Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians

Summary

aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians image
Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians perform scheduled maintenance, make repairs, and complete inspections.
Quick Facts: Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians
2015 Median Pay $58,390 per year
$28.07 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 137,300
Job Outlook, 2014-24 1% (Little or no change)
Employment Change, 2014-24 1,600

What Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians Do

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians repair and perform scheduled maintenance on aircraft. They also may perform aircraft inspections as required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Work Environment

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians work in hangars, in repair stations, or on airfields. They often must meet strict deadlines to maintain flight schedules. The environment can be loud because of aircraft engines and equipment. Workers frequently bend, stoop, and reach from ladders and scaffolds. Most mechanics and technicians work full time; overtime and weekend work is common.

How to Become an Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanic or Technician

Many aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians learn their trade at an FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school. Others enter with a high school education or equivalent and are trained on the job. Some workers enter the occupation after receiving training in the military. Although not required, aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians typically become licensed or certified.

Pay

The median annual wage for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians was $58,390 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians is projected to show little or no change from 2014 to 2024. Job prospects will be best for mechanics who hold an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certificate.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

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What Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians Do About this section

aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians image
Aircraft mechanics diagnose mechanical or electrical problems.

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians repair and perform scheduled maintenance on aircraft. They also perform aircraft inspections as required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Duties

Aircraft mechanics typically do the following:

  • Diagnose mechanical or electrical problems
  • Repair wings, brakes, electrical systems, and other aircraft components
  • Replace defective parts, using hand tools or power tools
  • Examine replacement aircraft parts for defects
  • Read maintenance manuals to identify repair procedures
  • Test aircraft parts with gauges and other diagnostic equipment
  • Inspect completed work to ensure that it meets performance standards
  • Keep records of maintenance and repair work

Avionics technicians typically do the following:

  • Test electronic instruments, using circuit testers, oscilloscopes, and voltmeters
  • Interpret flight test data to diagnose malfunctions and performance problems
  • Assemble components, such as electrical controls and junction boxes, and install software
  • Install instrument panels, using hand tools, power tools, and soldering irons
  • Repair or replace malfunctioning components
  • Keep records of maintenance and repair work

Airplanes are highly complex machines that require reliable parts and service to fly safely. To keep an airplane in operating condition, aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians perform scheduled maintenance, make repairs, and complete inspections. They must follow detailed federal regulations set by the FAA that dictate maintenance schedules for different operations.

Many mechanics are generalists and work on many different types of aircraft, such as jets, piston-driven airplanes, and helicopters. Others specialize in one section, such as the engine, hydraulic system, or electrical system, of a particular type of aircraft. In independent repair shops, mechanics usually inspect and repair many types of aircraft.

Most mechanics who work on civilian aircraft have either one or both of the FAA’s Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certificates. Mechanics who have these certificates are authorized to work on most parts of the aircraft, excluding flight instruments and major work on propellers. Maintaining a plane’s electronic flight instruments is typically the job of specialized avionics technicians.

The following are examples of types of aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians:

Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) mechanics are certified generalist mechanics who can independently perform many maintenance and alteration tasks on aircraft. A&P mechanics repair and maintain most parts of an aircraft, including the engines, landing gear, brakes, and air-conditioning system. Some specialized activities require additional experience and certification.

Maintenance schedules for aircraft may be based on hours flown, days since the last inspection, trips flown, or a combination of these factors. Maintenance also may need to be done at other times to address specific issues recognized by mechanics or manufacturers.

Mechanics use precision instruments to measure wear and identify defects. They may use x rays or magnetic or ultrasonic inspection equipment to discover cracks that cannot be seen on a plane’s exterior. They check for corrosion, distortion, and cracks in the aircraft’s main body, wings, and tail. They then repair the metal, fabric, wood, or composite materials that make up the airframe and skin.

After completing all repairs, mechanics must test the equipment to ensure that it works properly. Aircraft equipped with digital monitoring systems can provide mechanics with valuable diagnostic information from electronic consoles. Mechanics also must keep records of all maintenance that they do on an aircraft.

The A&P ratings generally are considered the initial and most basic ratings needed for a worker to be a professional mechanic. Many additional certifications and specializations can be gained to enable mechanics to perform additional duties. Some of these specializations are as follows:

Avionics technicians are specialists who repair and maintain a plane’s electronic instruments, such as radio communication devices and equipment, radar systems, and navigation aids. As the use of digital technology increases, more time is spent maintaining computer systems. The ability to repair and maintain many avionics and flight instrument systems is granted through the Airframe rating, but other licenses or certifications may be needed.

Designated airworthiness representatives (DARs) examine, inspect, and test aircraft for airworthiness. They issue airworthiness certificates, which aircraft must have to fly. There are two types of DARs: manufacturing DARs and maintenance DARs.

Inspection authorized (IA) mechanics are mechanics who have both Airframe and Powerplant certification and may perform inspections on aircraft and return them to service. IA mechanics are able to do a wider variety of maintenance and alterations than any other type of maintenance personnel. They can do comprehensive annual inspections or return aircraft to service after a major repair.

Repairmen certificate holders may or may not have the A&P certificate or other certificates. Repairmen certificates are issued by certified repair stations to aviation maintenance personnel, and the certificates allow them to do specific duties. Repairmen certificates are valid only while the mechanic works at the issuing repair center and are not transferable to other employers.

Work Environment About this section

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians
Airplane mechanics often have to climb, reach, and balance on a plane’s exterior.

Aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians held about 137,300 jobs in 2014. The majority worked for private companies and about 14 percent worked for the federal government. Approximately 87 percent were aircraft mechanics and the rest were avionics technicians.

The industries that employed the most aircraft mechanics and service technicians in 2014 were as follows: 

Support activities for air transportation 28%
Scheduled air transportation 22
Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 15
Federal government, excluding postal service 15
Nonscheduled air transportation 5

The industries that employed the most avionics technicians in 2014 were as follows: 

Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 30%
Support activities for air transportation 30
Federal government, excluding postal service 11
Scheduled air transportation 8
Employment services 4

Mechanics and technicians work in hangars, in repair stations, or on airfields. They must meet strict deadlines while maintaining safety standards.

Most mechanics and technicians work near major airports. Mechanics may work outside on the airfield, or in climate-controlled shops and hangars. Civilian mechanics employed by the U.S. Armed Forces work on military installations.

Injuries and Illnesses

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians experience rates of injuries and illnesses that are higher than the national average.

Mechanics and technicians often lift heavy objects, handle dangerous chemicals, or operate large power tools. They may work on scaffolds or ladders, and noise and vibrations are common, especially when engines are being tested. However, mechanics take precautions against injury, such as wearing ear protection and brightly colored vests to ensure that they are seen when working around large aircraft.

Work Schedules

Mechanics and technicians usually work full time on rotating 8-hour shifts. Overtime and weekend work are common. Day shifts usually are reserved for mechanics with the most seniority. General aviation mechanics and technicians typically have more flexible schedules than those working for airlines.

How to Become an Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanic or Technician About this section

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians
Aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians are able to specialize in a wide range of systems, in maintenance, alterations, or inspections.

Many aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians learn their trade at an FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school. Others enter with a high school education or equivalent and are trained on the job. Some workers enter the occupation after getting training in the military. Aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians typically are certified by the FAA. See Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 65, subparts D and E, for the most current requirements for becoming a certified mechanic.

Education and Training

Aircraft mechanics and service technicians often enter the occupation after attending a Part 147 FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school. These schools award a certificate of completion that the FAA recognizes as an alternative to the experience requirements stated in regulations. The schools also grant holders the right to take the relevant FAA exams.

Some aircraft mechanics and service technicians enter the occupation with a high school diploma or equivalent and receive on-the-job training to learn their skills and to be able to pass the FAA exams. Other workers enter the occupation after getting training in the military. Aviation maintenance personnel who are not certified by the FAA work under supervision until they have enough experience and knowledge and become certified.

Avionics technicians typically earn an associate’s degree before entering the occupation. Aircraft controls, systems, and flight instruments have become increasingly digital and computerized. Maintenance workers who have the proper background in aviation flight instruments or computer repair are needed to maintain these complex systems.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians are not required to get licenses or certifications, most do, because these credentials often improve a mechanic’s wages and chances for employment. The FAA requires that aircraft maintenance be done either by a certified mechanic with the appropriate ratings or authorizations or under the supervision of such a mechanic.

The FAA offers separate certifications for bodywork (Airframe mechanics, or “A”) and engine work (Powerplant mechanics, or “P”), but employers may prefer to hire mechanics who have both Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) ratings. The A&P ratings generally certify that aviation mechanics meet basic knowledge and ability standards.

Mechanics must be at least 18 years of age, be fluent in English, and have 30 months of experience to qualify for either the A or the P rating or both (the A&P rating). If only one rating is sought by the mechanic, 18 months’ experience is required to take either the Airframe or the Powerplant exam. However, completion of a program at a Part 147 FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school can substitute for the experience requirement and shorten the time requirements for becoming eligible to take the FAA exams.

Applicants must pass written, oral, and practical exams that demonstrate the required skills. Candidates must pass all the tests within a timeframe of 2 years.

To keep their certification, mechanics must have completed relevant repair or maintenance work within the previous 24 months. To fulfill this requirement, mechanics may take classes from their employer, a school, or an aircraft manufacturer.

Avionics technicians typically are certified through a repair station for the specific work being done, or else they hold the Airframe rating to work on an aircraft’s electronic and flight instrument systems. An Aircraft Electronics Technician (AET) certification is available through the National Center for Aerospace & Transportation Technologies (NCATT). It certifies that aviation mechanics have a basic level of knowledge in the subject area, but it is not required by the FAA for any specific tasks. Avionics technicians who work on communications equipment may need to have the proper radiotelephone operator certification issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Other licenses and certifications are available to mechanics who wish to increase their skill set or advance their careers. The Inspection Authorization (IA) is available to mechanics who have had their A&P ratings for at least 3 years and meet other requirements. These mechanics are able to sign off on many major repairs and alterations. Mechanics can get numerous other certifications, such as Repairmen of light-sport aircraft and Designated Airworthiness Representative (DAR).

Important Qualities

Strength and agility. Mechanics and technicians may need to carry or move heavy equipment or aircraft parts. They may need to climb on airplanes, balance, and reach without falling.

Detail oriented. Mechanics and technicians need to adjust airplane parts to exact specifications. For example, they often use precision tools to tighten wheel bolts to an exact tension.

Dexterity. Mechanics and technicians must possess dexterity to coordinate the movement of their fingers and hands in order to grasp, manipulate, or assemble parts.

Observational skills. Mechanics and technicians must recognize engine noises, read gauges, and collect other information to determine whether an aircraft’s systems are working properly.

Troubleshooting skills. Mechanics and technicians diagnose complex problems, and they need to evaluate options to correct those problems.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Avionics technicians may begin their careers as aircraft mechanics and service technicians. As aircraft mechanics and service technicians gain experience, they may study independently, attend formal classes, or otherwise choose to pursue additional certifications that grant privileges to work on specialized flight instruments. Eventually, they may become dedicated avionics technicians who work exclusively on flight instruments.

Advancement

As aircraft mechanics gain experience, they may advance to lead mechanic, lead inspector, or shop supervisor. Opportunities are best for those who have an inspection authorization (IA). Many specialist certifications are available that allow mechanics to do a wider variety of repairs and alterations.

Mechanics with broad experience in maintenance and repair might become inspectors or examiners for the FAA.

Additional business and management training may help aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians open their own maintenance facility.

Pay About this section

Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2015

Avionics technicians

$58,540

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians

$58,390

Aircraft mechanics and service technicians

$58,370

Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

$42,790

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for avionics technicians was $58,540 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,960, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $87,570.

The median annual wage for aircraft mechanics and service technicians was $58,370 in May 2015. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,770, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $89,050.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for aircraft mechanics and service technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:  

Scheduled air transportation $68,140
Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 61,820
Nonscheduled air transportation 60,900
Federal government, excluding postal service 56,550
Support activities for air transportation 51,800

In May 2015, the median annual wages for avionics technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows: 

Scheduled air transportation $76,420
Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 63,790
Federal government, excluding postal service 55,560
Support activities for air transportation 54,800
Employment services 47,210

Mechanics and technicians usually work full time on rotating 8-hour shifts. Overtime and weekend work often are required. Day shifts usually are reserved for mechanics with the most seniority. 

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2014.

Job Outlook About this section

Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

6%

Aircraft mechanics and service technicians

1%

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians

1%

Avionics technicians

0%

 

Employment of aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians is projected to show little or no change from 2014 to 2024. 

Air traffic is expected to increase gradually over the coming decade. However, new aircraft generally are expected to require less maintenance than older aircraft. Airlines may continue to outsource maintenance work to specialized maintenance and repair shops both domestically and abroad. Increased specialization will allow maintenance facilities to use their resources more efficiently and therefore limit growth in the number of aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians.

Job Prospects

Competition for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanic and technician jobs varies with the type of job sought. In general, job opportunities will be best for mechanics who hold an A&P certificate and have knowledge about the most cutting-edge technologies and composite materials. Familiarity with computers and digital systems will help provide the best opportunities.







Employment projections data for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians

137,300 138,900 1 1,600

Avionics technicians

49-2091 17,400 17,500 0 100 [XLSX]

Aircraft mechanics and service technicians

49-3011 119,900 121,500 1 1,600 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

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Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Aerospace engineering and operations technicians

Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians operate and maintain equipment used in developing, testing, and producing new aircraft and spacecraft. Increasingly, these workers are using computer-based modeling and simulation tools and processes in their work.

Associate's degree $66,180
Automotive body and glass repairers

Automotive Body and Glass Repairers

Automotive body and glass repairers restore, refinish, and replace vehicle bodies and frames, windshields, and window glass.

High school diploma or equivalent $39,880
Automotive service technicians and mechanics

Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics

Automotive service technicians and mechanics, often called service technicians or service techs, inspect, maintain, and repair cars and light trucks.

Postsecondary nondegree award $37,850
Electrical and electronic engineering technicians

Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians

Electrical and electronics engineering technicians help engineers design and develop computers, communications equipment, medical monitoring devices, navigational equipment, and other electrical and electronic equipment. They often work in product evaluation and testing, using measuring and diagnostic devices to adjust, test, and repair equipment. They are also involved in the manufacture and deployment of equipment for automation.

Associate's degree $61,130
Electrical and electronics installers and repairers

Electrical and Electronics Installers and Repairers

Electrical and electronics installers and repairers install or repair a variety of electrical equipment in telecommunications, transportation, utilities, and other industries.

Postsecondary nondegree award $55,160
Electricians

Electricians

Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems in homes, businesses, and factories.

High school diploma or equivalent $51,880
Electro-mechanical technicians

Electro-mechanical Technicians

Electro-mechanical technicians combine knowledge of mechanical technology with knowledge of electrical and electronic circuits. They operate, test, and maintain unmanned, automated, robotic, or electromechanical equipment.

Associate's degree $53,340
Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians

Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians inspect, maintain, and repair vehicles and machinery used in construction, farming, rail transportation, and other industries.

High school diploma or equivalent $47,120
Mechanical engineering technicians

Mechanical Engineering Technicians

Mechanical engineering technicians help mechanical engineers design, develop, test, and manufacture mechanical devices, including tools, engines, and machines. They may make sketches and rough layouts, record and analyze data, make calculations and estimates, and report their findings.

Associate's degree $53,910
Network and computer systems administrators

Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Computer networks are critical parts of almost every organization. Network and computer systems administrators are responsible for the day-to-day operation of these networks.

Bachelor's degree $77,810
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/aircraft-and-avionics-equipment-mechanics-and-technicians.htm (visited July 29, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

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2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.