What Are The Requirements to Be An Aircraft Mechanic?
What Is An Aircraft MechanicAn aircraft mechanic is an individual who inspects, diagnoses, and repairs the various systems on an airplane for any potential problems. Unlike a traditional automobile mechanic, an aircraft mechanic is highly specialized and must meet stringent certification guidelines set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Generally, aircraft mechanics will specialize in either powerplant, which focuses primarily on the engine moving parts of the plane; airframe, which is primarily responsible for the fuselage, skin, and body of the aircraft; or avionics, which specializes on the electrical and computer systems on board the plane.
Minimum RequirementsFAA Regulations state that in order to apply for certification as an aircraft mechanic, you must meet the following three requirements:
- You must be a U.S. citizen who is 18 years of age or older and has the ability to read and write English proficiently. If you do not meet the citizenship requirements and do not reside in the United States, you may still be eligible for certification if you are required to maintain U.S. certification because of your job and can show you have a good standing in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
- You must have graduated from an FAA Approved Maintenance Technical School. This requirement can be substituted for either 18 months practical work experience with airframes or powerplants, or 30 months practical work experience with both systems simultaneously.
- You must pass three comprehensive exams
- An oral exam
- A written exam
- And a practical exam
Knowledge, Skills, and AbilitiesTo be successful in the field of aircraft maintenance, you must be able to understand, examine and solve complex mechanical problems with little to no supervision. Mathematics and logic play an important part in the job, as these individuals must be able to test and articulate weaknesses within all facets of the engineering of the aircraft. Additionally, an aircraft mechanic is required to have excellent hand-eye coordination as well as excellent finger dexterity.
PayAircraft mechanics make a comfortable living, averaging about $55,000 annually with benefits. Less than 10% of individuals in the field make under $40,000 per year with the top 10% earning over $77,000 annually. These figures include overtime, which will be expected for those in the field.
Work EnvironmentProfessionals in this field work in numerous different environments, which may or may not be open to the elements. Some work directly out in the airfields while others work in hangars. Most aircraft mechanics work an 8-hour rotating schedule. Weekend work is commonplace and expected. Because of the physically demanding nature of the job, workplace injuries and illnesses can be high. About 14% of all aircraft mechanic employees work directly with the federal government.
Job OutlookAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for all fields of aircraft mechanics are expected to increase over the next decade by a rate of 11%. That being said, individual specialties are expected to see much smaller gains of only 2-3%. It is expected the largest employment gains will be for individuals who acquire or maintain multiple certifications in several specialties. Those with a bachelor’s degree in a related field will have a better chance for placement in this competitive field although a degree is not a requirement for all organizations.
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