What is involved in Aircraft Mechanic Work

Job Description for Aircraft Mechanics

Jet Engine

Jet Engine - Business Airplane

Aircraft Mechanics are responsible for inspecting, servicing and repairing fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft, including helicopters. Aircraft must be kept in peak operating condition at all times, thus a job description might be viewed as a majority of the work done by aircraft mechanics consists of testing, scheduled preventative maintenance, and routine inspections.

Aircraft inspections are scheduled based on a combination of factors, such as the hours flown by the aircraft, the passage of calendar days, and aircraft cycles of operations. Engines are accessed using specifically designed openings, and are removed with hoists or lifts, when appropriate.  Aircraft mechanics use precision instruments to test parts for wear.  X-rays and magnetic inspection equipment are often utilized to check for invisible cracks.  Corrosion, distortion, and stress damages must be located and repaired. In addition, sheet metal and composite surfaces may be replaced or repaired. Control cables must be checked for wear and checked for proper tension. Upon the completion of the needed repairs, mechanics must subsequently test all repaired equipment.

Aircraft mechanics who do repair work use pilot descriptions and on-board aircraft monitoring systems so as to locate and repair faulty aircraft equipment. Additionally, aircraft mechanics must work as rapidly as safety permits, to allow the aircraft to return to service in a timely fashion.

Many aircraft mechanics are specialists. They may focus on a single kind of aircraft, such as jet transport, small propeller-driven airplanes or helicopters, or on one section of an airplane, such as the power plant, the avionics system or the airframe, which includes the the electrical system and hydraulic system.

  • Military Aircraft Mechanics repair and service tail assemblies, wings, and fuselages in addition to landing gear. Common duties include replacing and/or repairing batteries and wiring, starters, lights, and various electrical parts.
  • Powerplant mechanics are qualified to work on the engines and can perform some work on propellers.
  • Air-frame mechanics work on all parts of an aircraft except the engines, propellers, and instruments. Combination air-frame and powerplant mechanics (A&P mechanics) work on all parts of an aircraft except the instruments (most of the mechanics working on civilian aircraft today are A&P mechanics).
  • Avionics mechanics specialize in the maintenance and repair of  navigation units and radio instrumentation of aircraft. They fabricate, troubleshoot, test, analyze, and assemble these units as well as read and write blueprints, technical manuals, and wiring diagrams. Some of the equipment under their care includes automatic pilots, automatic flight stabilizers, airborne communication systems, compasses, altimeters, reference systems, radar systems, navigational displays, cockpit instruments, onboard computers, auxiliary power supplies, and voice and flight data recorders.

Many mechanics specialize in scheduled maintenance required by the FAA. Following a schedule based on the number of hours flown, calendar days, cycles of operation, or a combination of these factors, mechanics inspect the engines, landing gear, instruments, and other parts of aircraft and perform necessary maintenance and repairs.

Mechanics work in hangars or similar indoor areas most of the time, however outdoor work sometimes occurs in bad weather – it can be necessary when hangars are full or deadlines are approaching.  The time pressures of the job (maintaining flight schedules, etc.),  combined with the enormous responsibility to maintain safety, can cause stress.

Mechanics can be based at an airline’s home office/hangar or at maintenance facilities in other locations.

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An itemized list of overall aircraft mechanic job duties includes:

  • Install and assemble electrical, mechanical, plumbing, hydraulic, and structural components and accessories, with the aid of hand tools and power tools
  • Aircraft mechanics check for corrosion, distortion, and invisible cracks in the fuselage, wings, and tail, using specialized x-ray and magnetic inspection equipment
  • In line-service aircraft, clean, change oil, and refuel.
  • Conduct routine and special inspections as required by FAA regulations.
  • Removal, inspection, repairing, and installation of external fuel tanks and in-flight refueling stores.
  • Removal and/or installation of aircraft engines, using forklift trucks or hoists.
  • Disassemble jet and piston engines, and inspect such parts as turbine blades and cylinders for wear, corrosion, cracks, warping, and fluid leaks, with precision measuring instruments including x-rays and magnetic inspection equipment.
  • Examine and inspect aircraft components, including landing gear, hydraulic systems, and de-icers to locate cracks, breaks, leaks, or other problem.
  • Examine engines using specially designed access openings, while working from either scaffolds or ladders, or use lifts or hoists in removing the entire engine from an aircraft.
  • Preparation and painting of aircraft surfaces.
  • Spread plastic film over areas to be repaired in order to prevent damage to surrounding areas.
  • Shaping and trimming replacement body sections to specified sizes and fittings, then securing sections in place, employing adhesives, power tools and hand tools.
  • Board aircraft on flights so as to make in-flight corrections and adjustments.
  • Use portable or stationary curing equipment to cure bonded structures.
  • Inspect airframes for defects or wear.
  • Inspect and certify completed work to insure that maintenance meets FAA standards and that aircraft are ready for operation.
  • Align and install repaired or replacement parts for eventual welding or riveting, using clamps and wrenches.
  • Listen to operating engines, so as to detect and diagnose mal-function, which is commonly sticking or burned valves.
  • Reassemble engines following repair or inspection, and re-install these engines in aircraft.
  • Locate and then mark dimensions and reference lines on defective and/or replacement parts, by means of templates, compasses, scribes and steel rules.
  • Maintain repair logs, thereby documenting all corrective and preventive aircraft maintenance.
  • Maintain, repair, and rebuild aircraft structures, functional components, and parts such as wings and fuselage, rigging, hydraulic units, oxygen systems, fuel systems, electrical systems, gaskets, and seals.
  • Using precision instruments, measure parts for wear.
  • Provide tension measures of control cables.
  • Obtain oil and fuel samples, so as to check them for contamination.
  • Read and interpret maintenance manuals, service bulletins, and other technical specifications so as to determine the method and feasibility of repairing, replacing malfunctioning or damaged aircraft components.
  • Read and interpret pilots’ written or spoken descriptions of problems, so as to diagnose causes.
  • Cut out or remove defective parts, or drill holes so as to gain access to internal defects or damage, in the process using punches and drills.
  • Replace or repair worn, defective, or damaged components, using hand tools, gauges, and testing equipment.
  • Service and maintain aircraft and related apparatus by performing activities such as flushing crankcases, cleaning screens, and lubricating moving parts.
  • Test operation of engines and other systems, using test equipment such as ignition analyzers, compression checkers, distributor timers, and ammeters.
  • Clean engines, sediment bulk and screens, and carburetors, adjusting carburetor float levels.
  • Clean, strip, prime, and sand structural surfaces and materials to prepare them for bonding.
  • Communicate with other aircraft mechanic workers, thereby coordinating the fitting and alignment of heavy parts, or facilitate in the processing of repair parts.
  • Determine the repair limits for critical engine hot section parts, comparing with manufacturer MTBF specifications.
  • Fabricate replacements for defective sections or parts, utilizing metal-fabricating machines, saws, brakes, shears, and grinders.
  • Inventory and then requisition/order parts, supplies, materials, and equipment.
  • Modify aircraft structures, systems, or components utilizing charts, drawings, schematics, technical publications, and engineering orders.

Here is a good video introduction to some aircraft mechanic duties, thanks to PAMA, the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association.

 

Next, some typical avionics mechanic work is shown in the following video.

Lastly,  see what happens in the replacement of a Boeing 777 aircraft commercial jet engine; this video shows a time-lapse sequence of a 6 hour process:

A very good description of the job duties and tasks of an aircraft mechanic can be found at http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/49-3011.00  No all-encompassing document has been written which adequately covers all the job duties of an aircraft mechanic. As can be seen, however, the gamut of job responsibilities in this career is impressive.

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