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

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

Asked by issey over 9 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 over 9 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.

What background or experience was required for you to start working on planes? Were you fascinated with aviation from a young age?

Asked by Jeremy B. over 9 years ago

There are a couple different facets to that question actually. To simply work on an airplane, you need no credentials. Just good mechanical ability, and a clever mind. The caveat being that you must work under the direct supervision of a licensed aircraft mechanic. Reasoning that the licensed mechanic will be teaching you how to go about aircraft maintenence the proper way, much like an apprenticeship. Also, you cannot sign for your work as an unlicensed mechanic. And if it isn't in the paperwork or logbook, and signed for by an authorized individual, then the job isn't complete, or legal. Everything that is done to an aircraft must be documented. I have to stress that: EVERYTHING. If you replace one screw, that should be documented. With a proper installation reference from the approved maintenance manual, and signed for by a licensed mechanic. In my case; I chose to go to school to get my license. The schooling was at Lansing Community College's Aviation School, and it was treated like a part time job for all purposes. We had to punch a time clock, to document our hours (a certain number are required to be eligible for a license). And we went year round, for two years, five hours a weekday. At the end of that, I had my Airframe & Powerplant licenses. Which is called a "license to learn" around the school. And it's technically true. Because, by the FAA regs, even a licensed mechanic cannot perform any given maintenance task, until it is done under the supervision of another more experienced mechanic. I should mention, that if you were to choose to go the 'mechanic apprentice' route; that it's a 30 month path of documented On The Job training that is required. After which, you would be eligible to take the tests for both your Airframe & Powerplant license. I have tried to reason out why I chose this profession before. I never came up with a solid answer I'm sorry to say. I think it is a combination of things really. I had always been mechanical, working on my own cars and such. Airplanes are cool, obviously. And I had always thought so, attending local airshows when I could. Timing: I walked into the registrars office at the college to sign up for this career path, at a time when I had little direction in life. I had no idea what I wanted to do, and this seemed like the most appealing thing on the class listings. The following two years of courses would have weeded me out if I hadn't really enjoyed it I think.

What do you see as the future of air travel? Are planes going to get bigger, faster, or more fuel efficient? Aren't we going to HAVE to find new technologies before we run out of oil?

Asked by Sam over 9 years ago

I don't know really. But if I were to speculate, first I'd say that airplanes probably won't get much bigger. The A380 and B747 are pretty darn big, and pretty much push the limit of our existing infrastructure. I also don't know that I'd like to see that many people up in the air at the same time in one plane. I think we'll see faster airplanes, when the engineers get the sonic boom suppression issue licked. Once that happens, we'll start to see things like the Concorde in action again I hope. Fuel efficiency will improve, as a matter of course I think. That's one of the big selling points for the aircraft and engine manufacturers to talk about. We haven't hit the wall on the limits of the turbine engine yet I don't think. Pratt & Whitney with their new Geared Fan technology is just starting to go in a new direction commercially. I think it might be the next big thing for aircraft engines. To address new tech for an oil deprived future? I believe that companies like GE, Rolls Royce, and Pratt & Whitney (among others) are already working on that. It isn't out in the public eye yet though. I would theorize on an all electric ducted fan engine if it were me. Most of the current advanced turbofan's thrust is generated by the bypass air, that never even goes though the combustion core of an engine. Replacing the internal combustion turbine altogether is a natural next step. Battery and/or electrical generation technology is the biggest hurdle to this next step right now. I think air travel has an exciting future. There will be problems along the way, there always are. I hope I get to see what's in store.

Have you ever suspected a pilot was drunk before his flight and what's protocol if that happens?

Asked by Samsson over 9 years ago

I’ve never had to deal with that situation. If something like that were to happen, companies have plans in place to deal with it. Without looking at my current company handbook (I will after I answer so it isn’t cheating); I would call Crew Scheduling, or Maintenance Control, tell them what is going on, and do whatever they advised me to do. We have on site safety department personnel at several locations, and arrangements at outstations, which can provide for a breathalyzer, or other tests. Those people would be called in I imagine, to test the pilot. Certainly never let someone in that condition fly the plane.

Is there some truth to this statement? "The third route, but that nobody does since there is no examiner that will sign off on it, is to get hired by a small outfit as a helper, get 2 years experience, and take the trade tests."

Asked by Chad about 9 years ago

In my experience, no, that is not true.  I have seen many, and when I say 'many', I mean hundreds; of people get their license going the experience route.

Just do it right.  Record every job that you do on an OJT form, and document all the time you spend working on the aircraft and related parts.  Then, at the 18 month mark, if you have enough things documented, you can get your employer to write a nice letter telling the FAA all the time you've spent working for them, and basically what you did.  This is just a corroboration for your stack of OJT forms.  Then usually, the FAA guy will sign off on it.  This will allow you to take either your Airframe & General tests; or the Powerplant test.  Take the signed FAA form to the testing center, and they give you the written test.  After you pass that; you make an appt with a Designated Maintenance Examiner for your Oral and Practical tests.  

Then, after 18 more months on the job, working the other discipline that you didn't test for; you do the same thing for that.  

36 months total to get your A&P (3 years).  

That's really the only reason I typically recommend the school route, as that can be done in 2 years or less.

It is harder to pass your Orals and Practicals going the longer work experience route.  But good Examiners will help you with your prep for it.  

The writtens are fairly easy in my experience.  There are books that detail all the questions in the test pool.  And if you study those, you will do well.

 

Is there still a shortage of A&P mechanics? If so why is that?

Asked by Roshawn Davis almost 9 years ago

I don't know that there is really a shortage of mechanics.  Companies seem to be willing to hire non licensed mechanics to work alongside the A&P's without much worry.  

I suppose there are 'shortages' in certain parts of the country.  Just from my experience in job searching; there wasn't necessarily a job available within 300 miles of me.  But, if I'm willing to travel or move, there seems to always be openings.

There is the ever looming "A&P shortage" that is always talked about, especially with the supposed retirement of our oldest working A&P's from the baby boom times happening.  But I haven't really seen it in my sphere of experience.