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

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

Asked by Roshawn Davis over 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.

Is there a particular aircraft you work on that you consider to be the best made / most sturdy?

Asked by smittay_101 about 5 years ago

The best made/most sturdy award goes, hands down, to the Douglas DC-8 series aircraft. I have never worked on a more overbuilt, Mack Truck of an airplane.

Are you responsible for ALL mechanical aspects of the plane, or do airplane mechanics have specialties?

Asked by Django about 5 years ago

In general, the larger the place you work, the more specialized the people and teams tend to get. Avionics people doing the electronic stuff, sheetmetal doing all the sheetmetal work, mechanics doing all the mechanical stuff, etc. If you work for a smaller place, or are out on your own at a remote outstation, or as a ride on mechanic; it is possible that you would have to do whatever task pops up. As an AOG/Ride on mechanic in the past, I’ve had to do a tire change, troubleshoot a fuel quantity problem, and perform a small sheetmetal repair; all in the same day, same plane, by myself. This would tend to be more common on smaller aircraft as well, as they tend to be privately owned, or operated by smaller organizations. Some mechanics do work only in specialties. Sometimes a mechanic will only have the Airframe portion of his/her A&P license, and they can only officially work on structures and associated systems. Same for someone with only a Powerplant license; they can only work on engines and their systems (typically defined as anything on the engine side of the firewall). There are also people who never work anything except Avionics, seats, painting and such. The typical person with an A&P (Airframe & Powerplant) license, is expected to be more of a ‘jack of all trades’ when it comes to aircraft. And mechanics that can actually perform as such, are valuable to have around.

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

Asked by Samsson about 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.

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 almost 5 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.

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

Asked by evan about 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.

Hey this is a really interesting Q&A! Can I ask a question: do you think aircraft maintenance could be a soft target for terrorists? Everyone pays attention to the TSA, but do you think security measures around the mechanics / hangars is sufficient?

Asked by Julie about 4 years ago

In all honesty, yes, aviation maintenance, especially away from major airports, would present some good opportunities to do no good, if that was your intentions.  

I could speculate on specifics, but I won't here in an open forum, nor with anyone I didn't personally know already and trust.  No offense.

There are many facets of aviation, or railroad, or shipping, that are pretty big soft targets.  But the TSA/NSA has chosen the targets of interest that they have chosen.