How Can I Begin a Career in Aircraft Machining?

Explore the career requirements for an aircraft machinist. Get the facts about training requirements, job duties and where to find work to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Aviation Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is An Aircraft Machinist?

Aircraft machinists use metal and operate machines to create precision parts for planes. You will work with specialized tools that are either mechanically or computer-controlled. You should be good with your hands, able to stand for many hours at a time and work well with machine tools. Accuracy, good technical skills and experience with math and computer applications are also important.

The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required High school diploma or associate's degree
Training Required On-the-job or as an apprentice
Education Field of Study Tool usage, composite materials, computer numerical control, computer aided design
Key Responsibilities Construct aircraft parts; monitoring CNC fabrication; reading blueprints
Job Growth (2014-2024) 10% (all machinists)*
Average Annual Salary (2015) $42,120 (all machinists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Training Can I Find To Become an Aircraft Machinist?

Precision machinist training opportunities range from high school vocational programs to technical programs at community colleges. Like many machinists, you can learn on the job or through an apprenticeship program. The skills you gain in precision machining programs are transferable to aircraft machining.

Associate's degree programs in precision machining technology teach you to use an assortment of tools and dies to cut, drill, bend and weld metal into mechanically useful shapes. Composite materials, the properties of metals, computer numerical control (CNC) machining, molds and computer-aided design are likely course topics. Courses include classroom instruction and direct practice with metal shop equipment.

Dedicated aerospace technology programs are also available, but rare. Such programs adapt the content of precision machining programs to emphasize the manufacture of parts for aircraft engines and control systems. Additionally, as an aerospace technology student, you might study hydraulic systems, integrated manufacturing, coating procedures and adhesive bonding.

Where Would I Work?

Your prospective employers are aerospace companies and the machine shops that provide subcontracting services to them. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 18,730 machinists worked in aerospace manufacturing in 2015 (www.bls.gov). Between 2014 and 2024, employment of machinists in general was projected by the BLS to increase 10 percent as manufacturers bring in new equipment that helps them improve production and make product design changes faster. However, the number of new workers who train to become aircraft machinists was expected to be lower than the number of openings created by workers who retired or switched to new careers.

What Will My Job Duties Be?

Your main responsibility will be to make aircraft components, either as prototypes for aircraft under design or spare parts for existing planes. In automated shops, the manufacturing process consists of reading blueprints, programming parts specs into a CNC machine and monitoring the fabrication process. In rarer instances, you might make something by hand using lathes, drill presses, metal saws and grinders. You'll also monitor the condition of shop equipment and perform light maintenance as needed.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Welders work specifically with remotely controlled or hand-held equipment, using these tools to cut metal parts or close up any seams or holes. Metal and plastic machine workers make the plastic and metal parts that are found in a wide variety of consumer products. Both these career options call for on-the-job training as well as a high school diploma.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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