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Aviation Maintenance Technology: Learn How to Become an Aircraft Mechanic

If you’re the kind of person who has their eye on the sky, or has always wondered what makes an aircraft work, working as an avionics technician or aviation maintenance technician may be a good fit for you. Becoming an aviation maintenance technician may offer a rewarding and lucrative career.

Learn more about the different types of aviation mechanic jobs that exist, how to get certified, and different aircraft maintenance training that may be right for you.

What is Aviation Maintenance?

Aviation maintenance is an overarching field of everything that goes into keeping aircrafts capable of flying. This can include:

  • Diagnosing and repairing problems
  • Replacing parts or entire systems like engines, brakes and electrical systems, hydraulics, pneumatics, avionics, and more 
  • Completing inspections 
  • Assessing flight data to find potential malfunctions to an aircraft. 

Routine maintenance keeps an aircraft in operating condition—also called “airworthy”— meaning it is safe to fly. The regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) dictate safety standards and maintenance schedules. Maintenance schedules can be based on hours flown, number of days since last inspection, number of trips, or a combination thereof. It can also be done when issues are identified with an aircraft.

What Kinds of Aircraft Maintenance Jobs Are There?

Most mechanics are considered generalists who work on a variety of aircraft, like jets,  airplanes and helicopters, but there are plenty of aviation jobs. Some mechanics specialize in a single type of aircraft—such as a helicopter mechanic—or specialize in systems—such as the engine, hydraulic system or electrical system. Below, you will find a variety of aircraft mechanic and service technician jobs.

Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians:  These technicians diagnose, adjust, repair, or overhaul aircraft engines and assemblies, such as hydraulic and pneumatic systems. Includes helicopter and aircraft engine specialists.

Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) Mechanics: These certified generalist mechanics repair most parts of an aircraft, from the engine to the air-conditioning. A&P mechanics are also responsible for routine maintenance. While working at A&P mechanic jobs, aircraft mechanics are trained in the use of precision instruments that measure wear and tear and identify issues. Some of these instruments include x-rays or magnetic/ultrasonic inspection equipment used to identify cracks that can’t be seen via a craft’s exterior or the human eye. Mechanics keep an eye out for corrosion or cracks in the body, wings and tail of an aircraft. They repair these cracks with metal, fabric, wood or composite materials. Once maintenance is completed, mechanics test equipment for safety and record all fixes that took place. 

Inspection authorized (IA) mechanics: IA mechanics are certified in Airframe and Powerplant. They inspect aircraft and are able to perform the widest range of maintenance activities of any other aircraft maintenance role. They are often responsible for comprehensive annual inspections.

What Does an Aircraft Mechanic Do?

The day-to-day responsibilities of an aircraft mechanic include diagnosing both mechanical and electric problems, repairing parts of an aircraft including wings, brakes and various systems (electrical, brake, etc), hydraulics, pneumatics, avionics, and replacing broken or defective parts. 

Aircraft mechanics may also be called aircraft maintenance technicians, and aircraft technicians. An aircraft maintenance tech tests aircraft parts and reviews manuals to identify the best procedures for repair. Once maintenance is completed, they test the work and the parts to make sure they are performing correctly. Aircraft mechanics are responsible for keeping detailed records of performed maintenance on an aircraft. 

Why Become an Aircraft Mechanic?

Aircraft mechanics are needed more than ever as the number of aircraft in circulation has grown. Jobs fpr aircraft mechanics and service technicians are projected to grow 5% between 2019 and 2029, slightly higher than the average expected growth of all U.S. jobs at 4%.1 According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), job opportunities, particularly in replacing individuals who have left the occupation are expected to be good. 

Benefits of Being an Aircraft Mechanic 

If you like working on complex projects and have an interest in aircraft, being an aircraft mechanic is a great job. You may work in hangars, repair stations or airfields. Since most mechanics work near an airport, they may in some cases get flight benefits. Many of these jobs offer benefits and opportunities to work overtime. The number of jobs is expected to grow in this field. 

Aircraft Mechanic Salary

We know they are in demand, but how much do aircraft mechanics make? Aircraft mechanic and service technician salaries are classified by the BLS. The median salary for aircraft mechanics and service technicians in May 2019 was $64,090, with the lowest 10% earning less than $37,890 and the highest 10% earning more than $101,070.2

According to the BLS, the highest-paid industries for aircraft mechanics as of May 2019 were:

  • Scheduled air transportation (average salary $89,820) 
  • Aerospace product and parts manufacturing ($67,180)
  • Non-scheduled air transportation ($60,350), 
  • Federal government, excluding the postal service ($60,070) 
  • Support activities for air transportation ($54,920) 

Best Place to Work as an Aircraft Mechanic

Some states offer aircraft mechanics and service technicians higher pay and greater job prospects than others. These tables break down the details. 

Top paying States for this occupation as of May 2020, according to the BLS:3

State Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
Rhode Island $38.71 $80,520
Nevada $37.98 $79,010
Connecticut $36.56 $76,050
Minnesota $36.51 $75,940
New Jersey $36.12 $75,120

State with the highest level of employment as of May 2019, according to the BLS:4

State Employment Employment per thousand jobs
Texas 16,480 1.33
California 13,800 0.79
Florida 13,490 1.53
Georgia 5,250 1.67
Washington 6,070 1.83

Find Your Path as an Aircraft Mechanic

SJVC is committed to hands-on training in the skills you need as an Aircraft Mechanic. Learn more about our program and exciting opportunities.

Aircraft Mechanic Jobs

Aircraft mechanics work in and near airports to help with scheduled air transportation. They also work to create aerospace products and parts. Depending on the specific aircraft mechanic job they hold, they may work in airfields for the federal government, while others work in hangars or in repair centers. Some jobs are outside while others are in climate-controlled areas. The U.S. Armed Forces also hire mechanics to work on military installations. 

Many of these jobs rely on deadlines and strict adherence to safety codes. Most mechanics work 8-hour shifts with opportunities for overtime and weekend work. Safety precautions are a must as many techs work with heavy equipment and in close proximity to large equipment.

How to Become an A&P Mechanic or Aircraft Mechanic

Now that you know why to become an aircraft mechanic, you may be wondering how to become an aviation mechanic. Typically getting your start in aviation maintenance will require you to attend aircraft mechanic school. Additionally, there are some other steps and considerations before you can become an aircraft mechanic. 

    • Option 1: Attend an FAA-approved AMTS school
    • Option 2: Obtain 30 months of experience
      • Begin documenting hours in an A&P environment to gain relative experience in the field. 
  • Lastly, Pass a written, oral and practical exam
  • Once you complete an FAA-approved AMTS program or have 30 months of experience, a person can get the necessary certification and licensure notating their successful completion of exams. 

Do I Need to Be Certified to Be An Aircraft Mechanic?

It depends on the job. A&P Mechanics are certified. Some mechanic jobs require specialty certification. 

How Do I Get an A&P Certification?

Many accredited programs will offer a class to help a student get on the path of A&P certification. One can also sit for a written, oral and practical exam to be eligible for licensure. 

What to Look for in Aircraft Maintenance School

Not all aircraft maintenance schools are the same. Keep some of your personal goals in mind and consider the following to find the right airplane mechanic school for you:

  • Hands-on experience: It’s important that you get some real-life experience working as a mechanic. Make sure your program offers a blend of classroom instruction and hands-on experience. 
  • Instructor quality: Research your school and find reviews on instructors. Find instructors that have specialties in an area you want to study and consider asking them to be your mentor or at least recommend opportunities outside of school.
  • Approvals:  Make sure you attend an FAA-approved AMTS school. 
  • Cost: Find a program that you can afford. Talk to your school’s financial aid to determine what alternative funding options such as grants and scholarships exist for you. 

How Long is an Aviation Maintenance Technology Program?

An Aviation Maintenance Technology program can be completed in as few as between 17 and 22 months, depending on if you want a certificate of completion or an associate degree. The length of programs can vary depending on the institution.

What Will I Learn in SJVC’s Aircraft Maintenance Technology Courses?

SJVC’s Aviation Maintenance Technology program offers aircraft-specific classes including general safety and specifics about aircraft systems and parts including engines, turbines, propellers and basic electronics. See specific classes below.

Aircraft Maintenance Classes

SJVC offers the following core course requirements: 

  • AERO 100 Aircraft Basic Science 
  • AERO 110 Basic Electricity and Electronics 
  • AERO 120 Reciprocating Engine Theory and Engine Overhaul 
  • AERO 130 Sheet Metal Structures and Airframe Auxiliary Systems 
  • AERO 140 Turbine Engines 
  • AERO 150 Composite Structures 
  • AERO 160 Propellers and Engine Auxiliary Systems
  • AERO 170 Aircraft Landing Gear
  • AERO 200* Professional Licensing Seminar 

Kickstart Your Career as an Aircraft Mechanic

Small class sizes, individual attention, and hands-on training in the skills you need. Learn more about how to become an Aircraft Mechanic with SJVC.

Prepare for a Career in Aircraft Maintenance With SJVC

An Aviation Maintenance Technology degree with SJVC can help you work towards a rewarding career as a maintenance tech. Our faculty are experts in their field, often with real-world experience. Our students come from all walks of life but are committed to preparing for the exciting world of aviation. 

Learn more about San Joaquin Valley College’s program and request more information if you think it’s a good fit for you.  

Aircraft Mechanic FAQ

How long does it take to become an aircraft mechanic?

The length of time an aircraft mechanic school takes varies by institution and educational outcome. At SJVC, you can earn a certificate of completion in as few as 17 months or an Associate degree in as little as 22 months. 

How much do aviation mechanics make?

The median annual wage for aircraft mechanics and service technicians was $64,090 in May 2019. This number can be higher based on years of experience and specialized training. Be advised, salary for entry level positions may be lower than the national average.

What do aircraft mechanics do?

Aircraft mechanics typically do the following:

  • Diagnose mechanical or electrical problems
  • Repair components such as wings, brakes, electrical systems
  • Replace defective parts
  • Examine replacement aircraft parts for defects
  • Test aircraft parts with diagnostic equipment
  • Keep records of maintenance and repair work

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