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An aircraft mechanic is someone who repairs and performs scheduled maintenance on airplanes and helicopters. They also inspect airplanes and helicopters as required by federal agencies.
An aircraft mechanic typically does the following:
Today’s airplanes are highly complex machines that require reliable parts and service to fly safely. To keep an airplane in peak operating condition, aircraft mechanics do scheduled maintenance, make repairs, and complete inspections.
Some aircraft mechanics work on many different types of aircraft, such as jets, propeller-driven airplanes, and helicopters. Others specialize in one section of a particular type of aircraft, such as the engine, hydraulics, or electrical system of a jet. In smaller independent repair shops, mechanics inspect and repair various types of aircraft.
Most aircraft mechanics who work on civilian aircraft have some sort of official certification. Mechanics that have this certification are authorized to work on any part of the aircraft except electronic flight instruments, which is the job of avionics technicians.
Employment of aircraft mechanics is concentrated in a small number of industries. The majority work for private companies and about 15% work for the federal government. Aircraft mechanics work in hangars, in repair stations, or on airfields. They must often meet strict deadlines to maintain flight schedules, yet still maintain safety standards. This is quite stressful at times.
Most aircraft mechanics work near major airports. They often work outside, on the airfield, while repair and corporate mechanics work in climate-controlled shops. Civilian aircraft mechanics employed by the armed forces work on military installations.
The work can be noisy from loud aircraft engines. Workers must often bend, stoop, and reach from ladders and scaffolds. Most aircraft mechanics work full time with some overtime. Weekend work is common.
Most aircraft mechanics and technicians learn their trade in a federally approved training program. Coursework normally lasts 18 to 24 months and provides training with the tools and equipment used on the job. About one-third of the programs award two- or four-year degrees in avionics, aviation technology, or aviation maintenance management.
Increasingly, employers are looking more favourably on aircraft mechanics with a bachelor’s degree. Aircraft trade schools are placing more emphasis on technologies being used in new airplanes, such as turbine engines, composite materials, and aviation electronics. These technical advances require aircraft mechanics to have stronger backgrounds in composite materials and electronics.
Courses in mathematics, physics, chemical engineering, electronics, computer science, and mechanical drawings are helpful because they teach the principles involved in operating an airplane. Aircraft mechanics often need this knowledge to figure out what is wrong and how to fix the problem. Courses that develop writing, communication, and management skills are important for aircraft mechanics who want to move into senior positions.