Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians

Summary

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Quick Facts: Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians
2016 Median Pay $60,270 per year
$28.98 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, 2016 149,500
Job Outlook, 2016-26 5% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 7,500

What Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians Do

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians repair and perform scheduled maintenance on aircraft.

Work Environment

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians work in hangars, in repair stations, or on airfields. The environment can be loud because of aircraft engines and equipment.

How to Become an Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanic or Technician

Most aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians learn their trade at an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved aviation maintenance technician school or on the job. Some learn through training received in the military.

Pay

The median annual wage for aircraft mechanics and service technicians was $60,170 in May 2016.

The median annual wage for avionics technicians was $60,760 in May 2016.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians is projected to grow 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job opportunities are expected to be good because there will be a need to replace those workers leaving the occupation.

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

Learn more about aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

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.

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 require reliable parts and maintenance in order 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 regulations set by the Federal Aviation Administration (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.

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 test the equipment to ensure that it works properly and record all maintenance completed on an aircraft.

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 as well.

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 activities 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
Aircraft mechanics climb, reach, and balance on a plane’s exterior.

Aircraft mechanics and service technicians held about 132,000 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of aircraft mechanics and service technicians were as follows:

Support activities for air transportation 30%
Scheduled air transportation 22
Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 15
Federal government, excluding postal service 13
Nonscheduled air transportation 5

Avionics technicians held about 17,500 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of avionics technicians were as follows:

Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 30%
Support activities for air transportation 30
Federal government 11
Scheduled air transportation 9
Professional, scientific, and technical services 5

Mechanics and technicians work in hangars, in repair stations, or on airfields. They must meet strict deadlines while following 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 injuries, 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.

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

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians
Some aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians learn their trade on the job.

Some aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians learn their trade at an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved aviation maintenance technician school. Others are trained on the job or learn through 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

Aircraft mechanics and service technicians typically 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.

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

Training

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. Aviation maintenance personnel who are not certified by the FAA work under supervision until they have enough experience and knowledge and become certified.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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). 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 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.

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 review and approve many major repairs and alterations.

Avionics technicians typically are certified through a repair station for the specific work they perform on aircraft, or 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).

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Some avionics technicians begin their careers as aircraft mechanics and service technicians. As aircraft mechanics and service technicians gain experience, they may attend classes or otherwise choose to pursue additional certifications that grant privileges to work on specialized flight instruments. Eventually, they may become 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 to advance may be best for those who have an inspection authorization (IA). Mechanics with broad experience in maintenance and repair may become inspectors or examiners for the FAA.

Important Qualities

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 a specified tension.

Dexterity. Mechanics and technicians need 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.

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

Pay About this section

Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2016

Avionics technicians

$60,760

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians

$60,270

Aircraft mechanics and service technicians

$60,170

Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

$43,440

Total, all occupations

$37,040

 

The median annual wage for aircraft mechanics and service technicians was $60,170 in May 2016. 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 $35,960, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $87,880.

The median annual wage for avionics technicians was $60,760 in May 2016. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $39,510, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $83,260.

In May 2016, the median annual wages for aircraft mechanics and service technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Scheduled air transportation $71,810
Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 63,810
Federal government, excluding postal service 57,140
Nonscheduled air transportation 56,930
Support activities for air transportation 53,410

In May 2016, the median annual wages for avionics technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Scheduled air transportation $70,810
Professional, scientific, and technical services 65,970
Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 63,010
Support activities for air transportation 59,940
Federal government 56,270

Mechanics and technicians usually work full time on rotating 8-hour shifts. Overtime and weekend work often are required.

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 2016.

Job Outlook About this section

Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Total, all occupations

7%

Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

7%

Avionics technicians

6%

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians

5%

Aircraft mechanics and service technicians

5%

 

Overall employment of aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians is projected to grow 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by occupation (see table below).

Air traffic is expected to increase gradually over the coming decade, and will require additional aircraft maintenance, including that performed on new aircraft. Some airlines may outsource maintenance work to specialized maintenance and repair shops both domestically and abroad. This practice is expected to reduce employment growth opportunities in the air transportation industry over the next 10 years.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities are expected to be good because there will be a need to replace those workers leaving the occupation.

Employment projections data for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians, 2016-26
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians

149,500 157,000 5 7,500

Avionics technicians

49-2091 17,500 18,600 6 1,100 employment projections excel document xlsx

Aircraft mechanics and service technicians

49-3011 132,000 138,400 5 6,400 employment projections excel document 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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

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 2016 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, producing, and sustaining new aircraft and spacecraft. Increasingly, these workers are using computer-based modeling and simulation tools and processes in their work, as well as advanced automation and robotics.

Associate's degree $68,020
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 $40,370
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 $38,470
Diesel service technicians and mechanics

Diesel Service Technicians and Mechanics

Diesel service technicians (also known as diesel technicians) and mechanics inspect, repair, and overhaul buses and trucks, or maintain and repair any type of diesel engine.

High school diploma or equivalent $45,170
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, and use 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 $62,190
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.

See How to Become One $55,920
Electricians

Electricians

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

High school diploma or equivalent $52,720
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 $55,610
Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians

Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians

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

High school diploma or equivalent $47,690
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 $54,480
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/aircraft-and-avionics-equipment-mechanics-and-technicians.htm (visited November 28, 2017).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What They Do

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Pay

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State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

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Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2016 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 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.

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, 2016

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2016, which is the base year of the 2016-26 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2016-26

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

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 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

2016 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 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.