units
Army National Guard Units
10/27/2020
10/27/2020
$55,00010/27/2020
$55,000
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Aircraft Mechanic Demographics

Gender

male

87.9%

female

8.2%

unknown

3.9%

Ethnicity

White

63.0%

Hispanic or Latino

18.4%

Black or African American

10.0%

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

58.2%

French

6.6%

German

4.4%
See More Demographics

Aircraft Mechanic Education

Majors

Degrees

Associate

29.1%

Bachelors

23.9%

High School Diploma

22.1%

Top Colleges for Aircraft Mechanics

1. Purdue University

West Lafayette, IN

Tuition and fees
$9,992
Enrollment
33,495

2. SUNY Farmingdale

Farmingdale, NY

Tuition and fees
$8,306
Enrollment
9,394

3. Kansas State University

Manhattan, KS

Tuition and fees
$10,383
Enrollment
17,611

4. Baker College

Owosso, MI

Tuition and fees
$9,800
Enrollment
8,319

5. Ohio State University

Columbus, OH

Tuition and fees
$10,726
Enrollment
45,769

6. Worldwide Campus

Daytona Beach, FL

Tuition and fees
$9,360
Enrollment
10,254

7. Utah State University

Logan, UT

Tuition and fees
$8,138
Enrollment
21,658

8. California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo, CA

Tuition and fees
$9,816
Enrollment
21,047

9. Lewis University

Romeoville, IL

Tuition and fees
$32,450
Enrollment
4,217

10. Vermont Technical College

Randolph, VT

Tuition and fees
$15,108
Enrollment
1,350
See More Education Info

Entry Level Jobs For Becoming An Aircraft Mechanic

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Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Top Skills For an Aircraft Mechanic

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 14.8% of aircraft mechanics listed aircraft systems on their resume, but soft skills such as dexterity and detail oriented are important as well.

Best States For an Aircraft Mechanic

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as an aircraft mechanic. The best states for people in this position are Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Utah. Aircraft mechanics make the most in Idaho with an average salary of $60,895. Whereas in Oregon and Washington, they would average $60,740 and $60,616, respectively. While aircraft mechanics would only make an average of $60,478 in Utah, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Montana

Total Aircraft Mechanic Jobs:
48
Highest 10% Earn:
$77,000
Location Quotient:
3.53
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Idaho

Total Aircraft Mechanic Jobs:
26
Highest 10% Earn:
$77,000
Location Quotient:
1.63
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Nevada

Total Aircraft Mechanic Jobs:
47
Highest 10% Earn:
$74,000
Location Quotient:
1.61
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Aircraft Mechanic Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming an aircraft mechanic. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

At Zippia, we went through countless aircraft mechanic resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Write an Aircraft Mechanic Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless aircraft mechanic resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

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Top Aircraft Mechanic Employers

1. U.S. Navy
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$53,690
Aircraft Mechanics Hired: 
586+
2. US MARINE CORPS
4.3
Avg. Salary: 
$57,440
Aircraft Mechanics Hired: 
402+
3. US Army
4.0
Avg. Salary: 
$53,674
Aircraft Mechanics Hired: 
397+
4. L3 Technologies
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$68,713
Aircraft Mechanics Hired: 
318+
5. DynCorp International
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$55,806
Aircraft Mechanics Hired: 
315+
6. Boeing
4.9
Avg. Salary: 
$75,123
Aircraft Mechanics Hired: 
314+

Aircraft Mechanic Videos

Recently Added Aircraft Mechanic Jobs

Updated October 2, 2020