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

How do you feel about the new "Regional jet" being produced by Mitsubishi? Do you think it has a good chance of competing against Boeing and Airbus?

Asked by Jason over 5 years ago

I think the new Mitsubishi Regional Jet is going to be a pretty fun aircraft. Most of it's manufacturing tech is fairly standard, but the powerplants will be the first commercial use of the new Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan engines, the PW1000G series. I have little experience with Mitsubishi aircraft, excepting some light line maintenance on some MU-2 models. And for what it's worth, I though those were very well made aircraft. And good looking to boot! As far as competing against Boeing and Airbus: From what I'm seeing as far as specs, it is supposed to be a 70 to 90 seat aircraft, which puts it below the market for the smallest of the B737's and A318's. They start to come into play somewhere around 120 seats or so. The MRJ will be competing directly with the Bombardier CRJ's and the Embraer E series jets. And seeing as how the MRJ is a brand new design, with the latest and greatest tech engines on the wing, I think it should do very well in it's market. Providing it's purchase price is competitive, and operating costs are low.

I'm doing this project and i need to know how much time off do aircraft mechanics get throughout the yeear?

Asked by Shawn over 5 years ago

The short answer is:  Just as much, or as little, as any other profession.

Legally speaking, there is a paragraph in the FAA regulations that address this, in Part 65:

"Within the United States, each certificate holder (or person performing maintenance or preventative maintenance functions for it) shall relieve each person performing maintenance or preventative maintenance from duty for a period of at least 24 consecutive hours during any seven consecutive days, or the equivalent thereof within aany one calendar month."

Essentially, that means that we have to have four days off per month.  

And that rule, is what makes possible schedules that I've had in the past; such as when I as a ride on mechanic, working 20 days on ten days off.

Currently, I have the super normal situation of having two days off per week usually, with two weeks of paid vacation, and some sick days, every year.  That's being a full time company employee, of course.

At a different company, a few years back, I had the above schedule usually, plus the benefit of an additional week of time off; designated for use during the week of Christmas thru New Years; which was the 'plant shutdown' period at the Canadian plant headquarters of our company.  Now that was nice!

But I've also had the 'horror story' schedules occasionally also.  Where we would be working twelve hours a day, seven days a week; until we bumped into that mandatory four days off mentioned above.

So, it really varies company to company, and depending on your workload, and the urgency of it.  Just like any other job.  

Hope I helped.

Spending as much time as you do working on defects in parts / systems, does it in some ways surprise you that there aren't MORE plane crashes?

Asked by Toms over 5 years ago

Taken as a whole; any airplane is a wonderfully fiendish complex machine. However, taken individually, each system on an airplane is easily explained and understood. That , coupled with thorough maintenance schedules, insures that airplanes can be operated safely. Take away that understanding of the systems (training and experience), and the good maintenance (such as certain 3rd world countries); and accidents DO happen more frequently than you’d expect. That all said, even a poorly maintained aircraft typically has backups to it’s backups on important systems. So, no, the current state of safety and number accidents is in a good place, and I expect the historical trend to continue, and things to get better.

Did you ever catch something critical at the very last minute just before a plane was heading to the runway for takeoff?

Asked by NathanFields almost 6 years ago

Yes, once. We were launching a Boeing 747, and the crew was all on board, engines started. We unplugged our headset after wishing them a good flight, and were driving away in the truck. I heard the air motors for the leading edge flaps go off as they were extended, and it made me turn my head to watch. It was then that I saw that one of the sections of extended leading edge, between the number three and four engine, had not extended properly. One of the two arm mechanisms on that section had seized up halfway out, and as a result, the section was full out on half of it, and only half on the other, with the structure all twisted and broken in between. The plane had already started taxiing, and we had to radio them to stop, because something was broken. If it had been missed, and the aircraft had taken off, it could have caused a problem. Parts could have been ripped off in flight, damaging the aircraft further, or even causing sections of leading edge flap to jam in the 'out' position; creating a dangerous asymetrical flight characteristic. That was the only time I caught something right before flight.

Do you feel you're compensated fairly? Are aircraft mechanics unionized?

Asked by steve o over 5 years ago

Short answers would be, no, and some; respectively. I have never worked in a unionized place. I know most of the major airlines are unionized though. But the majority of aircraft mechanics are not unionized. As far as compensation; I would have to say I don't feel I am paid fairly. But I am paid kind of like the industry indicates. So, in that regard, it's fair(?) I will let you decide. My current position is as a QC inspector. I am salaried at 57K/year. For that pay, I am responsible for all my aircraft inspections, all the work that I sign behind mechanics on, and the safety of any airplane that I release. Though I am working behind an airline or repair station certificate, my license is also on the line every time I sign for something. So apart from the safety aspect, I could lose my means to make my living if I screw up. I live in Northern Michigan, so that salary is not so bad really. My family and I live simply, and it is enough as a single income. But, to throw some perspective on it. I have seen jobs advertised for the New York City area, that pay between 25 and 30 dollars per hour. Which, is NOT enough to get by on usually, unless you are a single guy, living simply. Which is why most aircraft mechanics in those metropolitan areas, work more than one job. So keep that in mind. That the mechanics and inspectors that are working on that plane you fly on, are sometimes working a full time job, plus another part or full time job. The aircraft industry is notorious for underpaying it's workers in my opinion. My first job out of A&P school, at a medium sized cargo company on big jets, was for 7 dollars an hour. Back in 1993.

What parts of planes break down the most frequently, requiring a disproportionate amount of your time?

Asked by tr3 dog over 5 years ago

Aside from regular maintenance items such as tires, brakes and such; there really is no one component that breaks most of the time. If there does happen to be a component or system that starts giving repeat trouble, we troubleshoot to try to figure out why. Usually there is something going on, as far as how the pilots are treating the plane, or the mechanics are maintaining a certain thing, that explains trends like that. On the older planes, corrosion is a constant battle, taken care of at every heavy check (about once a year).

When you're working on a plane, do you think about the fact that you've got hundreds of people's lives in your hands?

Asked by dan79 almost 6 years ago

I can only answer this accurately from my own perspective. When we were in school, when I was earning my license more than twenty years ago; it was drilled into us, that every aspect of what we do can effect the safety of the aircraft. Even seemingly minor 'annoyance' problems, such as a stuck switch, or a loose knob, can cause a distraction for the pilot, leading him/her to focus on something stupid, when attention should be focused on more important things. Aircraft have crashed for just such reasons in the past, it's a human factors distraction thing. Often hundreds of lives are at stake based on the safety of an aircraft. And, while the average mechanic will think of this sometimes, I find that the primary focus in real practice is simply getting the given task at hand done properly. Which tends to take care of the whole safety aspect automatically. As far as myself worrying about hundreds of people, I find that either too big a thing, or too far removed (as I won't personally know most of them). When I think of it at all, I tend to think about the flight crews, or the ride along mechanic, that will be on the plane. Those people I tend to know personally, which puts the safety aspect on a much more personal level. And here again, when I address this smaller group, the rest are taken care of.