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Aircraft Mechanic School Information

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Summary

Working in aviation maintenance often brings good pay, high satisfaction, and other advantages. Enrolling in an aircraft mechanic school can help you learn what it takes to ensure the safe and efficient operation of airplanes and helicopters. It can also help you prepare for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifications that many employers expect.

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Career Snapshot

Career Outlook
4.6% growth from 2019 to 2029

Median Salary
Aircraft Mechanics

Job Openings
Average Yearly Openings

Length of Training
Most Common Length

Work Settings

Specializations

Airframe, powerplant, avionics, maintenance, repair, inspection, airworthiness determination

  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • U.S. Department of Education

San Joaquin Valley College

  • Fresno, California
  • Aviation Maintenance Technology

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Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology

  • Los Angeles, California
  • Riverside, California
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Aviation Maintenance Technology

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National Aviation Academy

  • Tampa Bay, Florida
  • Concord, Massachusetts
  • Advanced Aircraft Systems
  • Aviation Maintenance Professional
  • Aviation Maintenance Technician

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Career Information

For mechanically minded individuals with a penchant for hands-on work, a career as an aircraft mechanic can bring a host of rewards.

Earnings

The median aircraft mechanic salary is $64,090, according to estimates from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program. The highest-paid technicians make over $101,000 per year.

Median earnings can vary dramatically between companies. For example, according to PayScale, aircraft mechanics at Boeing earn a median yearly wage of $58,093, while those at Delta make $89,000. At FedEx, people in this trade earn a median hourly wage of $39.12, whereas those at UPS make $50.02.

Avionics technicians specialize in the electronic instruments on-board an aircraft. They are usually aircraft mechanics who have taken advanced training specifically in avionics, so they typically command higher salaries. They have a median yearly wage of $65,700.

Job Openings & Outlook

Between 2019 and 2029, employment of aircraft mechanics and service technicians is projected to increase by 4.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Over that decade, an average of 11,200 aircraft mechanic jobs should become available each year. The vast majority of those openings will come from technicians retiring or changing to other occupations.

Key Benefits

  1. Good income potential: The median airplane mechanic salary is significantly higher than that of a car, bus, or boat mechanic, according to OES program estimates.
  2. A sense of pride in keeping people safe: You get to play an instrumental role in making sure air passengers and crew get to their final destinations safely.
  3. Versatility: In the process of learning how to become an aircraft mechanic, you have a chance to develop skills that can be applied to a variety of other industries, such as the heavy equipment, automotive, or energy sectors.

What an Aircraft Mechanic Does

Also known as an aviation technician or aviation maintenance technician, an aircraft mechanic carries out the service and repair work that keeps airplanes and helicopters in safe operating condition.

 They are often responsible for:

  • Reading blueprints, schematics, and maintenance manuals
  • Testing, repairing, and overhauling aircraft systems and components, including:
    • Engines
    • Wings
    • Propellers
    • Landing gear
    • Hydraulic systems
    • Communication and navigation systems
    • Fuel systems
    • Electrical systems
  • Checking for cracks, corrosion, or other damage
  • Repairing wood, metal, fabric, or other materials that form the skin of the aircraft
  • Performing safety checks
  • Updating maintenance records

Work Settings

As an aircraft maintenance technician, you could work in:

  • Airfields
  • Hangars
  • Repair stations
  • Military bases

Specializations

Most aircraft mechanics earn FAA certificates as airframe and powerplant (A&P) mechanics, but they can choose to specialize in just one of those areas. Airframe involves every part of an aircraft other than the engine, propellers, and instruments. Powerplant focuses on engines and propellers.

Other potential specialties, some of which require additional training or certification, include:

Avionics: Maintain an aircraft's electronic equipment, such as the radio, radar, flight control, and entertainment systems.

Maintenance: Concentrate on routine servicing and preventive maintenance.

Repair: Fix specific issues that pilots notice during flight or that come up during inspections.

Inspection: Carry out a detailed review to determine if an aircraft is ready to return to service following major repairs.

Airworthiness determination: Examine and test a used aircraft to see if it meets all the requirements for safe operation.

Career FAQs

Is aircraft mechanic a good job?

For people who enjoy solving problems, working with their hands, and continually learning new skills, a career as an aviation maintenance technician can be an excellent fit. The work is mentally and physically challenging, and the pay can be quite good. As technicians gain experience, they can pursue positions in maintenance hubs all over the country. Plus, they often receive perks like free or discounted flights.

What are the working conditions like?

Aircraft service technicians typically work 40 hours a week, though overtime is not uncommon. They usually work in shifts, which may be scheduled around the clock. Experienced mechanics often get their choice of shifts.

Technicians frequently work with heavy components and tools, and they may be required to bend, kneel, crouch, crawl, reach from ladders, or balance on the top of fuselages. Hangars and repair stations can be noisy environments, so mechanics must use hearing protection and high-visibility vests. They may also be called upon to work outdoors in all kinds of weather.

Where do aircraft mechanics make the most money?

According to OES program data, the states listed below have the highest average wages for aircraft mechanics and service technicians:

  • Rhode Island: $80,520
  • Nevada: $79,010
  • Connecticut: $76,050
  • Minnesota: $75,940
  • New Jersey: $75,120

The list is a bit different for avionics technicians:

  • Washington: $83,940
  • Hawaii: $79,720
  • California: $75,740
  • Maryland: $74,100
  • Missouri: $73,780


Education & Training

You can become an aircraft mechanic by completing an FAA-approved program at a technical school or receiving training through the military. A few technicians learn on the job, but that is typically a longer route to certification.

Length of Training

Aircraft mechanic school is generally 12 to 24 months long.*

Most Common Length of School*
(range in months)

  • Automotive technology
    6-24
  • Diesel technology
    9-24
  • Marine technology
    12-24
  • Aviation maintenance
    12-24

Program Options

Certificate programs: These typically take anywhere from one to two years.* Many schools offer specific certificates in airframe, powerplant, or avionics technology.

Associate degree programs: These usually last between 20 and 24 months.* They are more comprehensive than certificate programs and include general courses like math, physics, and public speaking.

Bachelor's degree programs: These are much less common and generally take about four years to complete.* Programs at this level often focus on maintenance management.

Typical Courses

The specific courses that are offered vary by program. However, aircraft mechanic schools usually cover topics like:

  • Aviation science
  • Maintenance documents and regulations
  • Basic electricity
  • Metallic and non-metallic structures
  • Basic welding
  • Cabin atmosphere control systems
  • Communication and navigation systems
  • Fire protection systems
  • Position and warning systems
  • Fuel systems
  • Hydraulic and pneumatic systems
  • Landing gear
  • Reciprocating engines
  • Propeller systems
  • Turbine engines
  • Engine cooling and exhaust systems
  • Assembly and rigging
  • Cleaning and corrosion control
  • Airframe inspection
  • Engine inspection and operation
  • Weight and balance
  • Ground operations
  • Shop practices

Most programs also prepare students to take the FAA certification exams.

Skills You Can Learn

 You could begin learning how to:

  • Interpret maintenance manuals
  • Use diagnostic tools
  • Repair and maintain aircraft materials, components, and systems
  • Clean equipment and apply corrosion control methods
  • Apply paint and finishes
  • Assemble rigging
  • Inspect airframes and/or engines
  • Follow safety practices
  • Update maintenance records

Licensing & Certification

Technically, aircraft mechanics do not need to be licensed or certified. However, if a mechanic does not have an FAA certificate, he or she must work under the supervision of a certified technician. Plus, he or she is not permitted to release an aircraft back into service.

The FAA offers both airframe and powerplant certificates. An aviation mechanic can obtain each separately or both together. In order to be eligible, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be fluent in English
  • Graduate from an FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school OR have at least 18 months of experience in one area or 30 months of experience in both areas
  • Pass a written, oral, and practical test (and complete all of them within a 24-month period)

You can also choose to get certified as a repairman. Under FAA regulations, technicians with a repairman certificate are only authorized to work on aircraft components that the certificate specifically mentions, such as propellers or instruments. Also, they can only work on aircraft at the repair station at which they are employed. If they leave that repair station, their certificate is no longer valid.

To qualify, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be fluent in English
  • Be employed by a certified repair station and be recommended for the certificate by your employer
  • Have at least 18 months of experience with the specific type of work outlined in the certificate OR have completed formal training related to that type of work

Avionics technicians can choose to seek Aircraft Electronics Technician (AET) certification through the National Center for Aerospace & Transportation Technologies (NCATT). AET certification meets the formal training requirement for an FAA repairman certificate.

Additionally, technicians who repair or maintain communications equipment may require a license from the Federal Communications Commission.

The FAA also offers separate certificates for:

  • Inspection authorized (IA) mechanics: IA mechanics must have held an A&P certificate for at least three years. They must be actively engaged in maintaining aircraft, have a fixed base of operations and access to the necessary facilities to carry out an inspection, and pass a written test.
  • Designated airworthiness representatives (DARs): Maintenance DARs must hold an A&P certificate or a repairman certificate and submit an application to the FAA.

Education & Training FAQs

How much does aircraft mechanic training cost?

Tuition and fees vary widely depending on what credential you pursue and where you enroll. Based on a review of programs at 30 different institutions (both public and private), it costs anywhere from about $1,500 to $38,000 to go to aircraft mechanic school for one year. However, many students are eligible for financial aid that can bring those costs down.

What can I do to get ready for a program?

Taking high school courses like chemistry, physics, math, computer science, and electronics can be good preparation. You may also want to start getting comfortable reading the maintenance manuals for different aircraft, from propeller planes to passenger jets. Many such manuals can be found online.


* Length of training information is based on a combination of information from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the U.S. Department of Education, and a wide sampling of relevant programs from about 30 individual school websites. They are a mix of public, private non-profit, and private for-profit institutions.