Aircraft Mechanic

Aircraft Mechanic

Fred Robel

25 Years Experience

Au Gres, MI

Male, 46

I'm a licensed Aircraft Mechanic & Inspector with twenty-plus years in the field. I've had a varied career so far, with time spent in the sheetmetal, mechanic, and inspection specialties. Most of my time is on heavy Boeing and McDonnell Douglas aircraft, of the passenger, cargo, and experimental type. This career isn't for everyone, but I enjoy it.

Please do NOT ask me to troubleshoot problems with your airplane, that is not what this Q&A is for.

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108 Questions

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Last Answer on October 11, 2017

Best Rated

Even though you're probably an aeronautics expert and stuff, does it still sometimes just blow you away that this hunk of metal can fly through the air?

Asked by 67Leafs almost 5 years ago

I am flattered, but I am far from an aeronautics expert. I know enough theory to know how much about it I don’t know. A properly designed wing, will generate lift by having a high pressure on the bottom, and a lower pressure on the top. So, though I know the basic theory, it does surprise me when I see how much weight can haul itself up into the air on one of our Boeing 747’s. Fully loaded with cargo and fuel, their max takeoff weight is over 800,000 pounds. Yeah, it does blow me away sometimes.

What parts of planes break down the most frequently, requiring a disproportionate amount of your time?

Asked by tr3 dog almost 5 years ago

Aside from regular maintenance items such as tires, brakes and such; there really is no one component that breaks most of the time. If there does happen to be a component or system that starts giving repeat trouble, we troubleshoot to try to figure out why. Usually there is something going on, as far as how the pilots are treating the plane, or the mechanics are maintaining a certain thing, that explains trends like that. On the older planes, corrosion is a constant battle, taken care of at every heavy check (about once a year).

Is it true that sitting toward the back of the plane increases the likelihood of survival in a plane crash?

Asked by bilton biggsby almost 5 years ago

I have always heard that too, though I don’t know for sure if it is true. That is where the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) is typically located, and they usually survive crashes (though they are practically magically armored by design to do so). If it was me, based on nothing but knowing about the aircraft structure, I would feel safest over the wing area, as close as I could sit to the centerline of the wings. That center wingbox area is one of the beefiest parts of structure that you will ever see on an airplane. Though that does put you closer to the fuel tanks, so that is kind of a risk trade off. It probably comes down to luck more than anything, relating to how the airplane were to hit the ground. All that speculation said, keep in mind your statistics, and remember that flying is super safe when measured by almost any standard. Miles flown per year, miles per passenger, etc. It is a very safety conscious industry, staffed by skilled professionals. When I fly, I really do not even consider the chance of crashing, it is so remote.

Do you feel you're compensated fairly? Are aircraft mechanics unionized?

Asked by steve o almost 5 years ago

Short answers would be, no, and some; respectively. I have never worked in a unionized place. I know most of the major airlines are unionized though. But the majority of aircraft mechanics are not unionized. As far as compensation; I would have to say I don't feel I am paid fairly. But I am paid kind of like the industry indicates. So, in that regard, it's fair(?) I will let you decide. My current position is as a QC inspector. I am salaried at 57K/year. For that pay, I am responsible for all my aircraft inspections, all the work that I sign behind mechanics on, and the safety of any airplane that I release. Though I am working behind an airline or repair station certificate, my license is also on the line every time I sign for something. So apart from the safety aspect, I could lose my means to make my living if I screw up. I live in Northern Michigan, so that salary is not so bad really. My family and I live simply, and it is enough as a single income. But, to throw some perspective on it. I have seen jobs advertised for the New York City area, that pay between 25 and 30 dollars per hour. Which, is NOT enough to get by on usually, unless you are a single guy, living simply. Which is why most aircraft mechanics in those metropolitan areas, work more than one job. So keep that in mind. That the mechanics and inspectors that are working on that plane you fly on, are sometimes working a full time job, plus another part or full time job. The aircraft industry is notorious for underpaying it's workers in my opinion. My first job out of A&P school, at a medium sized cargo company on big jets, was for 7 dollars an hour. Back in 1993.

what are the steps to me taken when an aircraft is grounded outstation due to maintenance defect?

Asked by issey almost 5 years ago

When an aircraft is grounded at an outstation, first you need someone to take care of it onsite. If there is a ride on mechanic on board, he or she will do it. Or a mechanic will be brought to the plane from another site, or company. Once the mechanic is there at the plane, they will work with Maintenance Control, or just some other mechanics back at the home base; to determine the trouble. Once the problem is troubleshot, parts and/or materials can be purchased locally, or shipped in to repair the problem. Sometimes parts and materials can be gotten from an airplane's on board spares box, as lots of planes carry those. That's basically what takes place when an airplane gets grounded due to maintenance somewhere.

Do you think people are irrationally obsessed with plane crashes?

Asked by Gemma PA almost 5 years ago

That is definitely a subjective thing. In my opinion, kind of. Plane crashes are a big deal. Anytime you have the potential for losing upwards of 400 people at once, that’s a valid concern. I think those are the crashes that people worry the most about. Just because it is so tragic. People just have to keep in mind that the few crashes that happen every year are trumpeted about in the media, for the very reason that they are so exceptional in nature. If they happened all the time, it wouldn’t be so shocking to hear about them. Planes are flying regular routes 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with great safety.

Are the 787 Dreamliner problems being blown out of proportion? Are the glitches it suffered very common and only getting so much media attention because it's supposed to be the most advanced plane out there?

Asked by Stephan1e almost 5 years ago

In my opinion, the media is blowing the B787 problems out of proportion, from what I see happening. Yes, the issues that they are headlining in the news are fairly common type things for a brand new aircraft. All airplanes go through periods like this after initial launch. I think the things that are happening with it, are getting so much attention due to a combination of a slow news cycle, increased public awareness and interest in aviation safety; and the whole internet thing. Where everyone can know just about anything that is public knowledge fairly quickly. Once again, in my opinion; the only reason the FAA is doing a review of the aircraft, is that the public is so aware of what is going on, and has nothing to do with the seriousness (or lack of) of the issues that have occurred. Check out this website: avherald.com It lists most of the reported things that go on every day in the commercial aviation world. Problems such as what was seen on the new 787, are very common, even on well established aircraft of any age.