Aircraft Mechanics


Employment Prospects


There are approximately 131,690 aircraft mechanics currently employed in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Most work for private airlines. Each airline usually has one main overhaul base, where most of its mechanics are employed. These bases are found along the main airline routes or near large cities, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Miami.

About 12 percent of aircraft mechanics work for the federal government. Many of these mechanics are civilians employed at military aviation installations, while others work for the FAA, mainly in its headquarters in Oklahoma City. About 13 percent work for aerospace parts and products manufacturers. Most of the rest are general aviation mechanics employed by independent repair shops at airports around the country, by businesses that use their own planes for transporting employees or cargo, by certified supplemental airlines, or by crop-dusting and air-taxi firms.

Starting Out

High school graduates who wish to become aircraft mechanics may enter this field by enrolling in an FAA-approved trade school. (Note that there are schools offering this training that do not have FAA approval.) These schools generally have placement services available for their graduates.

Another method is to make direct application to the employment offices of companies providing air transportation and services or the local offices of the state employment service, although airlines prefer to employ people who have already completed training. Many airports are managed by private fixed-base operators, which also operate the airport's repair and maintenance facilities. The field may also be entered through enlistment in the armed forces.

Advancement Prospects

Promotions depend in part on the size of the organization for which an aircraft mechanic works. The first promotion after beginning employment is usually based on merit and comes in the form of a salary increase. To advance further, many companies require the mechanic to have a combined airframe and power plant certificate, or perhaps an aircraft inspector's certificate.

Advancement could take the following route: journey-worker mechanic, head mechanic or crew chief, inspector, head inspector, and shop supervisor. With additional training, a mechanic may advance to engineering, administrative, or executive positions. In larger airlines, mechanics may advance to become flight engineers, then copilots and pilots. With business training, some mechanics open their own repair shops.

Tips for Entry

Read Aviation Maintenance ( to learn more about employers and trends in the field.

Become certified in order to show employers that you have met the highest standards established by your industry.

Join unions to increase your chances of landing a job and receiving fair pay for your work.