Editor's Viewpoint

May 9, 2006
Should we be paid the same as doctors?

In one of my recent blog postings “Where Have All the Good Times Gone?” on AMTonline.com, I discussed the subject of jobs at the airlines. I pointed to the loss of jobs and the pay concessions being experienced throughout the airline maintenance sector.

Reader Kevin Beckett posted his thoughts on the problems that airline mechanics have faced. He shared an interesting point about wages. “I recall many times hearing the guys in the shop comparing themselves to doctors,” Beckett shares. “They felt that they should be paid like pilots do. We are not pilots and are not doctors. There’s no way the market can support paying an employee group those kind of salaries for a job that you could get by going to school for 12 to 18 months or work in a hangar for OJT cards and a signoff.”

We must learn a lot of subject matter to get an A&P certificate. We leave A&P school with the basic information we need to work on aircraft. If we use a doctor analogy, this might be considered graduating from medical school.

Then comes our residency. We learn from our seasoned co-workers. We gain knowledge through formal OJT and classroom training.

Only after years of service and lots of training do we become maintenance doctors. We know the different systems of the aircraft and how they interact with each other. We recognize when something is amiss, and know how to diagnose the root cause of the problem. We then cure the problem, ensure it is working as it should before approving it for return to service.

I use the doctor analogy to illustrate the different steps of being an aircraft mechanic. But should we be paid the same as doctors? Probably not, but it all boils down to supply and demand. As the supply of qualified aircraft mechanics dwindles, the demand goes up and companies are forced to pay more to fill job openings. Already, many companies (other than the airlines) are struggling to fill open positions. They are already trying to attract workers through higher wages and benefits packages.

But there is a new wrench that has been thrown into the cogs of the supply and demand frame of thought — global competition. There are more and more aircraft maintenance providers in other parts of the world that are landing maintenance contracts from U.S. operators. These companies pay their maintenance personnel far less than even entry-level mechanics can make in the United States. With that much of a pay difference, it is virtually impossible for U.S. companies to compete with their costs. As a result, more aircraft are sent offshore, leading to less maintenance jobs in the States. Less demand equals less wages.

So, how much should an aircraft mechanic make? Are you getting paid fairly? Do you feel underpaid? Overpaid? Share your thoughts with us!

Thanks for reading!

About the Author

Joe Escobar