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What Does an Aircraft Mechanic Do?

Aircraft mechanics ensure airplanes, helicopters, and other airborne vehicles are operating correctly. Aircraft mechanics' specific responsibilities differ based on their specialization and position.

Job Responsibilities

Aircraft mechanics maintain, repair, and inspect aircraft in accordance with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). Some aircraft mechanics fix specific problems that the pilot or crew members tell them about while others perform periodic inspections. Aircraft mechanics can perform tasks like:

  • Keeping maintenance records on each aircraft
  • Examining engines
  • Replacing and repairing defective parts
  • Repairing sheet metal
  • Checking for cracks and corrosion in the wings and tail
  • Troubleshooting problems

Important Facts about this Occupation

Required EducationHigh school diploma, completion of FAA-accredited technical school program
On-the-Job TrainingThose not certified by the FAA work under supervision until they have the necessary experience
Work EnvironmentHangers, repair stations and airfields
Similar OccupationsAvionics technicians, aerospace engineering and operations technicians, automotive body and glass repairers, heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Specializations

Aircraft mechanics can specialize in specific types of aircraft or specific parts of aircraft vehicles like the engine or electrical system. Three types of aircraft mechanics are:

  • Airframe mechanics, who work on everything within an aircraft except the instruments, power plants, and propellers
  • Power plant mechanics, who work on engines
  • Airframe and power plant (A&P) mechanics, who work on everything on an aircraft except the instruments

Supervisors

Some aircraft mechanics supervise and manage other aircraft mechanics. These supervisors assign work to lower-level mechanics, decide when to use support shops to help solve a problem, and sign off on aircraft mechanics' work to ensure the aircraft can fly safely, according to the United States Office of Personnel Management. Aircraft mechanics in supervisory positions must understand processes including:

  • Startup and shutdown for the aircraft's systems
  • Indications of abnormal aircraft operations
  • Safety procedures
  • Interrelation and interaction of aircraft systems

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the BLS, the employment of aircraft mechanics and service technicians is expected to grow by 5% between 2019 and 2029. The BLS also reported the median annual salary earned by such mechanics was $66,440 in May 2020.