Aircraft designers and manufacturers do extensive work to ensure the airworthiness of the crafts they build. But once an aircraft moves from the production line to the runway, there is another group of professionals who take on the responsibility.
In the field of aircraft maintenance, aircraft mechanics and aircraft maintenance technicians do the vital work of ensuring the safety and performance of all types of aircraft.
Aircraft maintenance is a highly regulated and demanding field, but it’s also one that offers rewarding opportunities within the aviation MRO industry.
An Overview Of Aviation MRO
Aviation MRO refers to aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul. It is a subset of the much broader aerospace industry but it’s relevant to virtually all categories of aviation, including private, commercial, tactical, and scientific aircraft.
Aviation MRO encompasses repair, service, inspection, and other tasks related to the safety and upkeep of aircraft, as well as aviation-specific components.
Aviation MRO organizations and facilities will usually specialize in specific aspects of aircraft operation, performance, and safety. Some of these organizations function as aircraft MROs which work on complete aircraft, including jets, helicopters, and other air transport vehicles.
They are usually located near airports and airfields, while aviation fixed-based operators (FBOs) are located at airports. Aircraft FBOs provide fueling, hangaring, parking, some maintenance, and other services that sometimes overlap with MROs.
Instead of working on complete aircraft, engine MROs, landing gear MROs, and component MROs are dedicated to the upkeep and repair of systems and specific aircraft parts. Depending on their services, MRO organizations do need to maintain precise certifications.
Without the correct certification, and depending on the type of craft, component, or system, an aircraft maintenance technician may not be permitted to perform certain tasks or a facility may not be able to accept certain jobs.
In the United States, the FAA handles MRO regulations and deems whether a facility can operate as an FAA Certified Repair Station and whether the jobs performed there are in line with their Operation Specifications.
The credentials of the professionals who work at the facility are also a significant factor in the allowed operations.
A Career As An Aircraft Maintenance Technician
An aircraft maintenance technician (AMT), or aircraft maintenance engineer (AME)—as they’re called by the International Civil Aviation Organization—is specially licensed to perform pre and post-flight and regular inspections, repairs, and various forms of aircraft structural maintenance.
Aircraft mechanics can also perform some of these tasks as private, unlicensed AMEs or AMTs, but their allowance to do so in FAA Certified Repair Stations may be restricted or not permitted.
To become an FAA-licensed aircraft maintenance technician, mechanics must acquire either an Airframe (A) or Powerplant (P) certificate, which is commonly called an A&P license.
Consisting of an oral, written, and practical test, the A&P exam tests the knowledge of an aircraft mechanic across dozens of technical subjects related to aircraft maintenance and repair.
Successfully obtaining this license gives a mechanic broad access to a range of aircraft maintenance jobs and other aviation-sector-based careers. An aircraft maintenance salary is competitive, averaging between $68k and $110K and with an hourly rate ranging between $22 and $50.
Apart from the A&P certification, aircraft maintenance technicians will further specialize in the upkeep and repair of unique aircraft.
For example, a tactical aircraft maintenance technician can be employed by the Air Force and other military branches to work on highly advanced aircraft, such as strike-fighters and attack planes.