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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109 Questions

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Last Answer on July 11, 2018

Best Rated

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 5 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.

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

Asked by smittay_101 over 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.

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

Asked by Samsson over 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.

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 about 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.  

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

Asked by Django over 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.

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 over 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.  

 

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 about 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.