Aircraft repair professionals divide into three categories: airframe mechanics, power plant mechanics, and avionics technicians. Airframe mechanics are authorized to work on any component of the aircraft except for the engines, instruments and propellers, if any. That leaves the airframe mechanic responsible for air circulation systems, brakes, the hydraulic systems that operate flaps and other steering mechanisms, the fuselage, wings, fuel tanks and fuel distribution system - as well as interior components such as kitchens, seating, etc.
Some airframe mechanics specialize in inspection and maintenance, while others may specialize in repair. Commercial aircraft maintenance requires extensive logs on maintenance procedures, which are required periodically based on hours flown. It is the maintenance crew that maintains these logs and records all problems and tasks.
Aircraft repair training schools must be certified by the FAA. The program can take eighteen to twenty four months, will cover the use of tools and diagnostic equipment used for aircraft maintenance and repair, and will result in a certificate. About a third of the authorized aircraft schools offer two or four year degrees.
The jobs are not getting easier: there have been technological advances in aircraft maintenance that now require aircraft mechanics to have a solid understanding of electronics to keep a job. The FAA certifies all airframe mechanics, based on their education or experience or combination thereof.
Airframe and power plant mechanics held about 122,000 jobs as of 2006, according to the Department of Labor. These jobs are in hangars or occasionally outside in airport maintenance areas or at general aviation terminals.
The increase in jobs for airframe and power plant mechanics is expected to match the projected increase for jobs overall - about 10% over the decade 2006 - 2016, once again based on Labor Department statistics. It's a highly competitive position in areas with major airports.
10th Percentile $32,960
Median Salary $51,390
90th Percentile $69,030
Source: U.S. Department of Labor