What is an aircraft electrician?
An aircraft electrician specializes in aircraft’s electrical systems and plays an integral role in the aviation industry. Their expertise is critical for maintaining, repairing, and troubleshooting complex electrical systems that ensure safe aircraft operation. Without their specialized skills, airplanes could not function correctly, potentially compromising safety and disrupting flight schedules.
Duties and responsibilities
Aircraft electricians handle many tasks related to an aircraft’s electrical systems, including inspecting and testing electrical and electronic components, such as navigation systems, radio communication devices, and flight control systems. They also diagnose problems, repair or replace parts, and perform routine maintenance tasks. Reading and interpreting maintenance manuals, service bulletins, or other specifications helps determine how to repair or replace components.
Aircraft electricians typically work in hangars, repair stations, or airfields. The role can be challenging and often includes working in cramped spaces or at heights. Safety is a primary concern, so they must adhere to strict regulations. The work may require coordination with other technicians, mechanics, and engineers.
Typical work hours
Work hours for aircraft electricians can vary depending on the job and employer, but most are employed full-time. They may work in shifts, including nights, weekends, and holidays, to cover 24/7 operations at large airports or maintenance facilities. Overtime or being on call may be necessary for quick repairs to keep aircraft in service or to address emergency maintenance issues.
How to become an aircraft electrician
Becoming an aircraft electrician involves obtaining the necessary education, gaining practical experience, and earning relevant certifications. This career guide section covers the steps you’ll need to take to achieve your goal.
Step 1: Obtain a high school diploma or equivalent
The initial step to becoming an aircraft electrician is to complete high school or equivalent, with a focus on subjects like mathematics, physics, and electronics. These subjects lay the groundwork for the technical skills needed as an electrician.
Step 2: Gain practical experience or vocational training
After high school, aspiring electricians can enter the workforce or pursue a vocational program in aircraft electrical systems. These programs typically last 12 to 24 months and provide hands-on experience with aircraft electrical systems.
Step 3: Complete an apprenticeship program
An apprenticeship program is a fantastic way to gain practical experience while learning from seasoned professionals. These programs typically last 3 to 4 years, including classroom learning and hands-on training.
Step 4: Obtain certification
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides certifications for Aircraft Electronics Technicians (AET) that are recognized industry wide. To obtain certification, you must pass the AET exam, which tests knowledge of aviation electronics systems.
Step 5: Gain work experience
After obtaining certification, the next step is to gain work experience through entry-level positions in aircraft manufacturing companies, airlines, or military services. These roles allow you to hone skills and gain in-depth, on-the-job knowledge.
Step 6: Pursue additional certifications and training
As you gain experience, consider pursuing other certifications and training to expand your expertise and career prospects. For example, obtaining an avionics technician certification or attending manufacturer-specific training courses can help build a specialty in particular aircraft or avionics systems.
Online courses can also expand knowledge and further opportunities in the field. Here are a few great options:
- Udemy offers an Aerospace Engineering course focusing on aircraft systems and avionics. Learn about various aircraft components as well as the purposes they serve.
- Learn airplane flight mechanics, from design to certification, in the Flight Mechanics Course, which also covers aerodynamic derivatives, stability, and control theory.
- Coursera offers Urban Air Mobility, a relatively new field. It touches on the possibility of shifting more traffic to the skies, which could affect the role of aircraft electricians in the decades to come.
Step 7: Apply for jobs and prepare for interviews
Once you’ve gained the necessary education, training, and experience, it is time to apply for aircraft electrician positions. Tailor your resume and cover letter to each job application, highlighting relevant skills and experiences. Prepare for interviews by researching common interview questions and practicing answers.
How much do aircraft electricians make?
Several factors, including geographic location, level of education, years of experience, company size, and industry, can influence the salary of an aircraft electrician. More specialized skills or certifications, such as those in avionics, can result in higher pay. Additionally, overtime work, particularly during peak maintenance periods, can increase earnings.
Highest paying industries
- Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing: $77,890
- Scheduled Air Transportation: $77,240
- Federal Executive Branch: $75,990
- Support Activities for Air Transportation: $75,680
- Electrical Equipment Manufacturing: $74,710
Highest paying states
- Alaska: $80,150
- Nevada: $78,390
- Hawaii: $77,820
- Washington: $77,710
- California: $77,400
Types of aircraft electricians
In this career guide section, we will explore various specializations for aircraft electricians, shedding light on their unique responsibilities and areas of focus.
General aircraft electrician
A general aircraft electrician works on various electrical systems, including power distribution and communication. They install new systems, troubleshoot issues, and perform regular maintenance to ensure systems work correctly.
The avionics specialty focuses on aircraft, spacecraft, and satellites. Technicians are aircraft electricians who maintain and repair navigation systems, radio communications, and flight control systems. Their responsibilities include staying up-to-date with the latest advancements in avionics technology to ensure systems function optimally and safely.
Military aircraft electrician
Military aircraft, such as fighter jets and transport planes, must be maintained to ensure safety and performance during military operations. In addition to typical electrician duties, these electricians may also work on specialized military equipment.
Helicopters have a unique design and function compared to other aircraft, requiring particular expertise. Helicopter electricians are skilled in maintaining and repairing helicopter systems, including lighting and communication devices.
Senior aircraft electrician
A senior aircraft electrician has several years of experience and advanced knowledge of electrical systems. They perform standard electrician duties and supervise other electricians, including assigning tasks, providing training, and ensuring adherence to safety regulations.
Top skills for aircraft electricians
A strong understanding of electrical systems is fundamental for aircraft electricians. They must comprehend the intricate workings of various aircraft electrical components, including wiring systems, flight instruments, and communication devices. Understanding and working with these complex systems is vital for ensuring an aircraft’s reliable operation, contributing to air travel safety and efficiency.
Aircraft maintenance requires precision because errors can have significant consequences. Electricians must meticulously check their work and spot anomalies or potential issues before they escalate into substantial problems. A detailed approach ensures that electrical systems function correctly and safely, which is crucial for the aircraft’s overall performance.
These professionals often maneuver in tight spaces and handle small components while installing or repairing electrical systems. Manual dexterity and using one’s hands skillfully are essential for completing tasks effectively and maintaining high safety standards.
These electricians frequently encounter issues that require innovative solutions, from diagnosing malfunctions in complex electrical systems to finding the best repair or installation approach. The ability to solve problems effectively ensures electrical systems are always in optimal working condition, minimizing downtime and maintaining safety standards.
The aviation industry has strict safety regulations, and professionals in this field must comply with these standards. They are required to understand safety procedures, implement them correctly, and use protective equipment during all maintenance work. This commitment is critical to ensuring aircraft safety.
Aircraft electrician career path options
Individuals who aspire to become aircraft electricians often begin their careers by completing a program from an FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school. Some might also complete an apprenticeship or on-the-job training program. Entry-level roles include being an assistant aircraft electrician or a general aircraft maintenance technician, where they can gain experience and knowledge about the electrical systems of different aircraft.
With experience and expertise, these professionals become fully qualified aircraft electricians, handling more complex tasks and possibly supervisory responsibilities. They may also choose to become certified through the FAA, which requires passing a series of exams. This certification can enhance career prospects and earning potential.
After several years of experience, these electricians can move into senior or lead roles, where they might supervise teams of electricians, coordinate maintenance tasks, or act as consultants on aircraft electrical systems. Some may also transition into inspection roles, where they ensure compliance with FAA regulations.
Long-term career growth might include roles such as maintenance supervisor, maintenance manager, or maintenance director. These roles often involve overseeing large maintenance operations, managing budgets, and ensuring regulatory compliance. Advanced education, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree in aviation management, could benefit these higher-level positions.
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Aircraft electrician position trends and outlook
As technology advances, the complexity of these systems is growing, requiring more specialized knowledge and skills. Recently, there has been a shift toward electric and hybrid-electric aircraft that is expected to increase in the coming years. This trend increases the demand for electricians to work on next-generation aircraft. Additionally, the emergence of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) has created new opportunities, as these devices also require complex electrical systems to operate.
Employment projections for aircraft electricians
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of aircraft electricians is projected to grow by 6% through 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Many vacancies are to replace workers who transfer to different fields or exit the labor force altogether through retirement.
Aircraft electrician career tips
Understand the importance of safety
In the aircraft industry, safety is paramount. You should be knowledgeable and always adhere to safety protocols and regulations. Keeping up-to-date with safety training and certifications is a must.
Build a professional network
Networking can open up a world of opportunities and provide valuable insights. Consider connecting with professionals in your field through these associations:
- Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA)
- Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA)
- Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance (AWAM)
Stay current with technology
Aircraft electrical systems are continuously evolving with advancements in technology. Stay informed about new tools, techniques, and avionics systems to maintain a competitive edge.
Develop problem-solving skills
Aircraft electricians encounter various electrical issues requiring innovative solutions. Cultivating problem-solving skills can help to resolve these issues effectively and efficiently.
Pursue continuous learning
The aviation industry constantly advances, so staying updated with the latest trends and technologies is essential. Consider the following for continuous learning:
- Enroll in advanced electrical courses
- Attend industry seminars and workshops
- Participate in relevant training programs offered by aircraft manufacturers
Maintain physical fitness
This role can be physically demanding, requiring work in tight spaces or at heights. Keeping physically fit can help with performing duties effectively.
Stay focused under pressure
Electricians often work under tight deadlines and in high-pressure situations where safety and accuracy are crucial. Being able to maintain focus and composure under pressure is a valuable attribute.
Learn to work in a team
Aircraft maintenance often involves teamwork. Working well with others, including mechanics, engineers, and pilots, can help you succeed in the role.
Comply with regulations
The aviation industry is heavily regulated. Familiarize yourself with the FAA regulations and ensure that your work complies with these standards.
Pay attention to details
A small mistake in an aircraft’s electrical systems can lead to severe consequences. Paying attention to every detail, no matter how small, is crucial.
Where the aircraft electrician jobs are
- Lockheed Martin
- Northrop Grumman
- Raytheon Technologies
- General Dynamics
Top job sites
- Aviation Job Search
What qualifications are required for an aircraft electrician?
They typically need a high school diploma or equivalent as a base qualification. However, technical training in avionics or a related field is often required, which can be achieved through a technical school or vocational college program. Additionally, electricians must understand schematics and technical manuals and have a strong base knowledge of systems and aviation requirements.
What type of certification is needed to become an aircraft electrician?
Certification requirements can vary by country. In the United States, the FAA issues an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certificate covering a broad range of aviation maintenance, including electrical systems. In addition, further specialized certifications in avionics can be beneficial.
What does a typical day look like for an aircraft electrician?
A typical day might involve inspecting and diagnosing issues with aircraft electrical systems, repairing or replacing faulty components, testing the functionality of repairs and installations, and maintaining records of inspections and work performed. Electricians might also consult aircraft maintenance manuals and schematics to guide their work.
What skills are important for an aircraft electrician?
They should have excellent problem-solving abilities, strong attention to detail, proficiency in understanding and following technical manuals and schematics, and strong mechanical aptitude. Good manual dexterity helps with intricate, precise tasks.
What safety considerations are important for an aircraft electrician?
Aircraft electricians must always adhere to safety regulations and standards, including wearing appropriate protective gear and following proper procedures for handling electrical systems. They should also be aware of potential hazards, such as working with high voltage systems or at heights on the aircraft.
Can an aircraft electrician specialize in certain types of aircraft?
Electricians can specialize in certain aircraft types, such as commercial airliners, helicopters, military aircraft, or private jets. Each aircraft type may have different electrical systems and requirements, and specialization can involve additional training and knowledge.
Do aircraft electricians work alone or as part of a team?
While these electricians may often work independently on specific tasks, they are typically part of a larger maintenance team. They must collaborate and communicate effectively with other team members, including maintenance specialists, engineers, and pilots.
What physical demands are associated with being an aircraft electrician?
The role can be physically demanding. It may involve lifting heavy equipment, confined spaces within aircraft, standing or bending for extended periods, and sometimes working at heights. Good physical fitness can be beneficial for the role.
What is the importance of precision in the work of an aircraft electrician?
Precision is critical in their work, as faulty wiring or incorrect installations can lead to severe safety issues. Paying close attention to detail and following technical schematics ensures that work meets high-quality standards.
Is continuous learning important for an aircraft electrician?
As technology evolves, aircraft electrical systems become increasingly complex and sophisticated. Staying updated with the latest advancements through ongoing training or professional development is essential for success in this role.