What is an aviation service technician?
An aviation service technician works in the aviation industry, focusing on the inspection, maintenance, and repair of various aircraft systems beyond just the engine. This role is essential for ensuring the safe and efficient operation of airplanes and helicopters.
While aviation engine mechanics specialize in engine components, technicians have a broader scope that can include electrical systems, hydraulic systems, avionics, and even structural components of the aircraft. Their work is integral to the ongoing functionality of the aircraft, directly affecting its reliability, safety, and compliance with regulatory standards.
Duties and responsibilities
Aviation service technicians conduct periodic inspections and maintenance on various aircraft types, following guidelines established by aviation authorities and manufacturers. They identify issues through diagnostic tests, visual inspections, and specialized tools, then perform the necessary repairs or replacements.
Their responsibilities also include calibrating systems, testing repaired equipment for performance, and ensuring all aspects of the aircraft comply with industry standards and regulations. Besides hands-on tasks, these technicians maintain meticulous records of their activities, as accurate documentation is essential for both safety compliance and future servicing needs.
The work environment for aviation service technicians is primarily in hangars, repair stations, or specialized maintenance facilities. Some may also work on airstrips or directly on the flight line. These settings can be noisy due to the operation of heavy machinery and other aircraft. Safety gear like ear protection, gloves, and eye shields is often necessary.
The role can be physically demanding, requiring lifting heavy objects and working in confined spaces or at heights. They usually work in teams and need to communicate effectively with pilots, engineers, and regulatory officials to ensure seamless maintenance and repair operations.
Typical work hours
The work hours for aviation service technicians can be quite variable, largely dependent on the employer’s operational needs. Airlines and larger operators that run 24/7 often require shift work, including nights and weekends, to ensure continuous maintenance coverage. Busy periods or emergency repair situations may necessitate overtime.
In contrast, those employed in training institutions or smaller operations may have more standard work hours, such as 9 AM to 5 PM. However, flexibility is generally expected across the board, given that the role is critical for maintaining the safe and efficient operation of aircraft at all times.
How to become an aviation service technician
Becoming an aviation service technician involves acquiring the necessary education, experience, and certifications. This career guide section covers the steps you’ll need to follow:
Step 1: Obtain a high school diploma
The first step is obtaining a high school diploma or equivalent. Students should focus on mathematics, physics, and computer science courses, which provide a foundation for later technical training.
Step 2: Complete an FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school program
To work in this role, you must complete a program at a school approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). These programs generally last 18 to 24 months and provide comprehensive training in powerplant systems, airframe structures, and FAA regulations.
Step 3: Obtain practical experience
Hands-on experience is crucial, and many training programs include this practical component. Some students also seek internships or entry-level positions to gain more experience.
Step 4: Become certified by the FAA
To work on aircraft, you must obtain certification from the FAA by passing written, oral, and practical exams. Most service technicians obtain the Airframe & Powerplant (A&P) certification, allowing them to work on most aircraft parts.
Step 5: Secure employment as an aviation service technician
With certification, it is time to apply for jobs. Positions may be available with airlines, aircraft manufacturers, or maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities.
Step 6: Continue your professional development
The aviation industry is constantly evolving, so continuing education is crucial. Advanced certifications like the FAA’s Inspection Authorization (IA) allow these professionals to conduct certain inspections. Regularly attending industry workshops, courses, and seminars will help keep skills up-to-date.
Here are some great online course options for continuing education:
- Learn about the physics of the atmosphere and its consequences on speed and altitude measurements with Coursera’s Flight Mechanics: Anemobarometry.
- Learn about aerospace engineering, aircraft masses, and balancing characteristics to build an airplane model with Udemy’s Aerospace Masterclass: Aircraft Design.
- Udemy’s course, Aircraft Maintenance: Understanding the FARs, covers Title 14 CFR parts 1, 3, 65, and 91. Learn the CFR privileges or limitations and how they affect various roles in aviation.
- Earn a certificate in the instrument landing system (ILS), the PAPI visual glide slope indicator system, and the microwave landing system (MLS) with Udemy’s Certificate Course: Aviation and the ILS, PAPI & MLS, which explores the operating principles of the most critical topics in aviation.
Step 7: Specialize in a specific area
With experience, many aviation service technicians decide to specialize in areas such as jet engines or avionics. Specialization can make you more marketable to employers and may lead to higher-paying positions.
How much do aviation service technicians make?
Aviation service technician salaries can be influenced by various factors, including geographic location, years of experience, level of education, industry, and the company’s size. Certification in certain areas can significantly impact their income as well. Some of these professionals may also receive additional compensation through bonuses or benefits.
Highest paying industries
- Commercial Airlines – $75,000
- Government – $70,000
- Military – $65,000
- General Aviation – $60,000
- Aircraft Manufacturing – $60,000
Highest paying states
- Hawaii – $78,800
- Nevada – $77,540
- Connecticut – $77,110
- Washington – $76,230
- Alaska – $75,680
Types of aviation service technicians
In this career guide section, we will explore the various types of aviation service technicians, shedding light on their unique responsibilities and areas of focus.
Aircraft maintenance technician (AMT)
AMTs work on many aspects of an aircraft, including the engines, airframes, and avionics systems. They’re responsible for preventative maintenance, inspections, and repairs necessary to ensure the safety and functionality of aircraft.
Avionics includes the electronic systems used on aircraft, such as navigation, communication, and flight control systems. These technicians troubleshoot, repair, and install these complex systems to ensure the aircraft can operate safely and efficiently.
An aircraft’s structure includes fuselage, wings, and landing gear. Airframe technicians inspect, repair, and maintain these aircraft parts to ensure structural integrity.
The powerplant of an aircraft is its engine, and it must be maintained in good working order. These technicians have specialized knowledge of different types of engines, such as jet and piston engines, and work to ensure they are in optimal running condition.
Line service technician
Line service technicians, also known as ground service technicians, provide ground support for aircraft. This crucial role includes refueling, towing, parking, and handling pre-flight services for efficient airport operation.
Inspection authorized technician
IA technicians have an additional certification that authorizes them to conduct annual and progressive inspections and approve significant aircraft alterations.
Aircraft electrical system technician
Electrical systems are maintained and repaired by these specialized technicians. Their work includes troubleshooting issues and focuses on lighting, wiring, generators, and batteries.
Aircraft sheet metal technician
Metal components of an aircraft are fabricated and repaired with aircraft-grade metal. Technicians in this role use specialized tools and techniques to form metal and ensure each component’s structural integrity.
Top skills for aviation service technicians
Aviation maintenance and repair proficiency is the most fundamental skill for service technicians. Their work revolves around various aircraft components, including engines and electrical systems. Understanding the technical intricacies of these components enables them to perform effectively and enhance the safety and reliability of aircraft operations.
Dexterity and physical stamina are needed to precisely manipulate tools and parts in confined spaces or at heights. The job can be physically demanding and include long hours standing, bending, or lifting heavy parts. Physical stamina allows them to endure these conditions while delivering high-quality work.
Aircraft systems are complex and intricate, so there is no room for oversight. Technicians must be meticulous in detecting and rectifying potential issues early. This attention to detail ensures the highest safety standards.
These professionals frequently encounter complex issues that require innovative solutions. Problem-solving skills are important for assessing situations, identifying underlying problems, and devising solutions that contribute significantly to the safe and efficient operation of aircraft.
Lastly, communication skills are key. They must relay information to pilots, flight engineers, and other maintenance staff about issues, repairs, and safety procedures. Clear and concise communication significantly enhances team efficiency and keeps everyone informed.
Aviation service technician career path
The career path typically includes obtaining a high school diploma or equivalent, followed by specialized training in aviation maintenance. This education could be through a FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school, which provides comprehensive training in electronics, turbine engines, and aviation structures.
After completing a training program, the next step is to gain practical experience. Entry-level service technicians usually begin by working under the supervision of experienced technicians, performing basic maintenance and repair tasks. During this time, they will also likely obtain FAA certification, which involves passing written, oral, and practical exams.
With a few years of hands-on experience, these professionals can advance to more complex roles, taking on more significant repair and maintenance tasks and specializing in particular aircraft or systems. Demonstrated competence, a good safety record, and additional certifications can lead to a senior technician role overseeing a technician team.
In the longer term, seasoned service technicians may step into leadership or management roles, such as a lead technician, supervisor, or maintenance manager. These positions often include overseeing maintenance operations, ensuring adherence to safety standards, and managing teams of technicians.
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Aviation service technician position trends and outlook
As aircraft become more technologically advanced, technicians are increasingly required to be skilled in complex electronics and digital systems for aircraft navigation and radio communications. Additionally, the rise of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) has introduced a new sector for specialized maintenance skills. Keeping up to date with industry advancements, including new aircraft materials and composite structures, as well as emerging areas like drone maintenance, can provide more job opportunities.
Employment projections for aviation service technicians
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for aircraft mechanics and service technicians, which includes aviation service technicians, will grow 6% through 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Although aircraft are becoming more reliable and require less frequent servicing, rigorous maintenance schedules are necessary for all planes. These maintenance needs will drive job growth in the sector. Those who can work with emerging digital avionics and communication systems, such as drone maintenance, should have the best job prospects.
Aviation service technician career tips
Keep updated with aircraft technology advancements
Aircraft technology is continually evolving, with new systems and components introduced regularly. Stay informed about these advancements to maintain and repair aircraft effectively. Attend industry events, subscribe to trade publications, and participate in webinars to keep up with these changes.
Familiarize yourself with diverse aircraft models
The more types of aircraft you’re familiar with, the more valuable you’ll be as an aviation service technician. This familiarity extends to different manufacturers, models, and systems. Get hands-on experience with as many types as possible and take advantage of training opportunities introducing you to new aircraft models.
Master the use of diagnostic tools and software
Modern aircraft maintenance involves the use of specialized diagnostic tools and software. Proficiency in these tools is essential for efficient troubleshooting and repair. Regularly update your skills in this area and learn about new tools as they become available.
Understand the importance of safety protocols
Safety is paramount in the aviation industry. Understanding and respecting safety protocols are necessary for protecting yourself and the aircraft you work on. Regularly review these protocols, attend safety training sessions, and always prioritize workplace safety.
Build a professional network
Professional networking offers many benefits, including sharing knowledge, job opportunities, and industry updates. Joining professional organizations and online forums can provide networking opportunities. Notable associations and networks include:
- Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA)
- Aircraft Maintenance Technicians Association (AMTA)
- Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC)
- Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA)
Commit to continuous learning
Continuous learning is essential in the fast-paced aviation industry. Strive to further your knowledge and skills by taking courses, attending workshops, and obtaining certifications in areas such as:
- Advanced avionics systems
- Composite materials technology
- Engine overhaul techniques
- Safety and quality assurance protocols
Cultivate precision and attention to detail
In aircraft maintenance, even the smallest error can have serious consequences. Cultivate high precision and attention to detail in your work to ensure all maintenance and repairs are performed to the highest standards. Regularly review your procedures to eliminate errors and improve quality.
Where the aviation service technician jobs are
- Lockheed Martin
- Northrop Grumman
- Raytheon Technologies
- General Electric Aviation
Top job sites
- Aviation Job Search
What qualifications are needed to become an aviation service technician?
To qualify for this position, you must complete a program at a FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school. These programs combine classroom instruction with hands-on experience. After completing the program, individuals must pass the FAA certification exams. Good physical condition, manual dexterity, and troubleshooting skills are also beneficial.
What kind of training does an aviation service technician typically undergo?
Training usually involves classroom learning on electronics, aviation physics, and aircraft construction. These lessons are combined with hands-on training and work on actual aircraft. Post-certification, on-the-job training under experienced technicians is common, as is continuous learning to keep up with new technology.
What are the essential skills of an aviation service technician?
Essential skills include mechanical dexterity, attention to detail, and the ability to diagnose and fix issues efficiently. They should be adept in using various tools and diagnostic equipment. Good communication skills are essential for collaborating and explaining complex information to clients or team members.
What does a typical day look like for an aviation service technician?
A typical day can include inspecting aircraft systems, diagnosing issues, and carrying out repairs or maintenance. These tasks can involve anything from routine service checks to in-depth troubleshooting. They also need to maintain detailed records of their work.
What are the primary responsibilities of an aviation service technician?
Responsible for maintaining and repairing aircraft, they conduct regular inspections, identify and troubleshoot issues, and perform maintenance and repairs. Detailed records of inspections and maintenance work are kept to ensure regulatory compliance.
What industries employ aviation service technicians?
The airline industry is the primary employer across commercial airlines, cargo airlines, and private jet operators. They may also work for companies that provide aircraft maintenance services, such as government agencies or the military. Some work for organizations or companies that operate self-owned aircraft.
What is the role of an aviation service technician in ensuring flight safety?
Through regular inspections and maintenance, technicians help ensure that aircraft operate correctly. They are responsible for identifying and fixing issues that could affect the aircraft’s safety.
How does an aviation service technician collaborate with other aviation professionals?
Technicians work closely with various other professionals in the aviation industry, including pilots, flight engineers, and aircraft manufacturers. They communicate regularly to understand and address issues with aircraft. Collaboration with other maintenance team members ensures all work is completed effectively and efficiently.
What challenges do aviation service technicians often encounter?
Some challenges they face include dealing with complex mechanical issues, working in potentially hazardous conditions, and keeping up with advancements in aircraft technology. They often need to work quickly and minimize downtime while ensuring that maintenance and repairs are safe and effective.
How does an aviation service technician stay updated with new methods and technologies in aviation?
Technicians might participate in training programs offered by aircraft manufacturers or other industry organizations to keep up with the latest methods and technologies. They must also keep FAA certification current, which requires ongoing education. Additionally, many read industry publications, attend conferences, and participate in online forums or communities to learn about new advancements and best practices.