Recently I have been getting a lot of requests from young people for some information on how to become a mechanic, and what the work around aircraft is like. Since school has already started, high school career counselors will be pointing to all kinds of career fields and handing out information to a lot of young men and women who have a big decision to make — What to do for the rest of their lives?
The following is meant to serve as a guide if you are asked to provide information, or if you are "volunteered" to speak at a career day. I hope this small effort might help you provide accurate and timely information to individuals considering our profession.
Aviation maintenance personnel work in a number of highly technical specialty occupations such as airframe and power plant maintenance, avionics (e.g. navigation, communication, and other electronic-based or depended systems), and instrument (e.g. navigation, flight, and engine) repair. These individuals hold in their hands the very important responsibility of keeping our fleet of U.S. registered aircraft operating safely and efficiently. To accomplish the goal of a 100 percent reliability that aviation industry and the flying public demands, these maintenance professionals maintain, service, repair, and overhaul aircraft components and systems.
Aviation maintenance is a dynamic career field. It has changed a great deal since Charles Taylor, the first aircraft mechanic, helped design, build, and maintain the engine on the 1903 Wright Brothers' Flyer. Now and in the future, aircraft maintenance will continue to change. This is due to the introduction of new designs and materials in aircraft construction and the interface between complex space-age systems such as navigation computers, fly-by-wire and solid-state fuel controls, as well as improvements in the time proven systems such as hydraulics, flight controls, and propellers.
Outlook for the future
The long-term employment picture for aviation maintenance is bright. A well trained, certificated individual with a strong background in technical subjects will have little trouble finding a lifetime career in aviation.
Where the jobs are
The scheduled airlines employ approximately 60,000 mechanics at terminals and overhaul bases throughout the United States and overseas. The major overhaul facilities are in New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA; San Francisco, CA; Denver, CO; Atlanta, GA; Kansas City, KS; Tulsa, OK; and Minneapolis, MN. When you enter this career field, most likely you will start at a major overhaul center to learn the aircraft and the airline's maintenance procedures. Once you have acquired enough seniority, you can "bid out" to work at the line station of your choice. These line stations are located at every airport the airline services.
Approximately 37,000 mechanics are employed in general aviation. These mechanics work in the large metropolitan cities on 35 million dollar-plus corporate jets to radial engine powered agricultural aircraft operating from grass strips. FAA Part 145 Repair Stations are another segment of the aviation maintenance industry that hires mechanics. These repair stations (approximately 4,600) perform maintenance on aircraft from those as small and simple as the two-place, Piper J3 Cub to major overhauls on air carrier aircraft of 400 seats or more.
The United States government also employs many civilian aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians to work on military aircraft at Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force installations in the states and overseas. Another government employer is the FAA. Most of the FAA maintenance personnel work on flight inspection aircraft at the FAA main overhaul base in Oklahoma City, OK. State and local governments also employ mechanics to maintain and service aircraft used for government, emergency medical, or police activities.
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