The Aviation Mechanic
Want to know the value of a great aircraft mechanic? You’re on an airplane thinking to yourself, “I hope nothing goes wrong” – and it doesn’t.
Aside from the pilot, one of the major reasons flights arrive safely to their destinations is because of the men and women who service and fix the planes – the aviation mechanic. They’re a breed of mechanic unlike any other.
To some extent, the aviation mechanic’s job is not that different from a car mechanic’s: you fix flat tires, change the oil, test the brakes and make sure the engine runs properly. But then there are those other specialized systems that keep a plane flying — takeoff and landing gear, navigation and complex electrical and computer systems.
In Atlanta alone, more than 2,200 airplanes a day fly in and out of Hartsfield Jackson International Airport (an average of 94 per hour!). The airlines all have teams of mechanics on the ground to check the planes regularly, and of course service them as needed. Aviation mechanics are needed at all airports, big and small.
There are a few types of aircraft mechanic jobs:
- Airframe mechanic – these technicians work on the wings, wheels, cabins, doors, windows and everything else about the physical aircraft itself.
- Powerplant mechanics – when we think of “power plant” we usually think of a big facility that generates electricity. But in this case, the power plant refers to the plane’s engine and anything that helps it run (like the fuel line). Powerplant mechanics work on these engine systems and components. For example, if a bird gets sucked into the engine, powerplant mechanics have to fix any damage that’s been done.
- Avionics technicians are even more specialized. They work exclusively on the electronics systems of a plane, which power the radar, communications and navigation systems.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF AN AVIATION MECHANIC IN GEORGIA
Aircraft mechanic jobs include all sorts of day-to-day tasks.
- Perform routine maintenance on planes (like checking the tires and changing the oil)
- Identify and fix mechanical problems
- Repair any components of the plane (brakes, wings, landing gear)
- Consult maintenance manuals to help fix a problem
- Use diagnostic equipment to test systems and parts
- Check aircraft and its systems for any defective parts that need to be replaced
- Record all maintenance and repair work completed on the plane
- Perform inspections on all work done
WHAT IT TAKES TO BECOME AN AVIATION MECHANIC
Those who really know their way around those planes and helicopters say you’ve got to have:
- Problem-solving skills. It’s up to you to identify and fix any problem with the airplane – and some problems can be quite complicated. Given the intense pace of flight schedules, you have to work efficiently.
- An “eagle eye” for detail. Precision is the key to fixing a problem or keeping a part functioning.
- Math ability. If you like math, good – you’ll learn a lot of it when training to be an aviation mechanic. And you’ll use that math in the day-to-day tasks of fixing and maintaining an aircraft.
- Good hand-eye coordination. Airplanes are big, but some of the parts are tiny. In your aircraft mechanic career, you’ll have to work with small parts. You’ll also have to use your hands to twist, turn, grasp and put together parts and equipment.
- Physical agility and strength. Planes are tall. You might have to climb up on the wings and the body of the airplane to complete a repair. You also have to lift and carry heavy equipment (but not luggage – that’s someone else’s job).
IS THIS YOU?
Here are a few things to consider as you decide whether a career as an aircraft mechanic is right for you.
- Career path. Aviation mechanic jobs have a kind of ladder –lead mechanic, inspector, supervisor – so work hard, and you can move up.
- You play a huge role in the safety of all of those airline passengers. Really, what’s more important than that?
- Good pay. The average salary for an aviation mechanic is $69,000 in Georgia – and ours is one of the higher-paying states for aircraft mechanics.
- Hard work. Teams of mechanics work round the clock. You may have to work a night shift (especially at first).
- The airlines and the federal government want planes to run on time and without error. You may have to identify and fix a problem quickly, all while ensuring it’s done right.
A FEW DETAILS OF INTEREST
What’s a typical aircraft mechanic salary?
In Georgia, aviation mechanics earn an average salary of $69,080. Avionics technicians earn around $64,190 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2016).
How do you become an aviation mechanic?
- You must be at least 18 years old
- You have to speak and understand English (that includes reading and writing)
- Gain experience and/or training according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards
- Pass a three-part test given by the FAA
To gain experience as an aircraft mechanic, you have two choices:
- You can get practical on-the-job training, which requires 18 months working with either powerplants or airframes, or 30 months working on both at the same time.
- You can earn certification from an FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school, which counts for the experience requirement.
After you have your experience, you have to pass three tests administered by the FAA — a written exam, oral test and “practical” test. You must take these tests within two years of completing your experience requirement.
During the technical training (or aviation mechanic school), you’ll learn things like…
- Math and physics as it applies to aviation
- Aircraft maintenance regulations
- Airframe welding
- Aircraft components (wheels, wings, brakes, etc.) and how to fix them
- Aircraft systems – communications, electrical, fuel, landing gear, navigation systems (just to name a few)
- Inspection skills (making sure what was done was done right!)
FIND AN AVIATION MECHANIC SHOOL
Good news! Georgia has several FAA-approved aviation maintenance programs at state technical colleges. Complete these programs, and you’ll meet several of the FAA requirements needed to earn certification as airframe mechanic, powerplant mechanic or both. Check out the options through these links:
Georgia also has one program for training to become an avionics technician.
APPLY FOR A SCHOLARSHIP
If you’re a high school senior and want to go get aviation training at one Georgia’s technical colleges, why not apply for a Trade Five Scholarship? Good idea – take me to the application >
OUTLOOK FOR AVIATION MECHANIC
Nationally, the demand for aviation mechanics is projected to increase by about 1% by 2024, adding about 1,600 jobs.
PLANES FLY BECAUSE OF HER
Her name is Alicia, and she went from entry level to managing aircraft mechanics. Check out her 2-minute video on what it’s like to be an aviation technician.
LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
Download this handy PDF for some facts on-the-go.