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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110 Questions

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Last Answer on October 17, 2018

Best Rated

Are you able to fly free or at some significant discount?

Asked by zzzach almost 6 years ago

At my current job, no I can't get any discounts or free flights. It depends on who you work for. If you work for an actual passenger airline, there is usually an employee discount of some kind, or free flying via standby status. Some other employers have arrangements with airlines for discounts.

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

Asked by Samsson almost 6 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 a particular aircraft you work on that you consider to be the best made / most sturdy?

Asked by smittay_101 almost 6 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.

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

Asked by Ted over 5 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.

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

Asked by Django almost 6 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.

Is it possible for international aircraft mechanics with around 3 years of work experience on Boeing or Airbus to find mechanic jobs in USA? If so how to proceed as I have no idea or contacts here?

Asked by Rashmi over 5 years ago

Well Sir, that is a two issue question.

First you have to get a US work visa, if you aren't a US citizen.  I can't advise you as to how to get one of those.

The second part, working on aircraft in the US with a foreign license, I can add a little insight.  But, you'd be best to actually talk to someone who has done it.

Firstly, understand that your license is not recognized by the FAA.  So you don't have the authority to sign off any aircraft related work.  

Basically, if you were able to get a job lined up in the USA, it would be basically as a mechanic's helper.  With the pay lower than a licensed mechanic's.  You can use the time working, as well as your existing license, to get permission to take the Airframe and Powerplant examinations, so that you can get your FAA licenses.  You would just have to speak to an FAA inspector about that.  Usually arrangements can be made to get you signed off to take the tests.  

Expect to pay between $1000 and $2000 US, minimum to get your licenses.  It will cost even more if you go to one of those 'guaranteed' places. 

If you happen to have a specialty, such as sheetmetal work, or avionics; these areas can lean less on their license when it comes to larger Repair Stations.  You still can't sign off the work usually, but your experience will be valued if you produce good results.

It's not an easy proposition for sure.  You'd almost be better off staying where you are, where your existing license makes you worth more in pay; and put out the money to get your US FAA licenses before you try to come over and work in the US.  

If I were planning a move to another country, to work on aircraft, that's what I would do.

I usually check places like J.S. Firm to see what jobs are out there.  They usually have job requirements listed with each job.  I'm sure there are some out there that don't absolutely require you to be US licensed.  

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 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.