What Does an Aircraft Mechanic Do?
If you’re fascinated by planes, here’s a job that will help you learn more about aircraft every day.
Aircraft mechanics — also called aircraft maintenance technicians or airframe and powerplant (A&P) mechanics — keep aircraft safe for flying. They follow detailed Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines to repair and maintain different types of aircraft. They perform scheduled maintenance, troubleshoot problems, conduct inspections and make sure aircraft are ready for operation.
Many mechanics are generalists. These certified mechanics repair different types of aircraft, from commercial airliners to private business jets to single- or multi-engine propeller planes. Others are specialists who focus on a specific type of aircraft or a specific part. For example, avionics technicians repair and maintain a plane’s electrical systems.
Sound like a good fit for you? There's so much potential in this career, which is why it's one of SkillPointe's highest-paying skilled jobs that don't require a bachelor's degree. Read on to learn how to become an aircraft mechanic, including what training is required and what skills would make you a good fit.
- Diagnose problems with mechanical and electrical systems
- Repair systems and specific parts, like brakes
- Replace defective parts
- Inspect all aircraft repairs and components, including de-icing systems, hydraulic systems and landing gear
- Follow FAA rules for aircraft maintenance and other safety rules
- Read and interpret maintenance manuals and service updates
- Order supplies and equipment for repairs and maintenance
- Keep detailed repair and inspection records
How To Become An Aircraft Mechanic: FAQs
What are the requirements to become an aircraft mechanic?
Students who want to be aircraft mechanics must attend an FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school. These skills can also be learned on the job or through military training in aviation maintenance, which is recognized by the FAA.
Aircraft mechanics must have 30 months of experience working on aircraft to qualify for their airframe and powerplant (A&P) certificate, which is required to work independently. (Airframe covers non-engine related mechanical, structural and skin-related components of aircraft maintenance; powerplant covers engine work.) About 18 months are needed to get either an A or P certification. Many mechanics get both certifications. Either path requires passing written exams, oral exams and practical exams. (You must pass three knowledge tests for the written exam. For more information about testing and handbooks, see the FAA requirements tab.)
On-the-job training must be through an FAA Certified Repair Station under the direct supervision of a certified mechanic. Supervision continues until the mechanic is certified.
Avionics technicians typically earn an associate degree.
What other qualifications do I need?
Students must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent and speak, write and read English fluently to get started.
As with other skilled jobs, maintaining certification is important for aircraft mechanics. Within a two-year time period, mechanics must complete relevant repair or maintenance work. That may include classes through an employer or an aircraft manufacturer.
Aircraft mechanics who have had their A&P certificate for at least three years can apply for Inspection Authorization (IA), which allows them to review and approve major aircraft repairs.
How long does it take to become an aircraft mechanic?
At least 30 months of experience is needed to qualify for the certifications mentioned above. Another way to earn those hours is completion of a Part 147 FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school program, which takes 17 or 18 months.
Is there demand for aircraft mechanics?
Yes. Jobs for aircraft mechanics and avionic technicians are expected to grow 11% from 2020 to 2030. That works out to about 14,000 openings per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Aircraft mechanics are one of SkillPointe's 24 highest-paying skilled jobs that don't require a bachelor's degree — meaning there is plenty of opportunity in this career.
Where do aircraft mechanics work and who employs them?
Aircraft mechanic jobs are in more places than you might think. They work in aircraft hangers, airfields and repair stations. Certified mechanics are needed by airlines, airplane manufacturers, repair stations, general aviation, aviation teaching institutions, businesses with private fleets and fixed-base operators — the commercial operations that have permission to operate and provide services at an airport.
What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?
Students who would excel at this career tend to have these qualities:
- Good hand-eye coordination
- Excellent troubleshooting skills
- Physically strong enough to lift heavy equipment
- Good dexterity and excel in the use of hand tools and power tools
- Good balance to work on ladders or scaffolding
The bottom line on becoming an aircraft mechanic
For someone who is good with their hands, this is a career with room to grow. Talented aircraft mechanics can excel at general aviation, or drill down and become a specialist in a section of the aircraft or even types of specialty craft. As mentioned earlier, the majority of aircraft mechanics are generalists who work on many different types of aircraft and helicopters. But aircraft mechanics can also be specialists, focusing on specific areas of repair — such as hydraulics, electrical or engines — or specific types of aircraft, such as airships, rotorcraft and unmanned aircraft systems. Other roles to aspire to include lead mechanic, lead inspector, supervisor or FAA inspector.
There's plenty of opportunity for a satisfying career, with chances to learn at every turn. It's not a cliche to say the sky is the limit for this skilled career!