Aircraft Mechanic

Aircraft Mechanic

Fred Robel

27 Years Experience

Au Gres, MI

Male, 49

I'm a licensed Aircraft Mechanic & Inspector with twenty five-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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152 Questions


Last Answer on July 09, 2022

Best Rated

Have you heard whether they are getting anywhere sorting out the Dreamliner issues? Have the things they've found been serious, or do you still think it fell victim to media exaggerations?

Asked by Doryas over 9 years ago

I have seen where Boeing has completed the flight tests with a new and improved main battery assembly.  Which consists of taking the existing cells, adding space and insulation in between them, and installing them into a double walled 'armored' battery enclosure box; which also features improved airflow cooling.  This box is also sealed, and vented to the exterior.  So even if something happens to the battery inside, all fumes, smoke, etc will be vented outside, and be no danger to the airplane's occupants.

I think the battery issue is serious.  In as much as anything that can cause a fire on board an airplane is a serious issue.  The media did jump all over it pretty zealously; and in all fairness, they should be falling over each other to give equal coverage to this improved battery system that is almost ready for certification.

The battery issue is the only really serious issue that I've read about.  Fuel seepage, and whatever else there was, are really just teething problems typical of new aircraft in general. Those issues will be dealt with as well as a matter of course.

I read that United Airlines is scheduling a return to service for the 787 for June 2013.  With the assumption that the FAA will release the aircraft for flight by then.  

Research the problems that Tesla Motors had with their Roadster model electric sports car; as far as battery overheating and fires.  The batteries used in that car were also of the Lithium Ion type, and very similar problems were encountered to the Boeing 787 situation.  There was a lot of knowledge learned with those problems years ago.  I'm actually pretty disappointed that Boeing did not avail themselves of those lessons learned.

Hi Fred, my name is Simon, Ive had my A&P license for 2 years without a job, reason being i was arrested when I was younger, not a felony or anything but its still giving me problems getting hired. Are there any secondary jobs for a person with a A&P

Asked by Simon over 9 years ago

Hello Simon.  I'm sorry to hear you are having a hard time finding a job.  

For what it's worth; I currently work with many people who also have non-felony legal issues in their past, as well as a few with felonies (albeit from long ago at this point).  Perhaps you are applying to the wrong places?  Try looking on , as well as your local job resources; for aviation contracting openings.  STS, TSI Aerospace, Aerotek, and many other companies specialize in filling temporary, and long term, aviation maintenance needs for their clients.  And often they are willing to take on people with more serious issues than you describe, as long as they are willing to perform.  Obviously, you would have to be willing to work in a wide range of locations possibly, on off shifts, on the crappy jobs.  

But if you pay your dues, and build up a good work history with these types of places; your legal history will start to fade in it's importance, I assure  you.

As far as secondary type jobs; be looking for anything that uses the core skills of the aircraft mechanic.  Such as welding, hydraulics, electrical, machining, sheetmetal work, quality assurance.  Lots of places understand the value of what the A&P stands for in these types of jobs.  

In A&P school, years ago, we were told that places like Disney World, MGM studios, etc; held A&P mechanics in high regard when hiring to maintain their equipment in their theme parks.  As you can imagine, many of your aircraft maintenance skills would be applicable in a place like that.

Some extra food for thought; you were probably taught basic troubleshooting techniques in A&P school.  Work on those, hone them.  Believe it or not, there are few people that can actually apply those skills in real life effectively.  And those that can, are sought after once it is shown that they can do so.  

I am confident you will find something if you are willing.  Try to keep your chin up.

Are you ever called upon to fix or examine things mid-flight? Put another way, are there some things that can only be diagnosed while the plane's in motion?

Asked by passingthoughts over 9 years ago

Yes, sometimes you do. Often it is just something common, that you could do anywhere, such as a stuck drawer in the galley units or a broken coffee maker. Sometimes there can be an engine or a system test that needs to be done at altitude during flight for one reason or another. Usually for troubleshooting an elusive problem.

I know that planes are built to withstand lightning strikes, but will they get an automatic mechanical checkup immediately after a flight where that happens? My girlfriend says her plane got struck and it made the whole thing jolt and dive suddenly.

Asked by d_firestone1 over 9 years ago

Well, I can tell you what we do at my current company.

If it's reported that the airplane has sustained a lightning strike, or when someone finds lightning burns on the aircraft; a lightning check is made to find the extent of any damage.  We do this in accordance with the appropriate aircraft maintenance manual.

In general, a lightning strike check has three parts:

1- Examine the external surfaces for lightning strike

2- Examinine the internal components for lightning strike

3- Inspection and operational check of the radio and navigation systems

It's actually quite an extensive process.  

I've found some interesting looking burns on airplanes sometimes.  Often looking like arc spot welds on the aluminum skin, or burn marks with delamination on the composite structure.

It's all fairly safe though.  The planes are bonded and structure ground strapped together so that electricity will flow through the structure and back out at some point.  

So usually when an airplane gets hit by lighting, there will be a point of contact mark, as well as an exit mark where the electricity came back out.

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 over 9 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: 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.

Is it the LAW that pilots have to inform passengers when a delay is due to a mechanical problem? I've been on several flights where that happened and just thought 'I really don't want to hear that, why didn't they just tell me it was a storm system?'

Asked by Chris over 9 years ago

Now, I won’t cheat and try to find out before I answer, though I may afterwards. I am not aware of any law or regulation that commands a flight crew to be 100% honest about flight delays with their passengers. It may be an airline policy, or just that particular crew being honest. It shouldn’t upset you, other than the fact that you are delayed. There will be no "baling wire and duct tape" repairs going on just to get you out of the gate; trust me. Either it will get fixed right in a certain time period while you sit there, or they will deplane you and make other plans. Really it’s a common thing to have last minute problems. Usually they are not flight critical and can be deferred, such as a light burned out, or a climate control not keeping the inside temp right. Other things, like a tire or brake change, or a scheduled maintenance that just ended up taking a few extra minutes, is all that it is. You know how it can be; the second you tell someone that a certain simple job will take a half hour to do, that’s when Murphy’s Law kicks in and makes something a little harder. All in all, I’d rather the airline was honest with me about such things. That way you know you can trust them about other things, which may be more important for you to know. :)

Do you need to know how to fly a plane in order to be an airline mechanic? If not, do you think you could "wing it" in an emergency, given what you know?

Asked by Old Crow Joe over 9 years ago

No, aircraft mechanics do not need to be pilots. As far as being able to take off, fly, and successfully land and aircraft; I think I’ll waver between Yes! no, and maybe. Personally, I think I could probably set up an airplane to take off, and get it into the air. Maybe able to keep it in the air for a bit even. But landings, I’ve noticed, are a little more delicate. Don’t get me wrong, I could plant an airplane on the ground. You just might not want to be on board with me.