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Electronics

Avionics Technician

Avionics Technician

Avionics systems-components used for aircraft navigation and radio communications, weather radar systems, and other instruments and computers that control flight, engine, and other primary functions-are now an integral part of aircraft design and have vastly increased aircraft capability. Avionics technicians repair and maintain these systems. Their duties may require additional licenses, such as a radiotelephone license issued by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Because of the increasing use of technology, more time is spent repairing electronic systems, such as computerized controls. Technicians also may be required to analyze and develop solutions to complex electronic problems.

Work Environment

Mechanics usually work in hangars or in other indoor areas. When hangars are full or when repairs must be made quickly, they may work outdoors, sometimes in unpleasant weather. Mechanics often work under time pressure to maintain flight schedules or, in general aviation, to keep from inconveniencing customers. At the same time, mechanics have a tremendous responsibility to maintain safety standards, and this can cause the job to be stressful.

Frequently, mechanics must lift or pull objects weighing more than 70 pounds. They often stand, lie, or kneel in awkward positions and occasionally must work in precarious positions, such as on scaffolds or ladders. Noise and vibration are common when engines are being tested, so ear protection is necessary.

Aircraft mechanics usually work 40 hours a week on 8-hour shifts around the clock. Overtime and weekend work is frequent.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Occupational Outlook Handbook
2007-2008

Avionics is a contraction of aviation and electronics. Avionics is involved with all the electronics on board an aircraft, and includes the areas of communication, navigation, and flight control. The Avionics Technician option prepares students to work in general aviation avionics repair stations. The person who desires a career in avionics is someone who enjoys working with both their hands and their mind. A fondness of aviation is a plus but most avionics jobs do not require flying. A strong desire to perform all work to at or near perfection is required since all work must be inspected and approved before it can be returned to service.

Duties:

Avionics technicians inspect, service, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair aircraft power, communications, navigation, auto flight, and sensor systems. Avionics technicians perform repairs and calibration, minimum performance checks, system alignments, and record keeping.

Qualifications:

  • proficiency in solving practical mathematical problems
  • a high degree of electrical and mechanical aptitude
  • School courses in algebra, trigonometry, physics, electricity and mechanics are extremely useful.

Employment:

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians held about 138,000 jobs in 2006; about 5 in 6 of these workers was an aircraft mechanic and service technician.

Employment of aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians primarily is concentrated in a small number of industries. More than half of aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians worked in air transportation and support activities for air transportation. Around 18 percent worked in aerospace product and parts manufacturing and about 16 percent worked for the Federal Government. Most of the rest worked for companies that operate their own planes to transport executives and cargo.

Most airline mechanics and service technicians work at major airports near large cities. Civilian mechanics employed by the U.S. Armed Forces work at military installations. Mechanics who work for aerospace manufacturing firms typically are located in California or in Washington State. Others work for the FAA, many at the facilities in Oklahoma City, Atlantic City, Wichita, or Washington, DC. Mechanics for independent repair shops work at airports in every part of the country.

Job Outlook:

Employment change: Employment is expected to increase by 10 percent during the 2006-16 period, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Passenger traffic is expected to increase as the result of an expanding economy and a growing population, and the need for aircraft mechanics and service technicians will grow accordingly.

Job prospects: Most job openings for aircraft mechanics through the year 2016 will stem from the need to replace the many mechanics expected to retire over the next decade. In addition, some mechanics will leave to work in related fields, such as automobile repair, as their skills are largely transferable to other maintenance and repair occupations.

Also contributing to favorable future job opportunities for mechanics is the long-term trend toward fewer students entering technical schools to learn skilled maintenance and repair trades. Many of the students who have the ability and aptitude to work on planes are choosing to go to college, work in computer-related fields, or go into other repair and maintenance occupations with better working conditions. If this trend continues, the supply of trained aviation mechanics may not keep up with the needs of the air transportation industry.

Job opportunities will continue to be the best at small commuter and regional airlines, at FAA repair stations, and in general aviation. Commuter and regional airlines is the fastest growing segment of the air transportation industry, but wages in these airlines tend to be lower than those in the major airlines, so they attract fewer job applicants. Also, some jobs will become available as experienced mechanics leave for higher paying jobs with the major airlines or transfer to other occupations. At the same time, general aviation aircraft are becoming increasingly sophisticated, boosting the demand for qualified mechanics. Mechanics will face more competition for jobs with large airlines because the high wages and travel benefits that these jobs offer generally attract more qualified applicants than there are openings. Also, there is an increasing trend for large airlines to outsource aircraft and avionics equipment mechanic jobs overseas; however, most airline companies prefer that aircraft maintenance be performed in the U.S. because overseas contractors may not comply with more stringent U.S. safety regulations.

In spite of these factors, job opportunities with the airlines are expected to be better than they have been in the past. But, in general, prospects will be best for applicants with experience. Mechanics who keep abreast of technological advances in electronics, composite materials, and other areas will be in greatest demand. Also, mechanics that are mobile and willing to relocate to smaller rural areas will have better job opportunities. The number of job openings for aircraft mechanics in the Federal Government should decline as the Government increasingly contracts out service and repair functions to private repair companies.

Avionics technicians who do not have FAA certification, but who are prepared to master the intricacies of the aircraft while working with certified A&P mechanics, should have good opportunities. However, certified technicians who are trained to work with complex aircraft systems, performing some duties normally performed by certified A&P mechanics, should have the best job prospects. Additionally, technicians with licensing that enables them to work on the airplane, either removing or reinstalling equipment, are expected to be in especially high demand.

Earnings:

Median hourly earnings of avionics technicians were about $22.57 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $19.02 and $26.65. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $15.65, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $30.33.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Occupational Outlook Handbook
2007-2008


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