Aircraft Maintenance Engineer

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects Openings 5 years to November 2019: < 5000
Salary Range Median weekly earnings: Varies to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2015
Brief In South Australia there are approximately 1,100 aircraft maintenance engineers. Majority of persons employed are males, work full-time and are employed in the government administration and defence industry. This occupation has a younger age profile.

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It may not be as glamorous as being a pilot but aircraft maintenance engineers are just as vital to the aviation industry as their high-flying colleagues.

Usually the only time we think of an aircraft maintenance engineer is when something goes wrong. A helicopter crashes or a small plane has to make an emergency landing and all of a sudden the question is raised, 'Was there something wrong with the plane?' Well, its the job of an aircraft maintenance engineer to make sure planes, helicopters and all manner of aircraft are fit and well and ready to fly. ''With our training, we don't look at a plane as a whole,'' says a 40-year veteran of the industry. ''We always look at it from the parts!''

Depending on their area of specialisation, an aircraft maintenance engineer will inspect, maintain and/or repair the airframe and engine systems, the electrical and instrument systems, or the body of the aircraft. Alternatively, they may choose to work on sections of the aircraft only (rather than on the aircraft itself) overhauling, repairing and modifying components in a workshop. These tradespersons are often referred to as 'aircraft mechanics', who have not traditionally been subject to licensing and are often paid less.

Education Requirements

There are 69% of Aircraft maintenance Engineers who have Certificate III or Certificate IV, 13% have Advanced Diplomas or Diplomas and 3% have Bachelor Degrees. While there are 11% who have no post-school qualifications it is recommended that you gain the available qualifications to get the best possible chance of employment.

TAFE SA offers the Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Mechatronics).

The University of Adelaide offers a Bachelor of Engineering (Avionics & Electronic Systems Engineering).

SA Apprenticeships are available in this occupation for further information go to the Traineeship & Apprenticeship Services Website at or phone the Freecall number 1800 673 097.

Career Path

By acquiring a variety of engine and/or system licences and initially choosing carefully their area of specialisation, an aircraft maintenance engineer may vary and improve their prospects of employment. Regular travel may not be part of the deal, but some aircraft maintenance engineers do lead an exciting life. ''Its the opportunities you take that get you into a particular job,'' explains Gordon, who after 18 years as an industry professional now works as a consultant. ''I've been to Germany just to issue a piece of paper!'' Gordon's work has also taken him to Fiji, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. Not bad for a young man who ''didn't like aeroplanes at all'' and, on his first flight, was sick at every stop!

Nature of the Job

On the aircraft, an aircraft maintenance engineer may maintain, inspect and undertake fault diagnosis of landing gear, brakes, hydraulic systems, instrument and radio systems, autopilot, integrated flight or radar systems, environmental control systems or fire detection and prevention systems. Or they may carry out a variety of metal forming or joining processes using hand or power tools to produce or repair aircraft sheet-metal. Meanwhile, back in the workshop, others will be overhauling, testing and modifying airframe and engine components, gas turbines or piston engines, pneumatic and hydraulic devices, power distribution systems, or radio communications and navigation system components. There's more variety in general aviation. You get to work on big and small, as well as new and old aircraft and there's more happening in terms of new developments - small turbine engines are getting smaller and better and in avionics (radio) things are really changing.''

Typical Physical Working Environment

Whether working for a major airline or a small charter company, you can expect the work to be smelly and noisy. Most aircraft maintenance engineers work indoors in hangars or outdoors on airfields and, when required, may work long hours or weekends to get work finished on time. They may also be on-call and may be required to work in all kinds of weather conditions. ''Imagine doing ramp checks in Toronto at minus 8 degrees!'' shivers Gordon, remembering time spent in Canada. Despite a worldwide shortage of skilled aircraft maintenance engineers, there is a reluctance to employ apprentices, according to Rod Warnock, a course coordinator. ''When the big companies like QANTAS are not recruiting, it makes it very difficult to place apprentices in general aviation.''

Typical Occupational Example

Being a licensed aircraft maintenance engineer carries with it a lot of responsibility. As Gordon says, ''After all, you could kill people. ''There's also a lot of stress. Accountability, too, is a serious issue - a breach of the Act could land you in jail. ''Whatever you're working on, you'll need to have the right licence or be working under proper supervision. You'll also need to feel comfortable working at heights (on platforms around aircraft) and in confined spaces. Good hand-eye coordination along with neat, accurate work, good observation skills and an ability to concentrate are also essential.

Civil Aviation Safety Authority (SA)
Phone: 13 17 57

Defence Force Recruiting Centre (SA)
Phone: 13 19 01

Further Information

For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online