What does it take to become an aircraft mechanic?

If your dream is a career in aviation, then your first call of action is to decide exactly which field you want to get into it.  Perhaps you want a career that takes you to the skies and has you flying high such as piloting or in-flight attendance. You can also have a grounded career in aviation as a maintenance engineer, maintenance crew, air navigator and aircraft mechanic to name a few of the options.

The Aircraft Mechanic Option

An aircraft mechanic undertakes the repair and maintenance of the mechanical and avionics equipment that makes planes and helicopters safe to operate. The job includes inspection, repair and maintenance of the electronic, structural and mechanical elements of an aircraft. An aircraft mechanic will routinely assess how worn the different parts are and determine whether those that are too worn out will be repaired or replaced entirely.

This is done using several diagnostic devices, manual and mechanical tools and computers. These tools are used to maintain air crafts to the standards that are laid out by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Which Job Skills are Required?

Aircraft mechanics need to have the following skills to be able to competently do their job:

  • Dexterity- this is a hands-on job so mechanics need to be able to use their hands to work accurately with various components, including pulling things apart and putting them back together.
  • Detail-oriented- mechanics have to work to very high, precise standards. The ability to pay attention to the smallest detail or component and ensure every little part is in good condition and in place is important.
  • Technical skills- part of the job will be about reading different types of instruments such as gauges. The ability to understand how instruments work and diagnostic tools is therefore important.
  • Troubleshooting- A mechanic must also be able to get to the cause of a problem and how to go about setting things as they should be.

General or Specialized?

There are general and specialized aircraft mechanics.  General mechanics are those who successfully complete the basic aircraft mechanics course and attain a certificate. Specialized aircraft mechanics go and acquire higher qualifications that concentrate on specific areas of an aircraft.

The Different Aircraft Mechanic Career Paths

Avionics Technicians

These aircraft mechanics carry out tests on aircraft electronic systems and keep them in good repair. They work on the electronic systems that ensure safe flying such as the altitude, weather, radio and auto-pilot flying systems. These technicians can train and be certified to work on other parts of an aircraft which makes this the most versatile aircraft mechanic career path option.

Airframe Mechanics

These mechanics are trained to understand and work on all aircraft parts except engines, propellers and avionic instruments. They work on the fuselage, the supporting frame and skin and the doors, windows and wings.

Power-plant Mechanics

These are the mechanics who service engines or power-plants. Some also train to be able to work on propellers.

A&P Mechanics

These aircraft mechanics are trained and certified to do what power-plant and airframe mechanics do. This is the most common path that aircraft mechanics take because the majority of airlines like to hire mechanics who can handle both types of work.

The Military Option

Some aircraft mechanics choose to qualify for the job in the military. If you take this route but do not serve in the military, you will be certified at an Aviation Maintenance Technician vocational training school. Most of these schools run programs that run for a year or two. There are longer courses leading to higher diplomas, associate degrees and degrees in aviation technology and aviation management that take two, three and four years to complete. You can also go for a Master’s Degree and a Doctoral Degree

Required Aircraft Mechanic Certification

Upon the completion of their training program, air mechanics are required to get certification from the FAA. This has to be done within a set period of time. Certification is maintained through work experience or continuous training.

Getting Certified by the FAA

Requirements are different for US and non-US citizens. Citizens must be at least 18 years of age and must be fluent in spoken and written English. At least 18 months of practical experience with airframes or power plants is required. You have to accumulate 30 months of hands-on working experience of both simultaneously. You can also get certified by the FAA by attending an Aviation Maintenance Technician School as an alternative to the experience. You must also pass an oral, written and practical exam.

Non-citizens must certify the same criteria and more. They must hold a valid passport to the examiner and show that they need a mechanic certificate to be allowed to maintain an aircraft that is registered in the US. An employer must give a statement that details the maintenance work you have done on every aircraft you worked on while gaining experience and how long you worked on it. A letter from the body concerned with the foreign airworthiness authority in the country you gained experience is also required. An International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) advisor can also validate your experience. Every document must be signed and dated and you will be required to pay a document review fee.

Getting into a Top Training School

You are required to have completed high school or GED based on the US education system. Non-citizens are required to take tests to assess their foreign high school qualifications before joining a training school.

More mature people looking to switch careers can also take a training course at one of the FAA aircraft mechanic training schools or start accumulating work experience to get certified.

Job Prospects

The US Bureau of Statistics handbook has the 2012 median pay for aircraft mechanics at $55,230 annually or $26.55 per hour. The Bureau’s report also states that those who are certified as Airframe and Power plant air mechanics will have the best job prospects.  According to FAA aviation forecasts, aviation careers as a whole have been and continue to be on the up and up in terms of job prospects and pay.

The sky is the limit

If you are keen on a career path whose job prospects and pay have the sky is the limit, aircraft mechanics is a good choice. Get the requirements you need to get into a top training school, prove yourself, get FAA certification and you are on your way.

For more information about aviation maintenance training, the Aviation Institute of Maintenance Aircraft Mechanic School Programs is where you can learn more. Visit our Consumer Information Disclosure page, Gainful Employment Disclosure and Consumer Information.

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