Aircraft Mechanics


A (very) short guide to a career in aircraft repair and maintenance.



Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements offer two paths to aviation careers in aircraft repair and maintenance. Airframe or power plant certification can be obtained after 18 months of on-the-job training; certification as an A&P mechanic (airframe and power plant) can be received by working on both engines and airframes for a period of 30 months. However, most aspiring mechanics complete a two- or four-year degree program at an FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school. Aircraft mechanics must also complete written, oral, and practical tests, and ongoing training is required to maintain certification.


Aircraft mechanic jobs require manual dexterity, good troubleshooting skills, and an ability to work well under pressure. The work can be physically demanding and must be performed to high standards of safety. Mechanics with 2 years of experience and 3 years of A&P certification may go on to become inspectors.


Aircraft mechanics can work in repairs, maintenance, inspection, consulting, and related areas. Outsourcing and aging airline fleets will continue to have a significant impact on the location and nature of aviation maintenance jobs. For example, in March, Southwest was fined $10.2 million after missing required structural inspections. That same month, American and Delta canceled hundreds of flights in order to inspect wiring bundles. United also grounded several Boeing 747s after the FAA discovered that a maintenance facility in South Korea had used improper equipment to test the planes' gauges.


Though it's generally assumed that most aircraft mechanics work at airline jobs, the aforementioned events have brought greater attention to the preponderance of maintenance outsourcing in the U.S. airline industry. As of 2007, American, JetBlue, United, Continental, and Delta were the only major airlines not outsourcing at least 80% of their maintenance work, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Increased FAA vigilance is likely to create greater employment opportunities for qualified aircraft mechanics in the years ahead.


--Joshua Avram

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