Aircraft Maintenance Engineer
Mataaro Whakatika Waka Rererangi
This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Aircraft maintenance engineers install, maintain and repair aircraft structures, airframes and engines, and aircraft radio, avionic (electronic) and mechanical systems.
Aircraft maintenance engineers with less than four years’ experience usually earn
$28K-$60K per year
Senior aircraft maintenance engineers with six years' experience or more usually earn
$60K-$130K per year
Source: ServiceIQ International Limited 2015.
Pay for aircraft maintenance engineers varies depending on experience and level of responsibility.
- Non-qualified and apprentice engineers usually earn between $28,000 and $40,000 a year.
- Those with three to four years' experience usually earn between $40,000 and $60,000.
- Senior staff with six years' experience or more usually earn between $60,000 and $80,000.
- Senior staff in supervisor or manager roles usually earn between $70,000 and $130,000.
Source: ServiceIQ International Limited, 2015.
- MoreBusiness.com website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website – information about minimum pay rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Aircraft maintenance engineers may do some or all of the following:
- regularly check that engines, airframes, electronic and mechanical systems of aircraft are working correctly and meet all safety requirements
- repair or replace faulty parts or systems
- replace parts that have to be changed after being in use for a certain length of time
- test parts and systems to make sure they work
- maintain and service aircraft
- keep records of repairs
- have work inspected and approved by licensed aircraft engineers.
Skills and knowledge
Aircraft maintenance engineers need to have knowledge of:
- aircraft electronic, mechanical or structural systems and equipment
- how aircraft fly (aerodynamics) and how different materials react during flight
- maintenance requirements of the aircraft they are servicing
- approved repair techniques and procedures
- safe work practices and aeronautical safety rules, regulations and methods.
Aircraft maintenance engineers:
- usually work regular business hours, but may have to be on call or do shift work including long hours, evenings and weekends
- work in hangars or workshops, and on airfields
- may have to work with chemicals such as fuel, oil and hydraulic fuels, which can be dangerous if not handled correctly
- do work that may be noisy and stressful at times
- may travel around New Zealand or overseas to diagnose faults and test repairs.
What's the job really like?
Aircraft Maintenance Engineer
Thousands of different components and hundreds of tonnes of metal require the detailed attention of Andrew Smith and his fellow aircraft engineers every day.
Eye for detail
"Firstly you strip a plane and then perform inspections looking for corrosion, cracks and other irregularities. Then any faults get fixed. The plane could be in for a few days or for over a week, but no matter how long you have got, you need to have given it 100 percent."
Flying through work
While Andrew enjoys this day-to-day inspection work, he says it's the pressure and excitement of diagnosing and repairing a plane in between flights that gives him a real buzz. "Working with live aircraft is great. It could be troubleshooting on the tarmac, or the plane may need to come into the hangar. The plane may only be in for an hour or two, but you have to finish and get it back out to service as soon as possible."
Nicole talks about life as an aircraft engineer - 1.19 mins. (Video courtesy of Got a Trade? Got it Made!)
Many people believe that getting a university degree is the only way to get ahead after leaving school, I know now that that is not the only option. I would recommend trades and services, particularly aircraft engineering, to anyone that is up for a challenge in a fast paced and fast developing industry.
For me on-the-job training works really well. I love being able to experience working in the real world and getting paid while I learn.
One of the best parts about on the job training is having all of the experienced engineers here to help us when we need to. They don’t hesitate to answer any of our questions and have a wealth of knowledge that they are always willing to share.
Things I love most about my career are the fact that every day is different, I’m earning while I learn, there are so many different opportunities in this business. The next goal in my career is to become a licensed Aircraft Engineer so I can certify aircraft.
I’m Nicole Brian, I’m an Aircraft Engineer. I’ve got a trade, I’ve got it made.
To begin an aircraft maintenance engineering traineeship you need to complete a New Zealand Certificate in Aeronautical Engineering (Pre-Employment Skills) (Level 3).
Graduates of the level 3 certificate then usually complete an apprenticeship doing the New Zealand Certificate in Aeronautical Engineering (Specialist Support) (Level 4), or the New Zealand Certificate in Aeronautical Engineering (Applied Skills) (Level 4).
Training is available from:
- Air New Zealand Aviation Institute (Air New Zealand's training division)
- Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology
- Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).
All aircraft engineers must work under the supervision of Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (LAMEs). LAMEs have to pass a separate series of exams set by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), and be approved as a fit and proper person by the director of CAA.
- Air New Zealand Aviation Institute website - information about the pre-employment qualifications
- Air New Zealand Aviation Institute website - information on apprenticeship/traineeship qualifications
- Defence Careers website - find out more about training as an aircraft technician
- Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology website - information about aviation programmes
- Service IQ website - information about aeronautical engineering qualifications
Three years of secondary education in English, maths and science is needed to enter tertiary training. However, NCEA Level 2 maths, English and physics is preferred by most employers.
It is possible for some students to get aviation workplace experience by signing up to the Gateway programme at their schools.
Additional requirements for specialist roles:
Aircraft maintenance engineers need to be:
- good at reading diagrams, diagnosing, and solving problems
- good listeners and communicators
- practical, methodical and logical
- patient and accurate
- able to work well under pressure and make good decisions.
Useful experience includes:
- mechanical work
- panelbeating, or work with sheet metal
- electronics or electrical work
- other work within the aviation industry.
Aircraft maintenance engineers need to be reasonably fit because they spend a lot of time on their feet, working in and around aircraft. Some heavy lifting may also be involved.
They should have normal colour vision because some aircraft components are colour-coded.
Aircraft maintenance engineers should also be comfortable working in confined spaces such as cockpits and wheel cavities.
Not all aircraft maintenance engineers have to be licensed, but all engineering and maintenance work carried out on aircraft must be done under the supervision of a Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (LAME).
To become licensed, you must satisfy the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) you have sufficient skills, knowledge and experience to work on particular types of aircraft. This involves:
- sitting exams
- being approved as a fit and proper person by the director of CAA
- undergoing a medical examination
- paying fees.
CAA has authorised Aviation Services Limited to assess the knowledge, skills and experience of aircraft maintenance engineers who want to be licensed.
- Civil Aviation Authority website - information on getting an aircraft maintenance engineer licence
- Civil Aviation Authority website - fit and proper person assessment and guidelines (PDF - 68KB)
- Aviation Services Limited brochure - overview of exam process to become licensed aircraft maintenance engineer
Find out more about training
- Air New Zealand Aviation Institute
- (09) 255 5701 - email@example.com - www.aviationinstitute.co.nz
- Defence Careers - Air Force
- 0800 1 FORCE (0800 136 723) - www.defencecareers.mil.nz/air-force
- Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology
- 0800 422 733 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nmit.ac.nz
- Service IQ
- 0800 863 693 - email@example.com - www.serviceiq.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Most aircraft maintenance engineers stay in their jobs for a long time, and staff turnover is generally low. However, some vacancies do arise due to retirement or qualified people moving overseas to work.
Air New Zealand takes up to 50 trainees a year
The country’s largest employer of aircraft maintenance engineers, Air New Zealand, runs training programmes through the Aviation Institute in Auckland and Christchurch.
The Aviation Institute accepts between 30 and 50 people a year into its engineering training programme. Air New Zealand then accepts up to 40 trainees a year, while other employers such as the Royal NZ Defence Force also offer traineeships to graduates.
Training is also available at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology.
Employers of qualified aircraft maintenance engineers include:
- Air New Zealand and its subsidiary airlines
- smaller airline and helicopter companies
- maintenance and aircraft design firms
- the Royal NZ Air Force.
- Air New Zealand Aviation Institute, November 2015.
- Evans, D, Sector manager – aviation and defence, ServiceIQ, Careers New Zealand interview, August 2015.
- Horner, S, Senior qualifications developer, ServiceIQ, Careers New Zealand interview, November 2015.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, ‘2006-2014 Occupation Data’ (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
Progression and specialisations
Aircraft maintenance engineers can progress to become licensed aircraft engineers, which allows them to supervise and sign for completed work. They may then choose to move into a team leader or supervisory role overseeing a number of engineers, allocating work and assessing completed work.
Some engineers may complete further studies and move into aeronautical engineering. Avionics engineers can also move into roles in general electronics, such as electronic engineer or technician.
Aircraft maintenance engineers can specialise in a number of roles, including:
- Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (Avionics)
- Avionics maintenance engineers maintain and repair an aircraft's electrical, instrument and radio systems.
- Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (Mechanical)
- Mechanical maintenance engineers maintain and repair an aircraft's mechanical systems, as well as the aircraft's engines and other components.
- Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (Structures)
- Structural maintenance engineers maintain, repair and replace aircraft structures and airframes made from metal and carbon fibre composite materials.
Last updated 20 June 2017