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Become An Airframe Technician

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Working As An Airframe Technician

  • Getting Information
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • Repairing and Maintaining Mechanical Equipment
  • Stressful

  • Make Decisions

  • $59,000

    Average Salary

What Does An Airframe Technician 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.

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How To Become An Airframe Technician

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 Length of Employment
Jet Mechanic 4.9 years
Airframe Mechanic 4.2 years
Technician 2.7 years
Top Careers Before Airframe Technician
Technician 10.2%
Mechanic 8.9%
Crew Chief 5.1%
Top Careers After Airframe Technician
Technician 8.1%
Mechanic 7.6%
Crew Chief 3.7%
Supervisor 3.7%
Manager 3.4%

Do you work as an Airframe Technician?

Airframe Technician Demographics

Gender

Male

87.5%

Unknown

9.4%

Female

3.1%
Ethnicity

White

60.9%

Hispanic or Latino

17.3%

Black or African American

11.0%

Asian

6.4%

Unknown

4.4%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

French

40.0%

Cherokee

20.0%

Polish

20.0%

Spanish

20.0%
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Airframe Technician Education

Schools

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - Daytona Beach

20.7%

Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology

10.3%

University of Phoenix

9.2%

Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics

6.9%

Community College of the Air Force

4.6%

National Aviation Academy A & P School

4.6%

Ashford University

4.6%

Central Texas College

3.4%

A-Technical College

3.4%

Texas State Technical College - Waco

3.4%

Western Michigan University

3.4%

Teterboro School of Aeronautics

3.4%

Alabama Aviation College

3.4%

University of Texas at San Antonio

3.4%

The Academy

3.4%

Pima Community College

2.3%

St. Philip's College

2.3%

California State University - Los Angeles

2.3%

Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training (CNATT)

2.3%

Sacramento City College

2.3%
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Majors

Aviation

40.2%

Automotive Technology

12.6%

Business

11.1%

Aerospace Engineering

5.7%

Electrical Engineering

3.4%

Management

3.1%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

3.1%

Electrical Engineering Technology

2.7%

Mechanical Engineering

2.7%

Mechanical Engineering Technology

1.9%

Accounting

1.9%

Industrial Technology

1.5%

Information Technology

1.5%

Communication

1.5%

Engineering

1.5%

Psychology

1.1%

General Studies

1.1%

Civil Engineering

1.1%

Property Management

1.1%

Project Management

0.8%
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Degrees

Other

31.1%

Bachelors

27.2%

Associate

19.5%

Certificate

9.6%

Masters

7.0%

Diploma

3.0%

License

2.6%
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Top Skills for An Airframe Technician

  1. Service Aircraft
  2. Structural Repairs
  3. Engine Changes
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Worked with engineers to accomplish structural repairs and modifications to aircraft.
  • Repaired and serviced power plant components including multiple engine changes, fuel pumps, fuel control, filters and fuel tanks.
  • Performed routine and preventative maintenance and inspections on 16 cargo jet aircraft Troubleshot electrical, hydraulic, fuel, and oxygen systems
  • Perform heavy inspections, routine and non-routine maintenance and repairs onEmbraer E170/175 and E190 commercial airliners.
  • Adjusted and replaced hydraulic and pneumatic components of flight control systems.

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