Diary Of An
Copyright 1992 All Rights Reserved
book is dedicated to my parents,
is also dedicated to all the mechanics
purpose of this book is to provide information about life in the airline
industry to prospective Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) students or to those
persons already in an A&P program. An
A&P refers to the Airframe and Powerplant license that permits the holder of
the license to perform repairs and maintenance on aircraft.
It is hoped that the material in this book will help new hires to the
airlines understand the way they operate and that by doing so they will find
themselves better prepared for the life they are about to live.
It is also intended to educate the public about the conditions that we as
aircraft and airline mechanics are forced to deal with on a daily basis.
It is the hope of this writer that the information contained in this book
may provide the impetus for some much needed change in the industry.
aircraft mechanics come from the public at large and as a result enter into the
field with very little real knowledge of what is expected of them or what to
really expect out of their involvement in the airlines.
This book will address this subject in detail so that the bumps and
potholes a new mechanic may encounter in his career may be as small as possible.
is important to realize that the opinions expressed by me in this book are my
own and do not reflect the opinions of any other person or corporation.
Also it should be remembered that the conclusions that will be drawn by
me only reflect what I myself was exposed to through my involvement with one
particular airline. If I had been hired by another company I may have come to
some different conclusions. At the
same time there are many things that can be inferred about all airlines, even if
you have never worked for them, due to similar corporate structures and the
problems and regulations they are forced to deal with.
None of these things the public in general is aware of and likewise the
prospective aircraft mechanic is unaware of them also.
believe in giving credit where credit is due, therefore anytime a particular
subject is discussed regarding a positive issue, the mechanics name is used.
At the same time I don't believe it is necessary to provide notoriety to
persons who create more trouble than they solve.
the person in question will simply be referred to as the "mechanic" or
by their title. Whenever my airline
is referred to in this work the name of my airline will be omitted.
Unfortunately anyone with any close knowledge of the route structures or
bases of operation will be able to guess which airline I have worked for.
Because of this I can only offer my apologies to the airline in question.
have titled this book Wings Of Faith for two reasons. The first reason is that new mechanics come into this line of
work with a tremendous amount of faith regarding what they expect to get out of
their involvement with aviation and what they expect airlines are all about.
The second reason is that of the amount of faith required to remain in
this business and survive. The
degree of faith and the amount of self confidence required staggers the
Read closely and one of the most interesting careers in the world will reveal itself to you as much as it possibly can from a book. This work is the culmination of approximately five years of employment as an aircraft mechanic.
note that I attempted vigorously to get this book published and on the
bookshelves of your nearest book store. Unfortunately the publishers
almost unanimously agreed stating: "We don't believe the public has an
interest in this material." Thanks to the internet this information
is now available to you free of charge. That's how important I believe
this information is!
One How To Become An Aircraft Mechanic
Two Searching For The First Job
Three What To Expect On The First Day
Four What To Expect At The Majors
Five There's Headhunters Out There
Six The Big L.O.
Seven The Commuter Revisited
Eight The Lights Went Out At Midnight
Nine Welcome to the Future Of Aviation
Ten What's Wrong With This Picture
is it that leads people to become involved in aviation?
In my case it was Hollywood. I
was the kid who watched Sky King religiously.
About the same time there was another television show about a man and his
Bell 47 helicopter and I couldn't get enough of either of them.
Hollywood has always portrayed aviators as dashing charismatic
personalities and social misfits and to some extent it is true, but that is
where the similarities end. You
will almost never see a movie about aircraft mechanics. I think that the reason for this is that there is very little
excitement in watching an aircraft mechanic change the tire or brake of a DC-9
in the pouring rain, or troubleshooting an aircraft electrical system. There
isn't much glamour in this business. The
glamour belongs to the pilots. But
there is a tremendous amount of satisfaction to be had in realizing that you
have performed an excellent degree of maintenance on an airplane and you can
stand on the ramp as it taxi's for take of knowing that you have done your part
to make your airline fly safely and make money for your company.
me just knowing that I had a part to play in keeping the aircraft operating
safely, even if it was a small part, filled me with satisfaction.
Most mechanics don't start into this field expecting to feel this way
about their work. Many times I have
come across mechanics who will tell me that they get no satisfaction from their
work as I do. I usually get some
kind of grumbling remark after I have expressed how I feel about my job.
I don't know what to say to these people.
Sometimes I wonder why they became mechanics in the first place.
If you don't get a thrill out of taxiing a large jetliner or even
standing next to one you must be dead. Some
people don't even consider the work that they do a career.
This one completely baffles me. Granted,
no one wants to do what they are doing now forever but I personally can think of
nothing else I would rather do right now.
factor that lures people to aviation is a love of aircraft.
I think that many times people are lured into aviation through their
exposure to movies and television. But
if they take what they see on the screen at face value they will become very
disappointed if love for aircraft has not been inspired also.
an aircraft mechanic has some pretty unpleasant duties.
There aren't many people who will stick their hands into an aircraft
toilet to fix it and overlook the unpleasantness of having to do so because they
love aircraft. Which reminds me of
a mechanic I knew a mechanic named Rocky who had a horrible experience with an
aircraft toilet. A woman riding one
of our aircraft had a miscarriage in the restroom onboard the airplane.
The woman had to be carried away unconscious in an ambulance and none
knew exactly what happened until the lavatories were serviced in Miami when the
ground crew discovered that the discharge hose had become clogged.
When this happened further investigation revealed that the child had
fallen into the aircraft holding tank and its' body had clogged the discharge
outlet. Rocky had the unpleasant
job of removing the tank from the airplane so that the child could be delivered
to the coroner. When the mechanics
on the floor found out that they had to extract a dead baby from the holding
tank no one except Rocky would take the job.
factor that leads people into aircraft maintenance is the pay and benefits.
I think that people who enter the field for this reason are probably the
most disappointed, because the pay for a starting mechanic is ridiculously low
and it is even worse for pilots starting out at a commuter airline.
Regarding mechanics the airlines recognize only one thing, experience.
What have you worked on before? And
if it isn't the kind of aircraft they are flying, you either won’t get hired
or you will start at entry-level pay. Airlines
are always looking for experienced mechanics because they know that they can
basically hire the guy and turn him loose on the airplane with no
familiarization period required. The
pay has also decreased quite a bit since the days of regulation.
I think this is the result of an increased competitive market, creating a
situation where the airlines make less money because they have to keep their
fares as low as the competition. An
airline has three areas of expenses that hit them the hardest, the largest one
is the cost of fuel, the second largest is the cost of spare parts and the third
largest is the payroll. An airline
has very little control over the cost of fuel and spare parts, but they have a
tremendous control over the payroll. Now
add to this the fact that most deregulated airlines operate on a 1.5% profit
margin and you can easily understand what has happened.
To balance a shrinking budget they have cut costs using the only
expenditure they had in their control. This
is why airline pay has dropped an average of 40% since deregulation. Almost all
investors will tell you that investing money in the airlines is about as risky
as the commodities market. This is
no doubt due to the fact that most airlines are always 1.5% away from bankruptcy
even on a good day.
with this in consideration I have always felt good about buying stock in the
company I work for. Maybe there is
a little bit of American Indian in me, but I felt that it was important to give
back a little of what I made from my airline.
It made me feel as if I had more of a vested interest in my job.
are several ways a person can get into this line of work.
You can obtain a license by working as a mechanics helper or apprentice
for 18 months, go to school for it or learn it in the military.
If you go the apprentice route you will still have to take the written,
practical and oral examinations and in addition to this you will have to obtain
an endorsement from a designated maintenance examiner certifying that you have
worked in the field for 18 months and that he finds that you are knowledgeable
enough to take the written examination. This
is really going about it the hard way. First
it will be next to impossible for you to find any airline that will let you work
for them without at least one license, either airframe or powerplant.
Second getting the necessary endorsements will be a formidable task in
itself. This is generally a method
that is seldom employed. It may
have been popular in the barnstorming era but is completely impractical today.
are three types of aircraft mechanic schools.
The first type is the one-year cram course method.
This type of school is most suited to the kind of person who has very few
commitments in life and is willing to sacrifice his personal life for a time, so
that he may study. You should be the type of person who not only reads fast, but
also picks up on details both in books and your environment fast.
If you're the kind of person who never needs to be told how something
works twice and your math skills are above average then this school is for you.
You will study hard and have your license in one year.
there is what I call the one and a half to two year sane approach, which allows
a person to have some somewhat of a personal life and doesn't shove the material
down your throat. This method is
also a lot easier on the student by providing ample time to learn what is
required. Junior colleges and some
four-year colleges offer either type of program. There are also institutions that solely teach this course
such as Spartan Aviation.
last alternative to schooling is airline ab-initio training.
The term ab-initio means that the training is more similar to O.J.T.
Basically how this type of training works is that an airline approves you
for their training program and requires you to sign a contract with them
committing yourself to employment with that airline for a period of time after
you have become a graduate.
you have the airlines for your employment destination, then this type of
training is the way to go. It is my
understanding that United Airlines and American Airlines are starting programs
of this kind. This type of training
is best for becoming an airline mechanic because it provides hands on experience
with the methods of operation and equipment that an airline mechanic uses every
day. It provides exposure to things
that no college could ever provide. For
example, how many colleges are there that own a Boeing 737 and a large ramp for
tugging or push back practice. Yet
with airline ab-initio training you can get that kind of experience.
When the classroom portion of the training is over, you can go out with
your class to a real jetliner that is" actually used in the business, to
get some hands on exposure. This is
the kind of training that no college can provide.
However when these schools open up waiting lists that stretch to infinity
will quickly develop, so it is important to contact all the major airlines in
writing to determine if programs like these are available and how soon you can
attend. This type of training provides the airlines with more
experienced junior mechanics and a consistently qualified work force, which has
been a problem for the airlines for a long time.
any case, what type of training you choose should be personally investigated in
great detail. There are a few fly
by night operations out there that will rip you off if you give them half a
chance. Ask to talk with one of
their graduates who are working for an airline or at some other facility and
meet him with a list of questions about his training and how the school helped
him in his career. A school's
reputation among the community is not good enough.
Find out what type of equipment the school has available to train with.
Do they tear down and rebuild turbine engines? Do they have running
equipment to work with? Is their training centered around piston or turbine
power? All of these things are some basic questions you should be asking before
you lay down one dollar of tuition. There
are in actuality a tremendous amount of other questions that should be answered
before you commit yourself, but there is not enough time to cover them all here.
Use your common sense and read up on the various aviation magazines like
Aviation Week and Space Technology, Aviation International News and A.O.P.A.
Pilot and Flying magazine are just a few of them out there.
Hopefully you have been reading these for quite awhile.
Also the Future Aviation Professionals of America or F.A.P.A.
for short has a tremendous amount of material and assistance to provide
the inexperienced. All of these sources can be addressed by using the appendix
in the back of this book.
also can't recommend strongly enough to get your F.C.C.
General Radio Telephone Operators License after you get your A&P
license. The reason for this is
that the knowledge you will gain from the basic electricity portion of the
A&P program will put you about a third of the way through the F.C.C.
General Radio Telephone Operators course.
As we all know jet airliners are becoming increasingly dependant on
Avionics. So much so that Southwest
Airlines prefers to hire people with both licenses over people with the A&P
only. By taking the F.C.C.
course immediately after the A&P you will already know about a third
of what you need to and be warmed up and ready for the rest of it.
Having the F.C.C. license
also improves your employment security in general.
For the person in military aviation, you are halfway there already. Many years ago an aircraft mechanic would leave the military with only half a license. In other words he would be a sheetmetalist or a powerplant mechanic because the military made these distinctions and would not permit cross training or the shifting of work responsibilities. Now in this era of the modern streamlined military with its reduced personnel there is a great deal of cross training and shifting of work responsibilities. Years ago when you left the service you would have to go to school to get the other half of your license. Now this is no longer so. You will still receive one license corresponding to the position you had in the service but due to the cross training you received and the additional responsibilities you had it will be an easy task to pass the written, oral and practical exams to get the other half of your license. In many cases the military is providing the education required to do this through a local junior college. Keep this in mind if you are deciding to enlist into the armed services to get aviation maintenance experience. If you go this way you will have all of those years of hands on experience with aircraft that are much more sophisticated than most of what is in use today by the airlines. As I said earlier experience speaks louder than words in this business.
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