Does the aviation industry excite you? Are you interested in working on machinery? As an airplane mechanic, you can combine these two interests into a career that can help you travel the world.
Let’s dive into what airplane mechanics do, how to become one, and their career prospects for the next decade. By the end of this guide, you’ll have the information you need to decide if becoming an airplane mechanic is a good fit for you!
What Do Airplane Mechanics Do?
In the simplest of terms, airplane mechanics keep our skies safe. By inspecting, repairing, and maintaining aircraft, they ensure planes are safe and ready to fly before passengers board. They also troubleshoot any issues that may arise during or after a flight. Simply put, airplane mechanics are the unsung heroes of air travel!
If you decide to become an airplane mechanic, you’ll get to repair many different types of mechanical and electrical systems. You could find yourself working on jet or propeller engines, hydraulic systems, or the electrical components of the cockpit.
To be a successful airplane mechanic, you need extensive knowledge of airframes and aircraft engines, and experience with maintenance and repairs. This means you’ll need to enjoy working with your hands and understand a lot of the physics behind flying and the associated mechanics. Since you won’t be doing this alone, you’ll also need strong organizational and interpersonal skills to work independently in the context of a larger team. This includes strong problem-solving skills and the ability to think on your feet.
An airplane mechanic performs preventative maintenance on aircraft. This includes inspecting, testing, and repairing aircraft components like engines, brakes, and wiring. They also look for wear and tear on the airplane that might indicate that a part is reaching the end of its lifespan and needs to be replaced.
More senior airplane mechanics can also be called upon to help pilots with emergency repairs or other issues while the plane is in the air. As there are also ways new developments in the airplane industry, this job also involves learning new parts and safety protocols as they are developed. Some aircraft mechanics specialize in installing new parts and components, meaning they’re always aware of cutting-edge developments in aviation.
An Airplane Mechanic’s Workday
A typical day for an airplane mechanic starts early. They arrive at the hangar and start by doing pre-flight inspections to check that the necessary equipment is working. After that, they’ll work on scheduled repairs or maintenance tasks. This also involves troubleshooting existing issues and replacing parts. Most mechanics have 8-hour shifts, and they’re required to document the entire day’s work to keep accurate records. As airplanes land throughout the day, mechanics will run tests on aircraft before they take off again, as required by aviation safety protocols.
Schooling for Airplane Mechanics
If you’re interested in becoming an aircraft mechanic, you should know that you can start your career off by either attending a college, trade school or trying to start off immediately with an apprenticeship program.
- Trade schools are ideal for gaining theoretical knowledge and developing skills. Tuition costs vary but are generally more affordable than traditional four-year colleges. Here, you can take a variety of courses, including aviation maintenance, electrical engineering, welding, and more. In the case of becoming an airplane mechanic, you should consider looking for FAA-approved Aviation Maintenance Technician Schools near you, as these will ensure you are certified by the FAA, or Federal Aviation Administration.
- Apprenticeship programs are another option for becoming an aircraft mechanic. A skilled tradesperson provides hands-on training during the apprenticeship. Apprentices must complete a certain number of hours over some time to become a journeyman. Apprenticeship programs are available in many states, including California, Texas, and New York.
Becoming an airplane mechanic requires two to four years of schooling and on-the-job training. The road to becoming an expert is longer, taking several more years of professional experience. Your expert level also depends on the complexity of the aircraft you work on.
Get personalized advice!
List of Schools & Programs
- Gateway Technical College offers trade programs in aviation maintenance, automotive technology, welding, machine tool technology, and construction. Tuition ranges from $3,795 to $6,285.
- Ohio Technical College offers trade programs in aviation maintenance, automotive technology, welding, and machine tool technology. Tuition ranges from $14,000 to $19,500.
- Aviation Institute of Maintenance offers both diploma and associate degree programs. Tuition costs are around $16,757 per year.
- Allen Aircraft Radio (AAR) offers an apprenticeship program approved by the U.S. Department of Labor.
- National Aviation Academy offers various aircraft maintenance programs ranging from $7,500 to $20,000.
- Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology offers associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates in aviation maintenance technology. Tuition ranges from $17,000 to $25,000.
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in aviation maintenance engineering.
- Liberty University School of Aeronautics offers an Aviation Maintenance Professional Degree Program for those interested in becoming FAA-certified mechanics or technicians. Tuition costs start from $19,000.
- Northwestern Technical College offers a comprehensive two-year Aviation Maintenance Technician program that prepares students for FAA certification exams. Tuition costs start at $9,800.
- Texas State Technical College Waco offers an Associate of Applied Science in Avionics/Aviation Maintenance Technology program that includes courses such as Aircraft Electrical Systems and Avionics Troubleshooting Techniques. Tuition costs for these programs start at $5000.
- Aviation Technical Services offers a Matt Yerbic Apprenticeship Program that trains newcomers to become aircraft technicians with both classroom instruction and practical training for two weeks. After their training, they work with a crew and supervisor while receiving salary and work benefits.
- Airframe & Powerplant (A&P) License Training Programs are offered by many technical schools or community colleges across the US and provide intensive hands-on instruction to prepare students for the Federal Aviation Administration A&P certification exam for aircraft mechanics and technicians.
Are Internships Necessary?
Yes, aspiring aircraft mechanics typically need to do internships during their training. This gives them hands-on experience in the field and applies their theoretical knowledge. Internships are also great for networking, which is invaluable when starting a career in aircraft mechanics.
Do Schools Offer Job Placement?
Many trade schools have partnerships with local employers that provide hands-on training and job opportunities. These placement programs can help you gain the experience and knowledge to be successful. Additionally, some trade schools offer resume assistance and job counseling to help graduates find the right position. Some schools even have job boards that list positions for entry-level aircraft mechanics.
Many airlines require airplane mechanics to be certified to work. The exact certifications you should get will depend on the type of aircraft the airline has, as well as the geographic region they are located in. For instance, Certified Aviation Manager (CAM), Unmanned Systems Aircraft Maintenance, Aircraft Electronics Technician (AET), Mechanical Inspector Certification (CMI), and Certified Aerospace Technician are common choices for aircraft mechanics.
It’s also essential to consider state-specific requirements when pursuing this career. For instance, in California, aircraft mechanics need certification from the FAA or an approved apprenticeship program before working on airplanes. Aircraft mechanics must be FAA-certified in Florida and have at least one year of experience before taking a practical exam. Similarly, in Texas, aircraft mechanics have complete continuing education requirements every two years.
If becoming an airplane mechanic sounds like something you’re interested in, then you’ll be delighted to know that there are plenty of employment opportunities in the U.S. Over the next decade, the job market is expected to increase by 11.8 percent, which is more than double the national average.
Over the past few years, there has been an increase in commercial flights and private aviation. As a result, the civil aviation industry will be investing heavily in aircraft maintenance. Additionally, due to COVID-19, hiring trends were disrupted, resulting in a shortage of airplane mechanics post-pandemic. By 2040, it is estimated that 626,000 new aircraft mechanics and technicians will be needed.
An airplane mechanic’s salary depends on experience, specialized training, and work location, but it generally ranges from $35,000 to $110,000 per year. The average annual salary is $55,000, but even entry-level mechanics earn $20 to $25 per hour. That being said, in certain U.S. states, even entry-level jobs earn more than average. Here’s a list of states that offer high salaries to airplane mechanics:
Often, it is specialized airplane mechanics, such as head mechanics and jet mechanics, that earn over $100,000 a year. Airframe and Powerplant mechanics are also in high demand and earn more than average. So, if this field interests you, it can be well worth it to pick up a niche skill and train it. A specialized certification will also validate your status as an expert.
Employers are increasingly prioritizing workers’ physical and mental health by offering generous employment packages. Since aircraft mechanics spend lots of time on work sites, they frequently have access to amenities like gyms or break rooms. They also get benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, vacation time, and paid holidays. Additionally, many employers offer retirement plans and additional benefits like educational assistance or discounts on travel. Because many airlines need a mechanic on duty at all times, the work is often shift work. However, this means many employers offer flexible scheduling, which would enable you to manage your work responsibilities around your personal commitments.
Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest employers of airplane mechanics is airlines. However, airplane mechanics are also employed by private corporations, government agencies, and businesses. Additionally, the military often hires airplane mechanics to work on its aircraft. If none of that catches your fancy, there are also a few airplane mechanics who are employed in the development and testing of prototypes at aerospace companies.
Among the U.S. airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines, Boeing, and Delta Airlines pay the highest salaries for aircraft maintenance, ranging from $71,000 to $93,000. Government entities like the Air Force, Air National Guard, Army, and Marines offer around $40,000 to $62,000.
Considering Being an Airplane Mechanic?
If everything so far has gotten you interested, great! There are a lot of good things about being a airplane mechanic. Let’s take a look at a few of the pros and cons associated with the job.
- High salary and good benefits
- Job security
- Working with innovative technology
- Plenty of opportunities for growth and advancement
- Specialized training
- Long hours, potentially on weekends or evenings
- Physically demanding
- Work hazards, like hazardous chemicals and excessive noise
Overall Job Satisfaction
Overall, airplane mechanics report a high degree of job satisfaction. Mechanics are rarely bored and find it stimulating to work on different tasks. Since aircraft mechanics often collaborate with each other, they typically enjoy a collaborative work environment that involves hands-on problem-solving.
Final Thoughts: How to become an Airplane Mechanic
Becoming an airplane mechanic offers you the chance to work on airplanes in a collaborative environment that encourages teamwork and learning. If you’re good at what you do and willing to take on additional certifications and responsibilities, you can end up with a six-figure salary and stable job prospects.