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Aircrew Technician

Significant Points
  • Most workers learn their jobs in 1 of about 170 schools certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
  • Job opportunities should be favorable for persons who have completed an aircraft mechanic training program, but keen competition is likely for jobs at major airlines, which offer the best pay and benefits.
  • Job opportunities are likely to continue to be best at small commuter and regional airlines, at FAA repair stations, and in general aviation.
Nature of the Work

Today’s airplanes are highly complex machines with parts that must function within extreme tolerances for them to operate safely. To keep aircraft in peak operating condition, aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians perform scheduled maintenance, make repairs, and complete inspections required by the FAA.

Many aircraft mechanics specialize in preventive maintenance. They inspect aircraft engines, landing gear, instruments, pressurized sections, accessories—brakes, valves, pumps, and air-conditioning systems, for example—and other parts of the aircraft, and do the necessary maintenance and replacement of parts. They also keep records related to the maintenance performed on the aircraft. Mechanics and technicians conduct inspections following a schedule based on the number of hours the aircraft has flown, calendar days since the last inspection, cycles of operation, or a combination of these factors. In large, sophisticated planes equipped with aircraft monitoring systems, mechanics can gather valuable diagnostic information from electronic boxes and consoles that monitor the aircraft's basic operations. In planes of all sorts, aircraft mechanics examine engines by working through specially designed openings while standing on ladders or scaffolds or by using hoists or lifts to remove the entire engine from the craft. After taking an engine apart, mechanics use precision instruments to measure parts for wear and use x-ray and magnetic inspection equipment to check for invisible cracks. They repair or replace worn or defective parts. Mechanics also may repair sheet metal or composite surfaces; measure the tension of control cables; and check for corrosion, distortion, and cracks in the fuselage, wings, and tail. After completing all repairs, they must test the equipment to ensure that it works properly.

Other mechanics specialize in repair work rather than inspection. They find and fix problems that pilots describe. For example, during a preflight check, a pilot may discover that the aircraft's fuel gauge does not work. To solve the problem, mechanics may troubleshoot the electrical system, using electrical test equipment to make sure that no wires are broken or shorted out, and replace any defective electrical or electronic components. Mechanics work as fast as safety permits so that the aircraft can be put back into service quickly.

Some mechanics work on one or 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. In small, independent repair shops, mechanics usually inspect and repair many different types of aircraft.

Airframe mechanics are authorized to work on any part of the aircraft except the instruments, power plants, and propellers. Powerplant mechanics are authorized to work on engines and do limited work on propellers. Combination airframe-and-powerplant mechanics—called A&P mechanics—work on all parts of the plane except the instruments. Most mechanics working on civilian aircraft today are A&P mechanics.

Avionics systems—components used for aircraft navigation and radio communications, weather radar systems, and other instruments and computers that control flight, engine, and other primary functions—are now an integral part of aircraft design and have vastly increased aircraft capability. Avionics technicians repair and maintain these systems. Because of the increasing use of technology, more time is spent repairing electronic systems, such as computerized controls. Technicians also may be required to analyze and develop solutions to complex electronic problems.

Work environment. Mechanics work in hangars, repair stations, or out on the airfield on the "flight lines" where aircraft park. Mechanics often work under time pressure to maintain flight schedules or, in general aviation, to keep from inconveniencing customers. At the same time, mechanics have a tremendous responsibility to maintain safety standards, and this can cause the job to be stressful.

Frequently, mechanics must lift or pull objects weighing more than 70 pounds. They often stand, lie, or kneel in awkward positions and occasionally must work in precarious positions, such as on scaffolds or ladders. Noise and vibration are common when engines are being tested, so ear protection is necessary. According to BLS data, full-time aircraft mechanics and service technicians experienced a higher than average work-related injury and illness rate. Aircraft mechanics usually work 40 hours a week on 8-hour shifts around the clock. Overtime and weekend work is frequent.

Aircraft Loadmaster, GS-2185-07

This level includes aircraft loadmaster positions assigned to the crew of heavy multiengine transport aircraft. Typical missions for these aircraft include airlift of cargo and personnel, search and rescue, medical evaluation, and airdrop of personnel and equipment. Aircraft loadmasters are responsible to the aircraft commander for performance of weight and balance computations, cargo load planning and security, directing cargo or personnel loading and off-loading operations, providing for passenger needs and safety, and assisting in cargo or personnel airdrops.

Duties

Preflight duties include planning and computing the distribution of cargo and/or personnel throughout the compartments and stations of the aircraft to achieve an optimum weight and balance condition for the safe and efficient operation of the aircraft. Computations take into consideration total weight involved (aircraft, fuel, cargo, and crew), duration of the flight, weight lost through fuel consumption, and conditions at takeoff, mid-flight, and landing. In load planning, the loadmaster also considers allowable floor weights, need for shoring and restraint, segregation of hazardous cargo, and plans for emergency jettison of cargo. The loadmaster uses prescribed mathematical formulae and/or charts by which the computations of weight for each station in the cargo compartment will be accomplished to accommodate the entire load.

Performs preflight check of the equipment/systems associated with the cargo function, including restraint rails, cargo doors, ramps, hatches, and other assigned equipment in the cargo compartment, e.g., lighting and communications. On personnel airlift missions, briefs passengers on emergency procedures and use of survival equipment. Directs loading of the aircraft according to plan and ensures that cargo is adequately restrained. For airdrop missions, performs preload inspection of airdrop cargo, and ensures that pallet and container extraction systems are rigged properly and that equipment for personnel drops are functional.

In-flight duties include tending to the needs of passengers, checking security of the cargo, operating cargo doors and hatches, completing predrop check of cargo/personnel, releasing airdrop cargo, and, if necessary, taking emergency action to jettison cargo.

Other duties include recomputing weight and balance for landing, representing the aircraft commander in dealing with customs authorities, directing off-loading operations, and performing postflight checks and inspections.

Knowledge and skills required: Systems or equipment knowledge and skills requirements relate primarily to the cargo/passenger transport function, or to equipment located in or serving the cargo/passenger compartment, e.g., mechanical restraint systems, cargo doors, ramps, hatches, seats, litters, lighting, and intercom systems. Specific knowledge and skills applied vary depending upon the assignment, i.e., point-to-point transportation of cargo and/or personnel or airdrop missions.

Responsibility: Procedures related to cargo loading (pallets, containers), use of restraint rails, and parachute extraction rigging are highly standardized. For outsize cargo, guidelines typically apply; however, the loadmaster must recognize deviations from standard procedures and apply judgment to determine positioning, bracing, and securing of the items.

Decisions relate mainly to computations of weight and balance and restraint factors, and involve use of basic arithmetic functions and skills to interpret loading charts and schematics.

Hazards involved: The degree of hazard involved varies according to the nature of the assignments. Those involving the transport of cargo and/or personnel from one location to another typically entail only a minimum degree of hazard. Assignments involving the airdrop of cargo or personnel entail a substantially higher degree of hazard associated with working around open doors of the aircraft, taking emergency action to release cargo that is lodged in the aircraft, or recovering parachute static lines.

Aerial Refueling Technician, GS-2185-08

This level includes aerial refueling technician positions assigned to tanker aircraft. Tanker aircraft are primarily responsible for the in-flight refueling of other aircraft, with a secondary role of transporting cargo or personnel. In addition to their primary responsibility for controlling and operating the in-flight refueling system, these positions (as required) perform aircraft loadmaster functions and provide assistance to the navigator and pilot in the operation of the aircraft.

Duties

Preflight planning duties include determining fuel, personnel, and cargo weight and distribution for computing aircraft weight and balance. Ensures that the loading, tiedown, and proper weight distribution is accomplished as preplanned to maintain optimum center of gravity for safe and efficient operation. Performs preflight check and inspection of the in-flight refueling system and controls, and preflight checks of other assigned systems and equipment (e.g., electrical system, intercom, hatches). As required, directs cargo loading and securing operations, and briefs passengers on emergency procedures and use of survival equipment.

For tanker aircraft which do not require a flight engineer, the aerial refueling technician computes takeoff and landing data, assists pilot in completing preflight checklist, and monitors engine instruments during flight. Maintains in-flight weight and balance status of the aircraft and recomputes status prior to landing. Assists the navigator by performing preflight checks of navigation equipment and making celestial observations.

Prior to rendezvous with receiver aircraft, the technician performs an operational check of refueling systems and controls. Communicates with receiver pilots, directs them into air refueling position, and operates the in-flight refueling boom to make contact with the receiver aircraft. Monitors controls for proper operation of refueling systems, and advises receiver pilot of actions required to safely maintain position within the air refueling envelope. Controls operation of refueling by maintaining communications with the tanker pilot and pilot of the receiver aircraft. The technician must be prepared to react immediately to discontinue refueling operations and to perform emergency operations and procedures to off-load or on-load fuel.

Postflight duties include supervising cargo or passenger offloading, performing post-flight check and inspection of the aircraft and in-flight refueling system, and completing required flight reports.

Knowledge and skills required: The work requires a thorough knowledge of aircraft electrical, hydraulic, and pneumatic systems applicable to the in-flight refueling operation. The work also requires knowledge of weight and balance factors, and the procedures and operations required for cargo transport; a general knowledge of aircraft fuel, electrical, and hydraulic systems and components; and a basic knowledge of aircraft navigational equipment and operating procedures. Aerial refueling technicians must have the skill to monitor and operate a variety of aircraft systems and equipment involved in the work and carry out the procedures and operations necessary to complete their assigned responsibilities.

Responsibility: The work entails performance of a broader range of diversified functions, both preflight and inflight. In addition to primary responsibility for the in-flight refueling operation, the work may involve functions normally performed by loadmasters for cargo/ personnel airlift missions. The work also entails the assisting the navigator and the pilot by performing some of the more basic tasks that would normally be performed by a flight engineer (e.g., making celestial observations, computing takeoff and landing data).

In the performance of their primary duties, these positions have considerable responsibility for making safe contact with receiver aircraft, insuring that receivers remain safely within the refueling envelope throughout the transfer, and taking appropriate emergency action.

Hazard involved: Aerial refueling operations are characterized by a substantial degree of hazard. The work includes both day and night operations in all weather conditions and involves a variety of receiver aircraft, some of which may affect the flight performance of the tanker. Performance of the work requires considerable skill to insure safe contact with receivers throughout the fuel transfer and to react to abnormal changes in attitude of the receiving aircraft.

Flight Engineer, GS-2185-09

This level includes flight engineer positions assigned to the flightcrew of heavy multiengine aircraft. Aircraft missions include cargo/personnel airlift or airdrop, search and rescue, medical evacuation, and certain in-flight refueling missions. Flight engineers are primarily responsible for participating in flight planning, performing preflight checks of the aircraft, assisting the pilot in ground and flight operations, monitoring the operation of engines and all aircraft systems throughout the flight, and controlling aircraft environmental systems.

The primary responsibility of the flight engineer is assisting the pilot in the safe and efficient operation of the aircraft. By way of contrast, primary responsibilities of other aircrew positions normally involve specific functions or operations related to the overall mission of the aircraft.

Duties

Flight engineer preflight duties include flight plan coordination; checking with maintenance personnel on aircraft status; determining or reviewing weight and balance computations; computing aircraft performance data for takeoff, cruise, and landing; determining fuel consumption; checking overall condition of the aircraft; and performing aircraft systems operational checks. The flight engineer inspects engines, fuselage, and control surfaces for mechanical and structural soundness and proper operation. Assists the pilot in completing preflight checklist, during engine start and throughout ground operations. Monitors adherence to departure procedures, routing, altitudes, and clearances.

During flight, the engineer continually monitors the operation of engines and all aircraft systems such as electrical, hydraulic, fuel, air conditioning, and pressurization. Manages fuel distribution and consumption and records actual in-flight performance. Observes warning indicators and lights for fire, overheat, depressurization, or system failures. Reports abnormal conditions or malfunctions to the aircraft commander, advises on false indicators, and, as required, initiates corrective or emergency action. Performs in-flight adjustments that are required and possible. May perform limited navigational assistance to the pilot by monitoring adherence to the flight plan, assisting in the operation of navigational equipment, and operating weather avoidance radar. Updates landing data based on current conditions at the destination.

Completes postflight check of the aircraft and coordinates with maintenance activities on discrepancies requiring correction.

Knowledge and skills required: Knowledge and skills requirements are concerned with primary systems critical to performance of the aircraft and involve the complete range of flight operations and procedures. Required knowledge and skills are related to overall performance of the aircraft and require a depth of theoretical and operational knowledge of a wide variety of aircraft systems and components, e.g., propulsion, airframe, electrical, hydraulic, and environmental systems. Most other aircrew positions require knowledge and skills related to a narrower range of systems and equipment to perform more limited functions.

Responsibility: Degree of responsibility is greater than is characteristic of most other aircrew positions due to the flight engineer's responsibility for directly assisting the pilot in the operation of the aircraft, the complexity of the systems involved, and the skill required to diagnose and analyze the impact of malfunctions on safe operation of the aircraft.

Demands for the exercise of judgment in more critical areas are greater because of such factors as:

  • Interrelationship of the aircraft systems involved, i.e., the need to consider impact of malfunctions on overall performance and effect on other systems;
  • Greater variety of possible causes of malfunctions; and
  • Alternatives that must be considered in taking corrective action.
  • Hazard involved: As is the case with other crew positions, the degree of hazard involved is directly related to the requirements of the mission. For example, flight engineers assigned to aircraft engaged in tactical airdrops or operations from short, unimproved airfields would be exposed to a greater degree of hazard than those assigned to aircraft engaged in point-to-point transportation of cargo or personnel.

    Flight Instructor, GS-2185-11/13

    This part provides criteria for evaluating positions primarily involved in instructing and/or flight examining for their particular aircrew specialty or specific mission requirements. Duties and responsibilities may include providing ground and flight training to develop and upgrade the skills of aircrew members, administering flight evaluations of aircrew members and instructors, and evaluating the effectiveness of the aircrew training program. Such positions have as their paramount requirements, knowledge of the full range of crew duties and responsibilities for their particular specialty; knowledge of methods of instruction; knowledge of aircrew training program requirements, procedures, and standards of performance; and skill to apply this knowledge in planning, developing, and executing unit training and evaluation programs.

    Reserve training programs at the individual unit level are geared to provide specialized training and experience to develop full competence in the performance of crew duties for the assigned unit missions. Reservists without prior experience or training in the target aircrew specialty receive basic training in active duty military schools, including specific training for the assigned aircraft and missions. Though schooled in the basics, these reservists require further training and experience to master full performance level skills in their specialty.

    Reservists with prior training and experience in their specialty may receive refresher training at the unit level to fully qualify them for the aircrew duties. For example, a reservist with prior loadmaster experience may receive qualification training at the unit level, without retaking the basic training course.

    Instruction Assignments

    Regardless of the particular aircrew specialty involved, instructors in these series follow prescribed programs of instruction in terms of course content, coverage, and scope of material presented. The instructor may prepare course outlines or adapt lesson material to meet the training needs of particular situations or students and/or supplement existing training materials with approved texts. Usually, the overall program of instruction is standardized according to the kind of flying assignments or missions of the unit. In rare cases, course material may need to be specifically developed.

    Instructors are selected from among the best qualified aircrew members. Prior to designation as an instructor, they are required to take formal training in the methods of instruction, complete on-the-job training which includes practice instruction, and pass a flight evaluation.

    Typical instruction duties include:

  • Reviewing prior training and experience records of newly assigned reservists to determine and plan the type and level of training necessary to achieve the required level of proficiency or skill;
  • Preparing individual development records, along with a training syllabus with projected units of training required;
  • Planning and conducting ground training, including simulator and procedures training in operational/mission requirements, equipment operation, correct method for performing aircrew duties, and applicable emergency procedures;
  • Scheduling and participating in flights with reservists to observe in-flight performance, demonstrate proper procedures and techniques, and evaluate progress;
  • Recommending military reclassification actions for reservists;
  • Maintaining records of ground and flight training provided to reservists, analyzing progress, and preparing required training reports; and
  • Performing various other administrative functions concerned with the unit training program, such as scheduling reservists for training periods; interviewing potential candidates for crew positions; acquiring training aids, course materials, and training equipment; and insuring that technical orders/publications are properly maintained and pertinent changes are brought to the attention of the reservists.
  • Flight Examining Assignments

    Flight examiners are fully qualified instructors who are authorized to administer flight evaluations for their particular aircrew specialty. Typical flight examining duties include:

  • Evaluating the performance of aircrew members completing initial training;
  • Instructing, evaluating, and examining rated instructors;
  • Providing periodic flight evaluations of rated aircrew members; and
  • Administering requalification evaluations.
  • Some flight examiners are designated as standardization/evaluation flight examiners and have additional responsibilities which include:

  • Insuring that established standards of flight proficiency are maintained through evaluation or observation;
  • Evaluating performance during operational and training flights on a no-notice basis;
  • Analyzing evaluation data for adverse trends in performance;
  • Evaluating ground and flight training programs;
  • Reviewing aircraft incidents, operational hazards, and accident reports and making appropriate recommendations to supervisors;
  • Recommending improvements in aircrew procedures; and
  • Attending critiques of flight evaluations.
  • Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

    Most mechanics who work on civilian aircraft are certified by the FAA, which requires mechanics to be at least 18 years of age, fluent in English, and have a high school diploma or its equivalent in addition to having the needed technical skills. Most mechanics learn their skills in an FAA-certified Aviation Maintenance Technician School.

    Education and training. Although a few people become mechanics through on-the-job training, most learn the skills needed to do their jobs in 1 of about 170 Aviation Maintenance Technician schools certified by the FAA. By law, FAA standards require that certified mechanic schools offer students a minimum of 1,900 class-hours. Coursework in schools normally lasts from 12 to 24 months and provides training with the tools and equipment used on the job. About one-third of these schools award 2-year and 4-year degrees in avionics, aviation technology, or aviation maintenance management.

    Aircraft trade schools are placing more emphasis on technologies such as turbine engines, composite materials, and aviation electronics, which are increasingly being used in the construction of new aircraft. Technological advances have also affected aircraft maintenance, meaning mechanics must have an especially strong background in computers and electronics to get or keep jobs in this field.

    Courses in mathematics, physics, chemistry, electronics, computer science, and mechanical drawing are helpful because they demonstrate many of the principles involved in the operation of aircraft, and knowledge of these principles is often necessary to make repairs. Courses that develop writing skills also are important because mechanics are often required to submit reports. Mechanics must be able to read, write, and understand English.

    A few mechanics are trained on the job by experienced mechanics. Their work must be supervised and documented by certified mechanics until they have FAA certificates.

    Licensure. The FAA requires that all maintenance work on aircraft be performed by certified mechanics or under the supervision of a certified mechanic. As a result, most airlines hire mechanics that have FAA certification. The FAA offers certification for airframe mechanics and powerplant mechanics, although most airlines prefer to hire mechanics with a combined A&P certificate.

    Mechanics need at least 18 months of work experience before applying for an airframe or powerplant certificate, and 30 months of experience working with both engines and airframes for a combined A&P certificate, although completion of a program at an FAA-certified school can be substituted for theses work experience requirements.

    In addition to having experience or formal training, applicants for all certificates must pass written, oral, and practical tests that demonstrate that they can do the work authorized by the certificate. Written tests are administered at one of the many designated computer testing facilities worldwide, while the oral and practical tests are administered by a Designated Mechanic Examiner of the FAA. All tests must be passed within a 24- month period to receive certification.

    FAA regulations require current work experience to keep certificates valid. Applicants must have at least 1,000 hours of work experience in the previous 24 months or take a refresher course. Mechanics also must take at least 16 hours of training every 24 months to keep their certificates current. Many mechanics take training courses offered by manufacturers or employers, usually through outside contractors.

    The FAA allows certified airframe mechanics who are trained and qualified and who have the proper tools to work on avionics equipment. However, avionics technicians are not required to have FAA certification if they have avionics repair experience from the military or from working for avionics manufacturers. Avionics technicians who work on communications equipment must obtain a restricted radio-telephone operator license from the Federal Communications Commission.

    Other qualifications. Aircraft mechanics must do careful and thorough work that requires a high degree of mechanical aptitude. Employers seek applicants who are self-motivated, hard-working, enthusiastic, and able to diagnose and solve complex mechanical problems. Additionally, employers prefer mechanics who can perform a variety of tasks. Agility is important for the reaching and climbing necessary to do the job. Because they may work on the tops of wings and fuselages on large jet planes, aircraft mechanics must not be afraid of heights.

    Advances in computer technology, aircraft systems, and the materials used to manufacture airplanes have made mechanics' jobs more highly technical. Aircraft mechanics must possess the skills necessary to troubleshoot and diagnose complex aircraft systems. They also must continually update their skills with and knowledge of new technology and advances in aircraft technology.

    Some aircraft mechanics in the Armed Forces acquire enough general experience to satisfy the work experience requirements for the FAA certificate. With additional study, they may pass the certifying exam. In general, however, jobs in the military services are too specialized to provide the broad experience required by the FAA. Most Armed Forces mechanics have to complete the entire FAA training program, although a few receive some credit for the material they learned in the service. In any case, military experience is a great advantage when seeking employment; employers consider applicants with formal training to be the most desirable applicants.

    Advancement. As aircraft mechanics gain experience, they may advance to lead mechanic (or crew chief), inspector, lead inspector, or shop supervisor positions. Opportunities are best for those who have an aircraft inspector's authorization. To obtain an inspector's authorization, a mechanic must have held an A&P certificate for at least 3 years, with 24 months of hands-on experience.

    In the airlines, where promotion often is determined by examination, supervisors sometimes advance to executive positions. Those with broad experience in maintenance and overhaul might become inspectors with the FAA. With additional business and management training, some open their own aircraft maintenance facilities. Mechanics with the necessary pilot licenses and flying experience may take the FAA examination for the position of flight engineer, with opportunities to become pilots.

    Mechanics and technicians learn many different skills in their training that can be applied to other jobs, and some transfer to other skilled repairer occupations or electronics technician jobs. For example, some avionics technicians continue their education and become aviation engineers, electrical engineers (specializing in circuit design and testing), or communication engineers. Others become repair consultants, in-house electronics designers, or join research groups that test and develop products.

    Employment

    Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians held about 140,300 jobs in 2008; about 87 percent of these workers were aircraft mechanics and service technicians; the rest were avionics technicians.

    Employment of aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians primarily is concentrated in a small number of industries. Almost half of aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians worked in air transportation and support activities for air transportation. About 21 percent worked in aerospace product and parts manufacturing and about 15 percent worked for the Federal Government. Most of the rest worked for companies that operate their own planes to transport executives and cargo.

    Most airline mechanics and service technicians work at major airports near large cities. Civilian mechanics employed by the U.S. Armed Forces work at military installations.

    Job Outlook

    Job growth for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians is expected to be about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job opportunities should be favorable for people who have completed an aircraft mechanic training program, but keen competition is likely for jobs at major airlines.

    Employment change. Employment is expected to increase by 7 percent during the 2008-18 period, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Passenger air traffic is expected to increase as the result of an expanding economy and a growing population, and the need for aircraft mechanics and service technicians will grow accordingly. Although there is an increasing trend for some large airlines to outsource aircraft and avionics equipment mechanic jobs overseas, most airline companies still prefer that aircraft maintenance be performed in the U.S. because overseas contractors may not comply with more stringent U.S. safety regulations.

    Job prospects. Most job openings for aircraft mechanics through the year 2018 will stem from the need to replace the many mechanics expected to retire over the next decade. In addition, some mechanics will leave to work in related fields, such as automobile repair, as their skills are largely transferable to other maintenance and repair occupations.

    Also contributing to favorable future job opportunities for mechanics is the long-term trend toward fewer students entering technical schools to learn skilled maintenance and repair trades. Many of the students who have the ability and aptitude to work on planes are choosing to go to college, work in computer-related fields, or go into other repair and maintenance occupations with better working conditions. If this trend continues, the supply of trained aviation mechanics may not keep up with the needs of the air transportation industry.

    Job opportunities will continue to be the best at small commuter and regional airlines, at FAA repair stations, and in general aviation. Commuter and regional airlines is the fastest growing segment of the air transportation industry, but wages in these airlines tend to be lower than those in the major airlines, so they attract fewer job applicants. Also, some jobs will become available as experienced mechanics leave for higher paying jobs with the major airlines or transfer to other occupations. Mechanics will face more competition for jobs with large airlines because the high wages and travel benefits that these jobs offer generally attract more qualified applicants than there are openings.

    Nonetheless, job opportunities with the airlines are expected to be better than they have been in the past. In general, prospects will be best for applicants with experience and an A&P certification. Mechanics who keep abreast of technological advances in electronics, composite materials, and other areas will be in greatest demand. Also, mechanics who are willing to relocate to smaller rural areas will have better job opportunities.

    Avionics technicians who are trained to work with complex aircraft systems, performing some duties normally performed by certified A&P mechanics, should have the best job prospects. Additionally, technicians with licensing that enables them to work on the airplane, either removing or reinstalling equipment, are expected to be in especially high demand.

    Earnings

    Median hourly wages of aircraft mechanics and service technicians were about $24.71 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $20.25 and $29.25. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $15.85, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $33.19. Median hourly wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of aircraft mechanics and service technicians in May 2008 were:

    Scheduled air transportation $27.96
    Federal Executive Branch 24.98
    Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 24.47
    Nonscheduled air transportation 24.27
    Support activities for air transportation 20.95

    Median hourly wages of avionics technicians were about $23.71 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $20.10 and $28.02. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $16.45, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $30.87.

    Mechanics who work on jets for the major airlines generally earn more than those working on other aircraft. Those who graduate from an aviation maintenance technician school often earn higher starting salaries than individuals who receive training in the Armed Forces or on the job. Airline mechanics and their immediate families receive reduced-fare transportation on their own and most other airlines.

    Almost 3 in 10 aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians are members of unions or covered by union agreements. The principal unions are the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the Transport Workers Union of America. Some mechanics are represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

    Sources of Additional Information

    Information about jobs with a particular airline can be obtained by writing to the personnel manager of the company.

    For general information about aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians, contact:

    • Professional Aviation Maintenance Association, 400 North Washington St., Suite 300. Alexandria, VA 22314. Internet: http://www.pama.org

    For information on jobs in a particular area, contact employers at local airports or local offices of the State employment service.

    Information on obtaining Aircrew Technician positions with the Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the Federal Government's official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at http://www.usajobs.gov or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724–1850 or  (703) 724–1850  or TDD (978) 461–8404 and   (978) 461–8404. These numbers are not toll free, and charges may result. For advice on how to find and apply for Federal jobs, download the Insider's Guide to the Federal Hiring Process” online here.

    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition; and
    OPM's Position Classification Standards for White Collar Work

     


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