What Is Aircraft Maintenance?

Aircraft · 4 min read · Jul 15, 2022
aircraft maintenance

Aircraft maintenance is one of the vital components of aviation safety. There is no such thing as a safe flight if the aircraft is lacking inspection and maintenance of its structure, systems, and components. In other words, an adequate maintenance program could make the difference between a safe flight or one where injury or loss can occur.

Now, what does aircraft maintenance involve? What do the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) require to be in the aircraft maintenance business? Is it a good career path?

If you want an answer to any or all of these questions, we invite you to keep reading as we give them to you here below.

What is aircraft maintenance?

According to SKYbrary, a partner of Eurocontrol and the International Civil Aviation Organization, it can be defined in a number of ways and the following may help understand the different aspects:

“Those actions required for restoring or maintaining an item in a serviceable condition including servicing, repair, modification, overhaul, inspection, and determination of condition”. [World Airlines Technical Operations Glossary]

“Maintenance is the action necessary to sustain or restore the integrity and performance of the airplane” [Hessburg, 2001]

“Maintenance is the process of ensuring that a system continually performs its intended function at its designed-in level of reliability and safety.” [Kinnison and Siddiqui, 2013]

Aircraft maintenance technician is working on an airplane engine while standing on a lift.

What is the main intention of aircraft maintenance?

Aircraft maintenance is mainly performed to achieve the following three things:

  1. Keeping the aircraft’s airworthiness. In other words, complying with FAA and EASA safety regulations.
  2. Keeping the aircraft available for service.
  3. Maximize the value of the aircraft.

What are the types of aircraft maintenance?

Generally speaking, maintenance tasks are often classified into two categories, corrective and preventive maintenance. However, when it comes to aircraft, there is another classification in place. Let’s take a look at it.

Line maintenance

Also known as light maintenance, this usually involves completing pre-flight checklists, and any other routine check performed on a daily basis.

Line maintenance is described by EASA Part 145, AMC 145.A.10 as “any maintenance that is carried out before flight to ensure that the aircraft is fit for the intended flight.”

In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States says it “is unscheduled maintenance resulting from unforeseen events, or scheduled checks that contain servicing and/or inspections that do not require specialized training, equipment, or facilities. Line maintenance is not a rating but an authorization to provide a service to an air carrier certificated under part 121 or part 135, or a foreign air carrier or foreign person operating a U.S.-registered aircraft in a common carriage under part 129 on any aircraft of that air carrier or person.”

The most relevant tasks involved in line maintenance according to EASA and the FAA include:

  • Troubleshooting.
  • Rectification of defects.
  • Replacing components, up to and including engines and propellers, with the use of external test equipment if required.
  • Scheduled maintenance and/or checks including visual inspections that will detect failures that can be easily spotted but do not require extensive in-depth inspection, or special equipment. It may also include internal structure, systems, and powerplant items that are visible through quick opening access panels or doors.
  • Minor repairs and modifications which do not require extensive disassembly and can be accomplished by simple means.

Many light maintenance activities are performed before the aircraft’s first flight, and they help to confirm its airworthiness.

Base maintenance

Also called heavy maintenance, it involves activities that are generally more in-depth and long-lasting than those above, but are performed less frequently. These activities are usually performed by an organization specialized in MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul) and are described as major repairs that can only be performed by properly certified organizations and personnel according to the FAA.

In addition, EASA requires licensed Part-66 engineers to oversee base maintenance activities, which include, but are not limited to:

  • C and D Checks which will check for deterioration of the airframe, engines, and systems, e.g. corrosion, fatigue.
  • Removal of defects – implementation of Service Bulletins (SB) and Airworthiness Directives (AD), although this can also be done during light maintenance.
  • Technology upgrade – fitting of Terrain Avoidance and Warning System (TAWS), Airborne Collision Avoidance System (ACAS), etc.
  • Cabin reconfiguration, painting, etc.

Since most heavy aviation maintenance activities are performed in MRO facilities, this type of maintenance is sometimes called shop maintenance too.

Aviation maintenance technician

Becoming an aviation maintenance technician is a great idea to launch a career within the aviation industry. The most important thing is to get the right certificate for the role. For example, if the role is performing systems and component maintenance on aircraft registered in an EASA member state, technicians will be required to get a valid EASA Part 66 Aircraft Maintenance license.

Also, knowing that the technician is contributing to aviation safety can be very rewarding, and the pay is not bad either.

What is the salary of aircraft maintenance engineers?

According to data from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of aircraft mechanics and service technicians was $65,380 as of May 2021. Although some job portals are reporting that this has dropped recently, they still report an average salary of around $50,000 with the best-paid professionals still reaching over $60,000.

Moreover, for those who specialized in avionics, the data from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics point to an average salary of $69,280 and according to Labor Market Insights of the Australian Government, those who get the aircraft maintenance engineering role can get average weekly earnings of $2,694.

An airplane turbine placed on the ground next to an aircraft.

What are the 3 types of aircraft mechanics?

Aircraft mechanics generally find jobs in three types of roles: general aircraft repair technicians, airframe and generator mechanic (A&P), and inspection authorization approved mechanic (IA). The fact is that each role will require specific certifications, like the Part-66 engineer license granted by EASA, for example.

Final remarks

And there you have aircraft maintenance in a nutshell. As you can see, aircraft maintenance mainly involves providing services to guarantee the airworthiness, availability, and functionality of a fleet of a certain airline. Moreover, aside from being a civil aircraft engineer, you can always look for positions in the air force, which can also be a highly rewarding career. However, don’t forget that to become an aircraft maintenance engineer you will have to have the right knowledge and training as well as pass extensive written and oral tests before you can get the required certificate to get employment in this field.

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Jet pilot @NASA

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