Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians
Nature of the Work
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).
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.