Aviation Inspectors, also known as aviation safety inspectors, have been keeping the world's air transportation system safe since the development of an American airway system in the early 1920s. Although it was originally created for the U.S. Air Mail Service, it was transferred to the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA after the Federal Aviation Act was established in 1958. Aviation inspectors are responsible for the safety of everyone who boards an airplane, as well as those remaining on the ground.
Conducting preflight inspections to ensure the safety of an aircraft, these inspectors are critical in confirming that the craft is safe for flight. They have a mechanical aptitude and are able to diagnose and resolve complex problems. Often working for the FAA, they understand that following all safety guidelines is an important responsibility; therefore, an aviation inspector can mandate changes to maintenance schedules and suggest repairs as needed. Being superbly trained, they examine all the components that can affect an individual flight to ensure the safety of it's crew and passengers.
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An aviation inspector performs many functions to ensure the safe transportation of airline passengers. He or she investigates accidents and equipment failures, examines aircraft, air traffic controls, navigational aids, and communications equipment, and suggests repairs when necessary. He or she analyzes safety procedures and reviews maintenance procedures to make sure that airports and aircrafts are in compliance with federal safety regulations. Aviation inspectors also perform the following duties:
• They are responsible for issuing pilots' licenses.
• They inspect aircraft doors for safety and security.
• They evaluate the work of aircraft mechanics to ensure adherence to standards and procedures.
• They test aircraft meters, gauges, and other instruments for evidence of problems.
• They check the tires, landing gear, wings, fuselage, and engines for wear, damage or the need for repairs.
• They review flight logs and maintenance records to ensure that servicing was performed at the necessary intervals.
• They suggest the repair or replacement of aircraft equipment.
• They are responsible for approving or denying certificates of airworthiness.
• Considering their knowledge of operating conditions and aircraft improvements, they can recommend changes to policies, standards, rules and regulations.
• They maintain detailed records regarding inspections, repairs, investigations, and reports in order to issue certifications.
• They attempt to determine the causes of air accidents.
• They conduct flight test programs under a variety of conditions to test instruments, equipment, and systems.
Basically, they make sure mechanics, pilots, technicians, planes and other equipment properly function. When a craft passes this evaluation, it is issued a certificate of worth.
Being an aviation inspector can be a difficult career and requires an understanding of the mechanical aspects of an aircraft, as well as the internal electronics and the composite material from which the structure is likely made. With the lives of so many people in their hands, being an aviation inspector is a highly stressful job and although much of their experience is gained in a vocational setting, certification is also required from the respective aviation authority. A 2 or 4 year degree as an aircraft mechanic and further instruction at an FAA approved school is usually necessary.
While in high school, an aspiring safety inspector's field of study could include physics, computer science, algebra, geometry, algebra II, electronics, and mechanical drawing. These are helpful because they increase knowledge of some of the principles necessary to make aircraft repairs. Although he or she may become an aircraft mechanic through on the job training, most obtain a 2 or 4 year degree as an aircraft mechanic and government certification. Then, they attend one of the 170 FAA approved institutions where they engage in 1900 class hours within 18 - 24 months. There, they learn how to use the equipment and tools necessary for the job.
Occasionally, a degree in a field such as engineering can be substituted for the experience. Until they receive their FAA certificates, these prospective inspectors must be supervised by certified mechanics. It is recommended that an aspiring aviation inspector have five or more years of aircraft maintenance experience to qualify for the position. With continual advances in technology, they must periodically update their knowledge and skills to meet the current demands.
The workplace of aviation inspectors will vary greatly depending on the size of the location. The tasks they perform during their 40 hour work week can be performed in and out of the airplane hangars. Their job can be physically challenging, requiring climbing, being in uncomfortable positions to reach some of the equipment, and sometimes must be performed at incredible heights. It can also be extremely stressful since their life or death decisions directly affect the safety of passengers and flight crews.
As of May 17, 2012, the average salary for an aviation inspector was $62,000; this statistic varies based on the geography. The highest paying area for this career is Fort Lauderdale, FL at $109,120 and the lowest paying is Puerto Rico at $30,040.
According to the Government Accounting Office, job growth in this field will be steady, with a projected change of -2% to +2%, over the next 10 years.