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


Last Answer on October 11, 2017

Best Rated

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

Asked by Samsson almost 5 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.

Why don't more planes have power outlets? Everyone has gadgets to plug in. Is it really that hard to add outlets to a plane that already has enough power to fly through the stratosphere?

Asked by JOE almost 5 years ago

I know the older planes (made 2000 and earlier), weren't made for a public with so many gadgets they'd love to keep charged. I can't speak for new ones, as I haven't set foot on a passenger plane newer than a '90's model. As for adding them. Yes, that could be done. There are already several standard power outlets on most planes, for the use of the cleaning crews at the airports. Also, I've seen regular outlets in the bathrooms before. So the process of having them isn't unknown to airlines. Maybe the airlines don't want to deal with yet another system to maintain. Or the cost of installing a modification like that. It isn't as simple as just saying "Hey, I'm going to do that". The modification has to be sent through engineering, vetted by them, then submitted to the FAA for approval. It's a lengthy process to get something like that approved for installation and use on a public carrier aircraft. I lean towards the reason of not wanting to deal with the extra system. Especially one which the general public can get their hands on all the time. Most people are responsible, and won't break the outlets, or plug in anything strange, or use damaged equipment. But there are always the few that ruin it for the rest of us. It wouldn't surprise me if there weren't already First Class seating with USB and 115Volt outlets built into them. If it's viable, it will trickle down into Business, and then Coach classes someday. The way airlines are pinching their pennies these days, I wouldn't hold my breath though.

edit 2/8/2015: You would have been safe to hold your breath actually. I'm seeing more and more airlines offering USB charging ports to their customers, built right into their seats. As a matter of fact; last year a customer at the place where I work, put in an entire new interior system into their B777's, with fancy backseat touchscreens, and power outlets for each individual seat, front to back.

I am very pleased to have been wrong with my prediction. I love gadgets on airplanes.

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 over 4 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.


What do you think are the most realistic plane crash movie scenes?

Asked by evan almost 5 years ago

I really can't say. I've never been to a real crash site before. From the pictures I've seen, you usually have one of two scenarios: Either there is nothing but little chunks of metal and debris everywhere, or there are several largish chunks of airplane (sometimes just one bent up airplane if it was really low speed). I do know what isn't very realistic. Having engines running after the crash, is pretty far fetched, such as was seen in the opening scenes of Lost and Cast Away. Maybe I've just avoided most plane crash movies.

I'm in school currently to become a aircraft mechanic and I have a paper to write and had some ?s. what kinds of reports do u have to make while working? What kinds of oral communication and to whom? types of communication? What happenswith poor com?

Asked by Will over 4 years ago

There are several types of 'reports' that I have to make in the course of my work.  

The simplest one is the Non-Routine.  When I find something wrong, or that needs doing on the aircraft: I fill out this form, which gets recorded in the records, and then is addressed by the appropriate department at our Repair Station (maintenance, sheetmetal, avionics, paint shop.....etc)

Another kind of report we have to fill out sometimes is called an Service Difficulty Report (SDR).  These are filled out whenever certain "critical" systems or structures have a problem.  Such as emergency equipment.  If we have an emergency light that doesn't test properly; we have to fill out the report.  This gets submitted to the FAA, and goes into a huge database which is all sorted out as to types of aircraft and issues; and is used to help them decide when to issue Advisory Directives (AD's).

As to Oral Communication:  There is oral communication all the time.  Even if it is something that is written down, we usually go over it verbally (and use our hands for that matter).  As an Inspector, I communicate with the mechanics on the floor, their supervisors, and often the Hangar or Shop Foreman.  At our Repair Station, everything is 100% inspection buyback; so we are constantly in demand to witness certain steps of jobs, or to do final buyback on tasks.

We use all types of communication here.  We use written communication, via our non-routine and routine task cards, written turn overs on jobs and shift work, as well as little grease pencil notations on the aircraft itself, to help guide mechanics to the discrepancy areas.

We use oral communication, to discuss the steps of a job that is about to be performed, as well in all other steps of maintenance.  Reading body language and speech inflection is also important when talking about the work at hand.

Poor communication results in about what you'd expect.  From the nearly harmless simple repetition of a task that was already completed; to the disastrous of having an aircraft fall off of jacks during a jacking procedure, due to confusion in the communication between the guys manning the jacks and the person monitoring the level indicator.

Essentially, with poor communication; people can get hurt or die, and aircraft can be damaged or destroyed.  

Clear, concise, and timely communication is essential to any operation; especially aviation activities.

Can airplanes fly upside down?

Asked by JimSaunders almost 5 years ago

Regular aircraft cannot fly along upside down like in an airshow. The reason for this is that the fuel and oil systems are designed for a one Gee environment. The fuel pickups in the tanks are on the bottom of the tanks in the lowest corners. The oil tanks on the engines feed from the bottom of the tank. So if you go upside down, those oil and fuel pickups will suck air. You can roll an airplane as long as you maintain at least one Gee. As the famous Boeing test pilot did when the Boeing 707 was having it's debut. For a very skilled pilot, such a maneuver would be possible. Airplanes that you see performing upside down, have either been designed from the start to do such things, or have been modified.

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

Asked by Roshawn Davis about 4 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.