Aircraft mechanics service and repair aircraft and aircraft engines. They do this to ensure safe and dependable performance.
"I'm sorry folks," the voice on the intercom says. "One of the engines is not gaining enough speed and we need to check it out." The plane slows and turns off the runway. Then it slowly travels back to the gate. Everyone in their seats groans and the flight attendants try to manage the situation as best they can. Nobody likes a delay, but nobody likes a malfunctioning engine either. Even though situations like this test our patience (especially when you wait hours and hours), it is necessary to get the plane fixed. Enter aircraft mechanics.
Aircraft mechanics perform routine maintenance and inspections. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires regular checks to be made to aircraft. For example, after aircraft have flown a certain number of hours, mechanics may inspect them. Or mechanics may check planes after a specific number of days, cycles of operation, or a combination of all of these factors.
Many aircraft mechanics work only on preventive maintenance. They inspect the engines, landing gear, instruments, pressurized sections, and accessories. Accessories include brakes, valves, and air-conditioning systems. Mechanics may grease moving parts or replace fluids. Aircraft mechanics use precision instruments to measure parts for wear. They also use x-ray equipment or magnetic inspection equipment to check for cracks that cannot be seen by human eyes. When they find worn parts, mechanics replace or repair them. Sometimes mechanics find cracks in something larger, such as an airplane's wing or tail. They may build and install a new section using sheet metal or composite material.
Mechanics who specialize in repair rely on pilots' descriptions to find and fix faulty equipment. Some listen to the engines to identify the problem. Others may use blueprints to learn where repairs need to be done. Mechanics check maintenance manuals for information about the best way to repair damaged parts. They use equipment such as hoists to lift engines from the body of the aircraft. Some repairs require mechanics to take engines apart. Mechanics may assemble, adjust, and install new systems, such as electronics or plumbing. After completing the repairs, mechanics run tests to make sure the systems or parts are working properly. For some repairs, tests are also done and recorded during flight. These recordings help mechanics solve problems quickly.
Mechanics may work on one or many types of aircraft. These may include jets, propeller-driven airplanes, and helicopters. Some mechanics specialize in one section of a certain type of aircraft. In small repair shops, mechanics usually work on many types of aircraft. In larger shops, they are more likely to specialize. Advances in technology are changing how mechanics spend their time. More and more, mechanics are repairing electronic systems, such as navigation and radar. The workers who specialize in these repairs are called avionics technicians.