Aircraft mechanics sometimes learn the trade in the military or at work, but most civilian mechanics complete a Federal Aviation Administration-approved training program. These programs usually take one to two years. Once trained, mechanics work for a variety of employers, including the airlines, aircraft manufacturers and express delivery companies. Several factors impact the wages of an airplane mechanic, including the type of employer and the location of the job.
Average and Percentile Pay
The 117,510 aircraft mechanics working in the United States as of 2010 earned an average annual salary of $53,280, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top-earning group, at the 90th percentile, earned $72,250 per year. The 10th percentile salary, however, came to only $33,630 per year.
Four industries employed more than 20,000 aircraft mechanics in 2010, according to the government report. The highest-paying industry in this group is also the largest employer, scheduled air transportation, with 30,880 jobs paying an average of $56,570 per year. The second highest-paying industry, the federal executive branch, paid an average of $55,730 per year. Mechanics in aerospace manufacturing earned an average of $54,270 per year. Support activities for air transportation also had 29,630 jobs for technicians, but pay averaged only $45,810 per year.
Other High-Paying Jobs
The top industry for airplane mechanic pay as of 2010 was financial investment activities, according to the government survey. It employed only 30 mechanics, but they received an average of $81,150 per year. Courier and express delivery businesses had the second-highest pay. The 4,530 mechanics working for this industry averaged $78,380 per year. The electric power industry paid an average of $76,390 per year to its mechanics but did not release the number of jobs.
Locations with High Pay
In the 2010 government study, the highest-paying state for mechanics was Tennessee, where mechanics earned an average of $68,180 per year. The greater Memphis region also had the highest pay among metropolitan areas, with an annual average of $74,790. The South Bend, Indiana, and Mishawaka, Missouri, combined region came second, with pay averaging $72,700 per year. Mechanics in El Paso, Texas, and the combined Vineland-Millville-Bridgeton, New Jersey, region also averaged more than $72,500 per year.
Other Factors in Wages
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest-paid mechanics usually work for major airlines. Airline jobs usually also include free or reduced air travel for the mechanic and family. Mechanics who have graduated from a technical program receive higher initial pay than those who have only military or on-the-job training.
The law requires aircraft maintenance technicians to possess FAA certification or work under an FAA-certified mechanic. Mechanics must be age 18 or older and complete a minimum of 18 months of qualifying work experience. Alternately, they may complete an FAA-approved technical program. Applicants must then pass practical, oral and written exams to receive a mechanic's certificate.