This information will help you start on the right foot if you’re ready to start your career in aircraft mechanics.
Do you want to become an aircraft mechanic, but you’re not sure where to start or how long it will take you to achieve your goal? Whether you want a career that takes you into the skies or something more grounded, this comprehensive list will help you know where to start.
Learn more about how to become an aircraft mechanic.
What Does an Aircraft Mechanic Do?
Aircraft mechanics are also referred to as aviation mechanics, aircraft maintenance technicians, or AMTs. They are the experts responsible for all the repair and regular maintenance of the mechanical and avionic equipment on planes and helicopters, making sure they’re safe to fly. This job fulfills all inspections, repairs, and maintenance of every electronic, structural, or mechanical piece of the aircraft. The mechanic also tests parts for regular wear and tear to determine when they need replacing.
Professional aircraft mechanics can work both in the civilian or military sectors. Private civilian jobs are usually related to transportation and commercial aircraft services and delivery services like USPS, UPS, or FedEx. Most mechanics specialize in a specific type of aircraft, but general knowledge is beneficial for those hoping to pursue different opportunities.
An aircraft mechanics duties usually include:
- Regular repair on aircraft to fix wear and tear gained during flight
- Inspecting the aircraft before and after a flight to catch and potential problems that could cause an emergency
- Routine maintenance so the aircraft functions correctly and performs all duties safely
- Staying up-to-date with new aircraft models to work on them effectively
- Staying current with changes in the industry to do their job effectively
- Performing emergency fixes to aircraft so they can return to work quickly
What Are the Basic Requirements to Become an Aircraft Mechanic?
If you want to become an aircraft mechanic in the United States, one must meet the following requirements:
If you’re a U.S. citizen:
- At least 18-years old
- Able to read, write, speak, and understand American English
- Obtain 18-months of practical experience in power plant or airframe mechanics, OR 30-months of practical experience working on both together (A&P Mechanics), OR they can graduate from an approved aviation mechanic school.
- They must pass three types of tests:
- Written exam
- Oral exam
- Practical exam
If you’re NOT a U.S. citizen, you must meet all the U.S. citizen requirements, in addition to a few additional tasks you can investigate as needed.
What Specialized Skills Does an Aircraft Mechanic Need?
Depending on the type of aircraft the mechanic will be working on the skills may vary, but these are the following qualifications are generally required to fulfill this role:
- You need to be good at working with your hands
- Each aircraft will be slightly different, so a good mechanic is detail-oriented and able to differentiate the needs of their current aircraft
- There are a variety of technical skills one should learn to be able to use gauges and diagnostic tools to do their work accurately
- Unique problems occasionally arise, so an adept mechanic will be good at troubleshooting issues based on their findings
- A lot of work on aircraft requires physical strength and the ability to lift heavy parts, reach high objects, and fit into cramped spaces
- Having a natural inclination to solve spatial issues will work towards your advantage when operating machinery
Depending on your desire to become a general or specialized mechanic, the path and time will vary, but starting with the basics will open you up for future opportunities to concentrate on specializing in a specific type of aircraft.
How Long Does it Take to Become an Aircraft Mechanic?
Depending on which path you take, the journey could take you anywhere from 18 to 30 months of practical experience. You can also pursue a certificate from an approved aircraft mechanics school, which would take anywhere from one to four years, depending on the path you choose. You can decide to take your degree through to the Master’s or Doctorate level, so the amount of time is subject to the student’s career goals.
What Different Paths Can an Aircraft Mechanic Take?
The term “aircraft mechanic” is a bit broad, but here are five of the specialty paths you could pursue:
This specialty has a thorough understanding of all the parts of an aircraft EXCEPT the engine, propeller, and instruments. Their primary focus is on the fuselage, the supporting frame of the aircraft, the skin, doors, windows, and wings.
Learn more about airframes.
Power Plant Mechanic
These mechanics focus on servicing the engines, or power plant of the aircraft. In this specialty, it’s also possible to train to work on propellers.
Learn more about powerplants.
To work as an A&P (Airframe & power plant) mechanic, you need a special A&P license. The A&P field is the most common path for aircraft mechanics because most airlines want to hire a mechanic who can work on all aspects of their aircraft.
If you want to become an avionics technician, you will be responsible for testing the aircraft’s electronic systems and keeping them in good repair. It will be your job to make sure the electronic systems accurately monitor altitude, weather, radio, and auto-pilot systems for a safe flight. These technicians can also train to work on other aspects of the aircraft, which makes this a versatile career path.
Military Aircraft Mechanics
If you want to qualify for the military, you will need to obtain a certification from a vocational training school. Most certificate programs last a year or two, but there are some longer courses to achieve higher diplomas all the way through a Doctorate in aviation technology or aviation management.
What Do You Study to Become an Aircraft Mechanic?
If you chose to obtain a certificate or degree towards your aircraft mechanic goal, you would need to cover a wide variety of topics like:
The study of moving through the air, interacting with air, and how solid bodies move through it.
Aircraft Electrical Systems
You will gain an understanding of how different types of aircraft work and how all their parts function. If you choose to specialize in this area, you can become an avionics technician.
Teaches you how different materials interact and work together to make the aircraft function properly.
Fuel, Air, and Exhaust Systems
A proper understanding of these areas is essential to maintenance work.
In addition to these core programs, you will also learn some physics, chemistry, and other mechanical basics based on the requirements of your aircraft mechanic school.
Aircraft Mechanic’s Career Outlook & Salary
Generally, aircraft mechanics make a salary of just under $63,000 with a range of anywhere from $35,000–$100,000 based on your education, experience, and company. Air traffic isn’t expected to go away anytime soon, which is excellent news for those just getting started in the industry. As older mechanics retire and leave the field, new talent will be needed to fill the void.
If you want to continue your growth within this industry, it’s essential to stay current with changes in the field and obtain as much additional education and experience as possible.
Learn more about aircraft mechanic salary.
Where to Start?
If you’re ready to start your career as an aircraft mechanic, begin by training at a top-rated, certified school. Get your FAA certification and start gaining your hands-on experience as soon as you can!
When you’re getting started, you need to:
- Pass the required exams given by the FAA
- Gain your 18-month experience in airframe or power plant work
- OR gain your 30-month experience in A&P work
- OR Attend an accredited school to receive your certificate or degree in aviation maintenance
Once you’ve ticked all of these boxes, you will receive the proper experience to be eligible for hire in the aircraft repair and maintenance.
Being an aircraft mechanic is a mix of challenging and rewarding work. The industry needs new, skilled technicians to keep aircraft safe for those aboard. In this field, you will be responsible for ensuring the safety of all passengers and cargo, and you can take pride in knowing you’re making a difference.
It’s because of dedicated, hard-working individuals like you that air travel is as safe as it is today!
Find an aircraft mechanic school near you.