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Jobs Outlook: Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Service Technicians




Opportunities for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technician jobs should be excellent for persons who have completed aircraft mechanic training programs. Employment of aircraft mechanics is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2012, and large numbers of additional job openings should arise from the need to replace experienced mechanics who retire. Avionics technicians are projected to increase at a slower than average rate. Despite the long-term forecast, these occupations are currently in a period of little to no growth. Reduced passenger traffic resulting from a weak economy and the events of September 11, 2001, have forced airlines to cut back flights and take aircraft out of service. As the economy improves and public reluctance to board aircraft decreases, a growing population should increase passenger traffic and create the need for more aircraft mechanics and service technicians over the next decade. If the number of graduates from aircraft mechanic training programs continues to fall short of employer needs, opportunities for graduates of mechanic training programs should be excellent.
Most job openings for aircraft mechanics through the year 2012 will stem from replacement needs. A large number of mechanics are expected to retire over the next decade and create several thousand job openings per year. In addition, others will leave to work in related fields, such as automobile repair, as much of their skills are transferable to other maintenance and repair occupations. Also contributing to favorable future job opportunities for mechanics is the long-term trend towards 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 the trend continues, the supply of trained aviation mechanics will not be able to keep up with air transportation industry needs when growth resumes in the industry.

Job opportunities are likely to be the best at small commuter and regional airlines, at FAA repair stations, and in general aviation. Commuter and regional airlines are the fastest growing segment of the air transportation industry, but wages in these companies 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 another occupation. 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. In spite of this, 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. 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.