As a mechanic of 18 years and an instructor for the past 3, I can tell you that our career field certainly has its rewards as well as a few pitfalls.
As for rewards, of course you get to be the coolest guy in the room at your family Christmas party, but besides that... You get to have hands-on time with airplanes. Now, I'm sure I may sound a bit biased on that, but just let that sink in for a bit.
So, for the real answer, I would say that the most rewarding part of any aircraft maintenance job is seeing your work take to the sky and safely deliver passengers or freight to their final destination. How many times have you taken a flight and not worried about a thing because you knew how well a certain airline performs their maintenance? Well, as a mechanic, you get to know a little about each airline and fully understand the challenges they face as well as the cross-checking, inspections and mountains of paperwork that go into these tasks. For me personally, I enjoy being the one in my family that everyone calls upon for advice on picking an airline. A little peace of mind, if you will.
Of course the job is challenging for us as technicians since we often get the tail end (no pun intended) of the story from a flight crew concerning a particular issue with the aircraft. It is often left to us to think beyond what is "squawked" and consider the variables at play when the issue occurred. I like to think of a well seasoned flight line mechanic as a cardio-thoracic surgeon who gets called in at the patient's darkest hour to come and save the day, and with a lot of hard work and demonstrated success, you can achieve this status in a relatively short time (3-5 years in some cases). This all depends on your drive and determination. Just like any other career, if you show up every day and await instruction, you might be tasked with opening panels inside a fuel tank more often than you'd like. But if you show the team that you have excellent troubleshooting skills and are willing to learn new things each day, you will find your time in the hangar much more rewarding.
Now as for pitfalls, you can almost guarantee that you may miss a holiday or two because of a broken aircraft out there on the road. This is something that makes for a difficult phone call to your significant other, but once that double-time pay comes in, you tend to get over it quickly. Also, the work schedule can get a little tiresome if your hangar has taken on a job that perhaps it was not properly equipped for, which happens often. Budget sometimes overrides common sense for some managers and we have to learn to adapt and accept that. By doing your best and staying open and honest with the leadership, you can help keep their expectations within reality and earn a great deal of respect at the same time.
So, to wrap things up. This is a great career field to be in, but be aware that without an A&P license or a heap of determination, you will find yourself performing mundane tasks on a daily basis with little or no chance of advancement. So give it some clear thought and please feel free to call on me at any time for more friendly advice from the real world.
From a financial standpoint, most of the higher paying jobs tend to be military contractors and airline manufacturers. With that, your options are very limited to where you want to work to follow that money. The industry itself has small networks meaning your reputation is on the line with the work you do and your character. This is an industry that carries with it large amounts of responsibility, like the medical field... you bury your mistakes. Integrity is the most important aspect of this business and be aware that you are being trusted by others to do your job to the book. With the heavy stuff put aside, the benefit to being an aircraft mechanic is that it's a cool job if you love aircraft. The people that work with you are like minded and help each other out as a team. Plus, I liked telling people what I did for a living because I didn't have to explain it to them and the job doesn't carry the "grease monkey" stigma. I went the military route for my training and specialized on the UH-60 air-frame. The only problem with that choice is that helicopters are looked at as a different skill tree compared to fixed wing aircraft and sometimes employers want those certain air-frame skill sets. There are also shop sections that you can specialize in; engine testing, avionics, prop & rotor, sheetmetal. So if I were you, just sit down and figure out a game plan on where you want to be and what excites you. If you don't mind following the money, dealing with occasional lay-offs (they happen from time to time) and you are good with your hands it's an industry that you can get a lot of mileage out of. Military or decent school (Embry Riddle) will get you to the same place. Although with the former you get much better stories for the grand-kids ;)
Well Trevor, Besides the obvious, working as a mechanic on aircraft which is itself unusual when you are in a random crowd. Having an Airframe & Powerplant Mechanics License has opened many doors for me. Whether applying for a job in a factory or with the Department of Defense the A&P Certificate always seemed to be the tie breaker that got me the job. I started as a fairly low paid mechanic working on small aircraft; which I loved by the way. There were other mechanic jobs at the time that paid well with good benefits but with little experience I had trouble getting one. Then along the way I applied for a job at a jet engine manufacturer and got it because of my A&P certificate; it was the best job I had so far; more than twice the pay and all the health benefits. Then I was laid off after 2 ½ years but ended up getting a job at the same factory as a Department of Defense Quality Assurance Specialist monitoring the company I used to work for and the A&P Certificate was the tie breaker. The guy that hired me had one as well. That job started about the same pay but in short the pay doubled and later tripled; I stayed in that job and retired with a very good pension. You would think that is where the usefulness of the A&P Certificate stops but when I was working I had a 401K savings account and saved enough to buy 3 planes when I retired; one to fly and two to restore in my garage. You guessed it, having an A&P Certificate saves me a lot of money on maintenance. I still hire some fellow A&P’s to do the big stuff but my experience helps me to hire the best mechanic and get the best deal.
What's it like being an aircraft mechanic, and the benefits. I've been an aircraft mechanic for aproxamitly 5 years now and love every minute of it. The way I got started was by going to a Tech School in Denver Colorado for 18 months. There is was taught the basic principles, and skills. The classes are regulated by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) so you know your geti g a good education, they tend to sit in and evaluate the classes to see if they are to standard, don't worry they are there for the instructor no you. In school you get to rebuild aircraft engines and then run them. You also receive an extensive background on FAR'S which are the Federal Aviation Regulations. Those are what we live by. You learn about safety wiring, turbine engines, radial engines and and other things. If you go this way, it's a bit expensive but you get done in 18 months. After that I went and worked for a company called Bombardier Aerospace doing heavy checks on CRJ 200,700, and 900. There were would take the plane apart, take everything out, all the seats, carpet, floor boards, EVERYTHING. I did that for about 2.5 years and the schedule we worked was 3 days of 12 hr shift with 4 days off and then 4 days with 12 hours and 3 days off. The pay was good and I learned a lot there. During that time I found a company called Pinnacle Airlines (now Endeavor Air) now I do overnight maintenance. That involves your regular tasks, changing tires, brakes, servicing engine oil, oxygen, and whatever else needs to be done. The best part is the road trips. We get to go to other towns and city's with another mechanic and fix what ever is wrong. You need to be able to work independently and with no supervision. There is schooling that I'm constantly having to do, either on the computer or actual classroom setting. If you work for an airline you get one of the best things out there........FLIGHT BENEFITS. You, your parents, and wife get to fly for free, and if you fly international you pay taxes. It's great. Hope this helps. If you got questions feel free to contact me.
I received my aircraft maintenance experience in the Army, working on multiple types of helicopters. I was able to turn a military career into a civilian career. Receiving the Airframe and Powerplant certifications will enable you to work on multiple airframes. The public has a tendency to fly more often when the price of fuel is low, as it is at this time. More demand on flights means more of a demand on aircraft, and on maintenance. You, as an aircraft mechanic should get many opportunities to work for large air carriers, and the possibility to move to maintenance hubs throughout the world as your experience gets deeper. The possibility of transferring the expertise to other areas abounds. Automobile mechanics have some of the same skills you will get, but their mistakes cause a tow truck into action. You do not have that luxury and will learn techniques and processes to prevent failure. You will also learn to diagnose problems on the fly, literally, as not all maintenance is written down. Instances occur that are not in the book, and still need to be repaired and addressed quickly. I have worked with the Department of Defense for almost 40 years, learning things daily and also relying on experience, expertise and knowledge at every turn..
I've been in aviation for almost 20yrs. ( including school). My advice is it has to be something your passionate about, work not always the best and pay is not the greatest,but if you don't get a formal education you can always start in at an entry level position and work your way up to a higher skill set! You have to understand that a lot of disciplines encompass aircraft maintenance. If you can figure out what aircraft system peaks your interest, start there, no one can do them all!(not even the wright brothers)😎
Hope this will help get you on your way!👍🏻
One of the greatest benefits in my opinion is working a bird all night or day and getting to see it take off knowing that my work help made that happen. In many cases aviation maintenance is very hard, but to me, personally rewarding. Other benefits depend on the company and sector you get into. I started in the Air Force and earned my certificates based on my experience as a KC-10 Crew Chief. Not all military careers are eligible for both certificates so choose carefully. The benefits here involved lots of travel, excellent experience, and lots of people to learn from. Also, I got out with the GI Bill so I was able to use that to get my Bachelors degree. After that, I did some time in general aviation at a small flight school. Working there I had a lot of fun with the smaller birds, gained a lot of experience, and was able to get my pilots license at a reduced rate. The last ten years I was privileged to be in corporate aviation. In corporate you typically maintain only a handful of aircraft. You literally get to know "your" birds down to the last rivet and maintain them meticulously. There is a great sense of pride in "owning" one of these beautiful aircraft.
Unfortunately, I cant write this without talking about some of that bad points! You will not get rich in aviation maintenance no matter what some aviation school recruiter will tell you. Starting pay isn't that great but time, experience, and hard work will get you to a good wage and possibilities of promotion. Most people I know have had to move several times in their career, there are exceptions, but most people expect to chase the money as the industry goes through its highs and lows. Finally, there is the issue of liability. One mistake can end your career. Any lapse in honesty or integrity can have fatal results for yourself, teammates, or a plane full of people. The NTSB reports are littered with tales of those who just wanted to go home quickly or took a break and forgot a step. Even a six month suspension of your certificate for an investigation could be problematic. So long as you follow technical data and document your work correctly that should never be an issue but it takes consideration nonetheless.
Being an aircraft maintenance technician is a great responsibility, but it can be very rewarding! I've been working aircraft for 17 years now and never have I regretted my career. Also, there are many industries outside of aviation that will hire someone with their A&P such as industrial turbines or wind power. I hope I have helped shed a little light on the career path but please feel free to contact me if you have any more questions. Good Luck!
I've been in the A&P business for over 40 years starting as an USAF Crew Chief on Jet, over 2 engines,C141, C5's, B52's and retired as USAF Reserve Flight Engineer on C141 's. Currently an A&P Inspector at Alaska Airlines on Boeing 737 aircraft, with thirty plus years heavy and line maintenance experience.
Right now is actually a very good time to get into commercial aviation, that is airlines or main line carriers (United, Delta, Alaska etc) and Regional. More money will come from the main line carriers. Currently there are are many retirements going on or projected to occur in the next five years. At my employer alone we expect in the neighborhood of 25-30 % work force retirements in those next five years. I'm one of them along with many of my contemporaries here and similarly at other carriers. An older generation of mechanics/technicians are making way for a new.
Main line carrier techs make the most money to start and there is a progression up the pay scale, sometimes up to eight to ten years to top out in pay. Most are union which for the most part is a good thing, very nice to have an actual employment contract, which is a real protection. Pay scales go down from there, regional, corporate, then general aviation and all will have a pay scale. As an aside, you can move to other airlines if you choose and it is easier if you have airline experience but, you will typically start at the bottom of the pay scale, no such thing as a journeyman like other trades. All can be very satisfying as a career.
As you may know an A&P school is usually a two year course possibly resulting in an associates degree and the opportunity to take your FAA written and oral tests to be granted your Airframe and Powerplant Airman Ratings. There are other ratings also if you choose to go into avionics. Also, there is a shortage of projected A&P's so in addition to hiring ex military, recruiting is going on at A&P schools. Some carriers actively participate in various schools knowing the have a wave of technician replacements needed. Alaska is one example.
An average top out for a main line carrier is in the 80-90K range and it goes down from there to general aviation being typically lowest and mostly working for a small shop on local airfields. Main line techs can go to almost any city where the carrier has maintenance staffing, this based on seniority as is the shift you work. Expect to be on grave shift without weekends off for a while (read that years). Most operations are 24/7, 365 days a year. There is the potential for considerably more cash depending on the overtime offered and if you accept it. Seniority typically governs the order overtime is awarded.
Many in the business start with military aviation which is good invaluable experience. Some stay for a twenty year military career and then start another career at an airline or other related career. Just saying that there are times every 20 years approximately, when there is a turnover and new staffing are hired. This is happening currently, as it was when I hired in.
For the most part I have enjoyed working on airplanes. Pretty cool to see them head to the gate on time ready for a load of passengers. As far as the cost of training I think it would be well worth it and there is an excellent chance of spending your entire career doing what you like. Good luck and hope this helps.
Aircraft Maintenance is both very demanding and very rewarding. First, the demand; safety of flight depends on doing the job right the first time. There are plenty of examples of what can happen when procedures aren't followed, shortcuts are taken, and critical maintenance mistakes are made. The flying public depends on zero quality slips. The reward- pride in knowing what you do makes a difference in reliability. I have been an A&P for 40 years now. Getting on with a major airline and having enough seniority to make it through the lean years is not an easy path and takes being in the right place at the right time. I was fortunate in this regard. One thing to think about is that the average age of airline mechanics keeps going up, and eventually there is going to be increased demand and shortage of people with the right training, attitude, and aptitude. The flip side is that airlines outsource their heavy maintenance to lower paying MRO's, meaning the best pay may not necessarily follow the skill level. In my case, I was able to develop additional skills as a nondestructive test inspector in multiple methods, giving me advantage to move into areas where less qualified individuals won't be able to go. This has boosted my career. The point is, there is plenty of opportunity in the field if you apply yourself and are eager to learn and be your best.
That sounds like a very interesting job. One way to get good training would be to go into any branch of the service. It seems that all of the branches of the service have some type of aircraft and they train people to repair them.
Please keep me informed, as I would like to know how you are doing with your career exploration.
Best of luck!