What they do
Aircraft maintenance engineers inspect, maintain and repair the various electrical/electronic, mechanical and structural components of planes and helicopters. They carry out routine pre-flight checks to ensure that an aircraft is safe and passengers will not be endangered. More detailed inspections are also carried out on each aircraft, where each component is examined and tested for damage and faults. Where problems are detected, aircraft maintenance engineers assess whether the component can be repaired, or if it needs to be replaced entirely.
Specialisations include: Aircraft maintenance engineer (electrical), Aircraft maintenance engineer (instruments), Aircraft maintenance engineer (radio), Avionics technician (defence), Licensed aircraft maintenance engineer (electrical), Licensed aircraft maintenance engineer (instruments), Licensed aircraft maintenance engineer (radio)
Avionics aircraft maintenance engineers work in a range of environments such as indoors in workshops or the hangar, outdoors on the airfield, or on the flightline where aircraft await departure. Working conditions in the hangar are well ventilated and strict safety regulations ensure that risks are minimised.
They may work long hours, do shiftwork, work on weekends and may be on call.
Tools and technologies
Aircraft maintenance engineers use power tools such as pneumatic drills, grinders and riveters. Hoists are used to remove engines and other aircraft components, which can then be dismantled and tested using specialised equipment to check electrical signals and corrosion. In some cases components may be x-rayed or checked using magnetic inspection equipment to check for cracks that the naked eye may not notice. Aircraft maintenance engineers must wear protective clothing, such as overalls, safety glasses and ear muffs. In some cases, especially when working on the tarmac, they may also have to wear high visibility clothing.
How do I become one?
Education and training
To become an aircraft maintenance engineer specialising in avionics, you need to undertake an apprenticeship in aircraft maintenance engineer (avionics). The apprenticeship usually takes 48 months to complete and is available as a school-based apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships and traineeships
As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer, enabling you to complete training towards a nationally recognised qualification. You spend time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider.
You can do an apprenticeship or traineeship if you are a school-leaver, re-entering the workforce or as an adult or mature-aged person wishing to change careers. You can even begin your apprenticeship or traineeship while you're still at school.
If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.
Required registration and licensing
To become a Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (LAME) in Western Australia, you will need to undertake exams set by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority or by an approved Maintenance Training Organisation or be enrolled in a A, B1 or B2 license training course.