Career Advice: From our readers

Aug. 8, 2005
What would you recommend to someone wishing to advance in an aircraft maintenance career?

What would you recommend to someone wishing to advance in an aircraft maintenance career?

No. 1. Safety first. No. 2. If you don't know the answer, find someone that does and don't be afraid to ask them!

Absolute integrity, never trust another mechanic's work and ask for (get) help when you need it, and give 100 percent in every task you perform.

Accept any training your company will offer.

Always show an interest in improving yourself. Be willing to learn in an ever-changing industry. Invest in yourself and know when to take the initiative. Lead by example and don't be afraid to ask questions if you don't know something.

As difficult as it is in the digital world, focus on troubleshooting and problem solving. This requires good logic and especially understanding the basics and systems.

Aviation is a beautiful life but very demanding, know that everything has to be just right! You have to be able to develop a passion for aviation to make it right with self-satisfaction rewards.

Be dedicated to your job and always seek to learn more.

Be goal orientated, even if the job you have doesn't suit you at this time. Take all the knowledge you can from it and make the opportunity to move on to another job. Study and qualify early in your career for the best opportunities.

Become fully engaged in the industry and belong to organizations to promote the field of aviation maintenance, such as PAMA and the new AMTSociety organization. It is vital to stress the importance of our facet of the industry and enhance the image of the AMT from a necessary evil to a required necessity.

Care about the people. Think about the job you are doing no matter how trivial. We are all originally fascinated with the equipment, but when you begin to care about the flight crew and passengers, it helps your growth. Get a pilot's license or at least solo as it helps us have empathy for the crew and passengers. All of this helped my career and developed a partnership in our business of aviation.

Come in with an open mind conducive to learning as much as you possibly can, always looking to learn from the experienced technicians. Respect the career field and the responsibility that comes with it and never settle for a job done "good enough".

Do it by the book each and every time you work on an aircraft and don't get caught up in compromising your integrity. Base your decisions on facts and don't assume someone else has completed an inspection you are responsible for, always double check. Lastly, read aviation related documents daily: maintenance manuals, ADs, ASBs, ACs, NTSB reports. This will increase your knowledge and give you the confidence to make hard decisions.

Do it! Starting out is difficult but if you are really into aviation there is nothing like it. Flying is great but you can never understand how an aircraft works without working on it.

Continuous reading and learning. Keep yourself interested to hone your troubleshooting skills and patience in work.

Decide early how far you wish to go up the corporate ladder. Work toward that end daily. Be extremely flexible with your personal life and have a very understanding family.

Do quality work. Get as much knowledge of your profession as you can, even if you have to pay for it yourself. Pay attention to details. That's the difference between average and excellence.

Do what you love. It you choose any career in the hopes of easy money you will surely be disappointed.

Don't settle for the basic license. Get all of the specialized training you can, emphasizing the areas you have added aptitude in. Sheet metal is a neglected area these days. Extra electrical/electronic training is almost mandatory. NDI and composite repair are a couple more that are needed.

Experience is invaluable. Going to work every day is not the way to get ahead. You have to be aggressive and learn what you can on your own.

Find an employer willing to pay for your training, as A&P schools cost a fortune. When you do land a job build your resume at that company as much as you can, utilize all training to the fullest, volunteer for "special projects," and set yourself apart from other techs as history has shown this will not be your last job in this industry and your resume and your tools are all you'll be leaving with.

Forget technical colleges, vocational schools and other two-year programs. Go for the four-year degree program. That's the only way you have a chance of receiving all the necessary skills required for your whole career.

Get a good business education, learn to communicate verbally and written, and have great listening skills.

Get all the education possible and attend as many trade shows and training workshops as possible. Never stop looking for ways to improve work habits and what is new in the aviation world. Communications and avionics are always lacking in the work force so get training in these areas.

Get an A&P license and keep it current. Some jobs do not require one, but the fact that you have one will give you a leg up on other applicants.

Get as much avionics and or composite training as possible. Mechanics wages have taken a real beating since 9/11.

Get as much experience on all aircraft and systems that you can. Get as much training as possible via safety seminars and company-provided training. Take any additional training from local colleges to advance management training to better understand business operations.

Get your education first. It helps you to get your foot in the door. Listen to the technicians, what they know you will not learn in school. Experience is the best professor.

Go for it. This is a field where we do what we love. Study all forms of manufacturer info you can get your hands on and the FARs.

Hard work and good ethics will get you as far as you want to go.

I enjoy working in aviation, and I have found the following to work for me and those I observe and work with. Learn as much as you can about as many areas as you can. I firmly believe we are hardwired to be questing for knowledge. Keep your mind on what you are doing. Learn to communicate what you are doing to those around you. Don't be afraid to share your knowledge with those you work with. When you build up those around you, it is easier for you to move to the next level. When documenting maintenance performed, read what you have written, and ask yourself, "will I understand what I did if I read this a year from now?" If the words you have written can't do that, add detail.

I think you should have a passion for working on aircraft and not look at it as just a job. Take pride in the work that you do. There are a lot of pilots that depend on it.

It's a great career for young people, because people have the chance to live and work in an industry with the ultimate technology and high stressed but interesting job.

Keep abreast of new technology by reading aviation magazines and get as much school courses, hands-on, and training as you can. Be willing to relocate if the opportunity to advance is presented to you.

Keep on studying more because being involved in the aviation industry is a continuous learning process. We should be professional enough to comply with the need for competence in doing our job for the sake of safety. Cooperation and communication are the keys for being in a team. Each and every one of us, whatever role we are doing, is very important for the completion of a job.

Learn everything you can about aviation maintenance and aviation business; seek specialized training and type-specific training; join PAMA; participate in government [vote, write, and follow]; participate in the FAA AMT awards program; and read AMT magazine!

Learn how to adapt to change, and how to lead others through the "change" process (denial, anger, rationalization, acceptance).

Look at all the possibilities that aviation can lead to. Aircraft maintenance is not the only aspect of our work. The new composites are an avenue to look into, along with possibly working for certification in the NDT field.

Obtain a degree in aviation and find a sense of humor.

Participate in all career and personal development seminars that you can. Continually work on self-improvement and develop pride in what you do based on your self-improvement strategies. If you don't like your job get out of the business.

Well, go where the aircraft are. Buy good tools and try to adjust your life style to the industry. People depend on what we say we do.

Some negative responses

Absolutely not. I wouldn't even recommend my worst enemy! Sad but true. I love aircraft maintenance but management feels they could do more w/less and cut our pay and benefits. Needless to say, with the recent cuts I'm going backwards in the company.

Don't do it. I have friends that are automotive mechanics making $30-35 per hour after just 10 years experience. General aviation mechanics are not respected for what we do and are not paid enough for the level of responsibility we take. After being in aviation for more than 20 years I would have expected to make more than $100,000 per year. The aircraft I work on are $10-50 million business jets. The company charges around $80-90 an hour to work on it which I find to be quite low when you consider that car dealer service shops charge about the same. Owners of these business jets can spend the kind of money it takes to buy and operate them but not to pay what it takes to have an experienced technician on their staff to maintain safety. What's with that?

Automotive mechanics are in higher demand and higher paid.

Aviation is currently in a down cycle. Choose another career.

Become an electrician, and stay out of this trade until people that run these companies become liable for their word.

Do not get into this. Find something else to do with your life, as all we do is wonder if we will have a job the next day or if all maintenance will be done overseas.

Don't! Get out if you're young enough to find something in another line.

Find a different career. I'm glad to be leaving the airline industry after 25 years and two airlines. I will miss working on the airplanes, but with the current environment in the airlines, it's just not worth it.

Get out of the business before your career and your retirement pension goes down the toilet.

I would advise against seeking a career in aircraft maintenance. The airlines are very unstable and you can plan on spending the majority of your career on graveyards. The general aviation sector does not pay well enough or have the benefits that I believe it should. The airlines are willing to outsource maintenance as long as the price is cheap, and do not really care about the lack of quality. It hurts me to not recommend becoming a mechanic, but unless things start to change, I think it is the most honest advice.