Maintain Aircraft and Earn a Solid Living
If you are detail-oriented, have a knack for fixing things and love problem-solving, a career as an aircraft mechanic could be right up your alley. Enjoy a middle class income and benefits without many years of schooling. You will spend your days diagnosing and fixing aircraft, as well as replacing parts to ensure the safety of passengers and airline crews. Dependable child care prevents stress when you are required to work irregular shifts or weekend hours.
Aircraft mechanics work on teams directly responsible for maintaining, repairing and ensuring the safe working order of an aircraft. They keep maintenance records, check for cracks or damage to the wings or tail of the plane, replace parts, inspect the engine, and repair sheet metal and parts. Aircraft mechanics are expected to maintain all aircraft in accordance with FAA standards, so maintenance is often on a schedule and must meet very particular guidelines. They work with specialized instruments that measure wear and tear on parts, as well as predict functionality.
Aircraft mechanics must have a high school diploma or the equivalent and then attend a Part 147 FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school to be issued a certificate by the FAA. Certifications are available for body work or engine work, and employers generally prefer mechanics certified in both. Aircraft mechanics must be 18 years of age and fluent in English as well as complete 30 months of experience to qualify for certification. Additional certification for inspection is available after an additional three years on the job.
The median annual salary for aircraft mechanics is $60,170, which means that half earn more than this, while the other half earns less. The top 10 percent earns more than $87,880, while the bottom 10 percent earns less than $35,960. Those who work in scheduled air transportation have the highest median salary, at $71,810 per year.
Aircraft mechanics most often work in hangars or repair stations and on air fields and can work in a variety of weather conditions. Ear protection, safety vests and other special equipment help keep them safe as they work with chemicals and equipment and engage in heavy lifting. Most jobs are at or near major airports, so commute time can add up during busy times of the year for air travel. Some civilian aircraft mechanics also work for the armed forces on military property. Rotating shifts make evening and weekend work common, so solid child care is a necessity.
Years of Experience
Income varies by employer, geography, certification level and experience. Over time, income tends to rise quite a bit, and one possible salary projection looks like this:
- Entry-Level: $27,925‒$63,416
- Mid-Career: $32,881‒$71,044
- Experienced: $37,258‒$82,065
- Late Career: $45,073‒$96,800
Job Growth Trend
Job opportunities for aircraft mechanics are expected to grow by 5 percent over the next decade, about as fast as for other industries. Gradually increasing air traffic and the need to replace those who leave the profession are the biggest contributors to growth and job opportunities.