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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154 Questions

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Last Answer on July 09, 2022

Best Rated

What's an aircraft mechanics schedual like ? Do you work everyday of the week, weekends, what are the hours like ? Are you working in the middle of the night ? In other words you leave and return when for work ?..

Asked by Brie about 9 years ago

It is very difficult to answer that question accurately, to be honest.

As an aircraft mechanic,you'll likely find yourself with a schedule set for you by management, as is typical in any job. But the thing with aviation, is that the aircraft's needs, and their schedules (which can change often) tend to modify the best laid work plans as well.

I can offer you some of the things that I've worked through over the years. Starting with my current schedule; which is a 4 and 3 type of set-up. Meaning that I work four ten hour days (on Friday to Monday), then I have three days off (Tuesday to Thursday). And it is pretty steady; I come in at 6 am, and go home at 5pm. Occasionally, you get thrown off schedule though. About a month ago, I came in at 6am on a Monday (my Friday remember); and I got put on a project where there was no second shift to relieve us. So I was there until 4 am the next morning.

Now that doesn't happen all the time, but it does sometimes. The aircraft's repair and inspection deadlines, and flight schedules come before YOUR needs. I can't stress that enough. And oddly, that is the way that it should be. Because without the planes, and their schedules, we wouldn't have a job at all. So we give them that extra bit when they need it.

A missed maintenance deadline can mean thousands of dollars in penalties from a customer. A missed gate or landing slot, also costs thousands of dollars.

In the past, I've worked traditional 7 am to 4 pm, Mon to Fri, just like a banker. But at that same job, we had to split into two skeleton shifts for months at a time, for 12 hour shifts, with ZERO assigned days off. That was brutal. And again, it was for a contract that we had to get done, in a short amount of time, with too few people.

I've been on rotating schedules. Where we worked 6 on and 2 off. And the two days off would walk one day out every week. Which was kind of fun in a way, once you wrote it all down. Though one of those days off could easily disappear towards the end of a heavy inspection check, to meet deadline.

Long, long story short. Aviation is a 24/7, 365 days a year business. And we, as mechanics, need to respond to that as best we can. So depending on what part of the business you end up in; you'll have a regular banker's schedule....... or a very unusual one, with unpredictable shift times. Or something in between.

Your best case scenario, will have you with a good company, that plans out everything really well; so that everyone can have a consistent shift, with predictable time off. But even with those places, don't be shocked if something happens to throw everything off for a few days, or a week, or whatever.

Good luck, if you choose this profession. It is very rewarding in so very many ways.

Just be in love with planes, and aviation. If you aren't in love with it, you'll end up hating your job. Because love and passion for this business, is the only thing that keeps people in it. It sure isn't the money.

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 almost 11 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.  

The battery on a 1969 Cessna 210 was dead. I charged it overnight. It's a 12 volt system. When I connected it, turned the master on, the starter activated! the prop stared turning, the stall horn blared. the ignition was off! Why did it do this?

Asked by Flyswb over 10 years ago

I have never worked on a Cessna 210 of any vintage.  Sorry it is giving you trouble.

Clearly, something is providing power to the starter solenoid when you turn on the master switch.  Maybe the solenoid is stuck in the 'on' position; or maybe the starter switch/button is shorted to the 'start' position?  It is hard to say.

You need to get out the wiring diagram, or draw one for yourself from a careful inspection of the system.  If a visual turns up no clues; then break out the multimeter, and find out where there is continuity where there should not be any.  

If memory serves, the ignition selector is seperate from the starter button.  So the ignition could be off, and still turn the engine over.  

I have few ideas about the stall horn, I'm just not familiar with the system.

I know that on the big jets I am familiar with; if you advance a certain throttle lever too far, with the flaps up, and your airspeed too low; you will get a warning horn.  

Maybe you have a similar system on this aircraft?  

Sorry I can't be more help.  Good luck, I know you can figure it out!

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 11 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.

I'm currently thinking about going to college to become an aircraft technician, is this similar to an aircraft mechanic? Also what are the pros and cons of your job?

Asked by Adam D almost 10 years ago

An aircraft technician, is an aircraft mechanic, and vise versa.  Also, in some parts of the world, we are called aircraft engineers.

The term technician, has been taking the place of mechanic more and more, due to a push in the industry for us to be considered more than just mechanics.  And once you get deep into your training for the profession, if that's what you want, you will see why.  

You will learn how to take care of all the mechanical systems of an aircraft, you will learn how to repair sheetmetal and composites, you will learn how to paint it, you will learn how to troubleshoot the electronics suite, etc.  The aircraft of today are not the simple things that they used to be, not that they were ever simple (just check out hydromechanical fuel controls!).

The pros and cons of the job really are dependant on where you end up working.

Working outside in lousy weather is kind of a con; as is dealing with lavatory waste systems; crawling around in the dirty belly of an airplane (especially a narrow body!).  Sometimes you will find yourself working too many hours.  Sometimes not enough maybe.  You will feel underpaid.  You will often feel humble about your job, and just call yourself a mechanic.  But then you'll sometimes find yourself annoyed when someone from outside the profession calls you the same thing.  

Sometimes you'll have to go on the road, with little advance notice, and not know exactly when you'll get back.  

Long unpredictable hours, and high stress, lead to a high rate of divorce in our profession.

The pros, are many, and sometimes intangible.  If you really love airplanes, and if you don't you  should turn back now, this job is really great.  With lots of different facets to the job, you will work on many different things.  You will gain confidence in your abilities.  You will acquire a tool collection!  People who ask you what you do for a living, will often be super impressed.  

Many of our jobs have us travelling the world, on the company's dime.  I've visited all the continents except Antarctica in my travels for work.  

The intangible pro, is mostly the feeling you get.  When you walk among the aicraft in special moments, or when you see them arrive or fly away, or as you sit in the cockpit running all four engines to takeoff power for ground tests.

That feeling you get, is the real pro.  No matter where you end up.  If you love aviation, that's all you need.

What advice would you give to a young person entering this occupation?

Asked by Adrian almost 10 years ago

I would list out several things I kind of wish I'd known when I started.

-Don't expect to get rich!

-Don't immediately go into debt with the tool truck guy.  Believe it or not, your off brand rollaway box, and craftsman tools will work just as good as the preimium brands.

-Vet your spouse (or prospective one) for how he/she feels about you working long hours with little notice; or road trips of uncertain duration at the drop of a hat.  Not every aviation job will entail things like that, so adjust your career accordingly, if you want to stay married.

-Wash your hands often, wear your personal protective gear (rubber gloves, face sheilds, ear protection) always.

-You are not invincible to chemicals or gravity.

-Learn how to find things in your maintenance manuals and IPC's.

-Learn the FAA regs that apply to you and what you are doing.

-Don't break the rules for a paycheck.

-We all started out fresh as a daisy, and knowing about as much.  Don't forget that twenty years from now.

-The airplanes will never love you back.

I am a brand new A&P. What advice would you give to someone like myself, especially in regards to improving my skills? I came into school with virtually no mechanical experience, so the last 2 years were a growing process for me.

Asked by Nate over 7 years ago

One word: Diversify.

For your long term career health, try to diversify as much as possible in these beginning years of your A&P career.  

You will probably get stuck in one department or another, if you work for a large outfit, and that's fine. Learn all you can, and try to be the best you can be (learn the manuals and how to find what you need in them!). But whenever you can, take the opportunity to work outside of your department specialty. Lend a hand to Avionics, Sheetmetal, Composite, Powerplants; whenever you can. An extra hand that knows how to do things will seldom be turned away when it is needed. 

"Help me...... buck this rivet, ring out this wire, hold this bolt while I torque the nut, get the vacuum set on this composite repair...." All things that help you learn a little bit more.

Eventually, you'll probably settle into one speciality; maybe start moving up the ladder; and that will make it harder to do other things. So do it now, while you are new. It will pay off in the long run, when you want to try being an inspector, or a manager, or a maintenance planner. Experience helps you make better decisions.

If it is hard to branch out at work, then think about any local aviation museums. Places like the Yankee Air Force are always looking for qualified volunteers. You'll learn a ton from the old retired guys that are usually there.

I have some standard advice I give too: Don't go into deep debt with the tool truck (Snap-On, etc); just get a decent box, and decent tools; you can add the fancy stuff later as you need it or can afford it. People might sometimes tease you for having Craftsman tools or the like, but you'll have more money in your bank account. (Except for the Snap-On ratcheting screwdriver, with the hard plastic handle; those cannot be beaten. Well worth the money)

Don't step on too many toes, or piss too many people off needlessly. This industry is smaller than you can imagine. Often you'll have to go back to work for a place you never thought you'd go back to; or work with/for someone from the past who wasn't your favorite person. Just keep it professional when in doubt.