Aircraft Maintenance (line or hangar)

I don’t generally mention my career path to people.  I generally say I work for the airlines and kind of move on in the subject matter if possible.  I am most certainly not ashamed of my career path and I love my job and career field.  So what am I talking about?

I am an A&P (Airframe and Powerplant) mechanic.  I am also reasonably experienced in Avionics (Aviation Electronics).  In more recent years we are referred to as Aircraft Maintenance Technicians.  In other countries we are Aircraft Engineers.  Overall – the general public can’t relate to my career field!

This picture probably describes it best:


There is so much truth in this picture it is hard to even explain. …

Somehow when you refer to yourself as an Aircraft Mechanic/Maintenance Technician/ Aircraft Maintenance Engineer .. you have some sort of status …

All of the ‘titles above’ refer to the exact same profession but you can see that just by the variety in terminology for the exact same job – not an easy profession to explain and others to grasp.

Whenever someone starts asking about my job and all the cool intricacies I start with the worst system in the entire aeroplane.  Every mechanic, engineer, technician out there has a similar dread for this system yet it is the one system that every passenger passively counts on inadvertently.

Are you thinking flight controls, engines, hydraulics?  We don’t dread on those systems – there is no job worse on any aircraft (that has them) than the lavatory!

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I only mention this as a reality check!

The title of my post mentions ‘line or hangar’ these are two completely different breeds of technicians.  Hangar & line mechanics are are both highly skilled technicians.  The hangar technicians are ones who tend to specialise a little more so than say a line mechanic.  We are all to some degree, sheet-metal, avionics, airframe, powerplant mechanics.  Hangar mechanics however are more likely to be assigned work based on their skill level and preference in general.  Hangar technicians/mechanics/engineers prefer the indoors and big rollaway toolboxes.  In general they have the luxury of time and light!  And as far as most line mechanics are concerned – we don’t envy or want your job.  We share a mutual respect for our chosen paths -line vs hangar…

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Hangar mechanics have deadlines but in general they do not operate with urgency.  Usually hangar work falls into 2 categories: work that requires less wind, may take more than 6-8 hours, or is an intensive thorough overhaul as in lots of panels removed and the need for a lot of light, specialised inspections and in general TIME.

Line Maintenance Technicians/Engineers live in the unexpected and unknown.  I don’t mean unknown in the sense of not knowing what we are doing but rather the unknown in terms of knowing what our job will be for the moment, the hour, the day! Line mechanics deal with live flights.  We deal with aircraft that needs to depart and keep schedules and passengers on time.  In general we have between 20-45 minutes of ground time to solve whatever the pilot discrepancy(ies) may be.  A typical day for a line mechanic could be as easy as a quick ‘gate call’.  Most easy calls are oil top off, hydraulic fluid top off, window wash.  Just like a gas station attendant’s job of old.   But then there are the ‘cockpit chats’, and the OBTW (Oh By The Way) calls.   The cockpit chat calls are ones I love and dread.  These are the unknowns!  They could involve a wide variety of things from engine issues, to cabin easy issues, window washes, electronics … you just never know!  I have learned humilty in this job.  When I really don’t know the answer I ask/and always look it up!   Our maintenance manual references are our bible and nothing can replace the Maintenance Manual!  Truly!  The FAA requires it and as mechanics … we appreciate it!

A recent gate call of one of my fellow mechanics resulted in an engine change.  We take it all very seriously!   Safety is no accident!

My toolbox…similar w/out the toolsrange canti

4 Responses

  1. “Safety is no accident!” – indeed! This was a very interesting post, loved to read it! I can so relate to your world. Though I know nothing about engineering, the aviation world is familiar to me, having worked for 4 airlines and an airport management company for 14 years! (Currently, I’m doing something else, but I still have a passion for aviation and am drawn to it) Aviation engineers really have such an important role, passengers never even realise it. The unsung heroes :)

  2. Jill Gooding says:

    What an incredible insight into what you and all your fellow mechanics do!!!! When I am next on a flight, I will look out of my cabin window, I will remember you and and be – oh, so grateful for you! Jill

  3. ibdunn says:

    Thanks for sharing! Aviation is a way of life in a sense for me :) Cheers!

  4. ibdunn says:

    :) It is a quiet profession as in as long as we are doing our jobs the passenger is not delayed and barely know we exist and this is best!

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