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

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Last Answer on July 09, 2022

Best Rated

This AMA is sweet thanks! Are there meaningful differences in safety records for accredited Western airlines? Is there any concern that a budget airline like AirTran or Frontier is actually less safe than Delta or American?

Asked by Chris Hansen over 9 years ago

There is no difference in the records or maintenance requirements for US certified air carriers. They are all held to the same high standard. Whether you are talking about the smallest mom and pop airline with a Cessna 310 as their only airplane, or American Airlines; they all have to toe a very stringent line with the FAA. I wouldn't be any more or less concerned with safety with any one airline over another.

Do you ever have to go into the air traffic control tower to troubleshoot something with a pilot during a flight? If you can't solve it over the radio, do you have the authority to order the pilot to divert?

Asked by Oprahh over 9 years ago

I have never had that situation, or heard of a mechanic having to do that. 

Flight crews do occasionally confer with their company's maintenance control dept in flight about things. But this wouldn't involve the tower. 

As a mechanic, I have no authority to tell the flight crew to do anything in flight. Once I release the aircraft for flight as "Airworthy", the aircraft is the Captain's.

Tower aircraft controllers, or an FAA person would have authority to order a plane to divert. 

 

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 over 9 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.

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

Asked by bilton biggsby over 9 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 ever deal directly with pilots? Is it a friendly or contentious relationship between pilot and mechanic?

Asked by Duffplz over 9 years ago

I have in the past, and still occasionally do interact with the pilots in the course of my work. I've generally found that pilots and mechanics get along fairly well. Each group teases the other sometimes, and often have choice nicknames for one another. It's usually a friendly and respectful relationship.

Have you ever been part of an FAA investigation into a crash?

Asked by Zoltar over 9 years ago

No. I never have. And I'm glad for it.

If someone was interested in becoming an Aircraft Mechanic, what would you tell him/her?

Asked by Ted about 9 years ago

It probably depends a lot on how I feel about my job at the time. I am human after all.

But generally; I would cover the basics with them. Explaining how it helps to have good mechanical skills to start with. As those who lack mechanical ability, but have the book smarts are quickly found out once on the job. Those folks end up in planning, if they are lucky. It's a hard road to go down, if you remain on the floor without that basic ability.

I'd tell them not to expect to get rich doing this job.

I'd tell them that it is often very hard on relationships (wives/husbands, girlfriends/boyfriends). As this profession is notorious for sometimes long and unpredictable hours and travel.

I'd tell them to get ready to invest in a personal tool collection. But to be smart about it. The big name brand tool boxes are just 'bling'. And you pay dearly for it. A solid Craftsman, Stanley Vidmar, or similar box; will serve you long and well. For a lot less money. It's just a box! And to not be a tool snob. Get the tools that will do the job best, for the least amount of money. Don't just walk onto the Mac/Snap-On/etc tool truck and open a line of credit.

I started with a basic Craftsman tool set, and it worked fine.

I'd tell them to figure out where they'd like to be in ten years; and do what it takes to pay the dues to get there now. Once you get set up in a 'just for now' situation, it's hard to change tracks, and sometimes backtrack in your career, to get where you wished you were.

I'd tell them to go to an Aviation Maintenance school to get their license. Just go be a student for a couple years. Get a little loan debt if you have to. But get that license now, before you start. Otherwise it's a lot harder to get all the on the job training and such, plus studying, time to go take the tests; later on while you are working as a mechanic's helper full time.

I'd tell them to avoid company's that suck all the joy out of life. If you find yourself working at one of those places, leave as soon as possible. Don't stay until you want to quit aviation altogether.

Most of all, I'd ask them about their passion for airplanes and aerospace. Because if you don't have that, then all the training, tools, or good job position; won't make you love your career. It will just be another crappy job for them.

If you love airplanes, then this profession can be the best choice on earth.