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
$37K-$60K per year
Senior aircraft maintenance engineers and supervisors usually earn
$60K-$130K per year
Source: ServiceIQ and Royal NZ Air Force, 2017.
Pay rates for civilian aircraft maintenance engineers
Pay for civilian aircraft maintenance engineers varies depending on experience and level of responsibility.
- Non-qualified and apprentice aircraft maintenance engineers usually earn between $37,000 and $45,000 a year.
- Those with three to four years' experience usually earn between $45,000 and $60,000.
- Senior aircraft maintenance engineers usually earn between $60,000 and $80,000.
- Senior aircraft maintenance engineers in supervisor or manager roles usually earn between $70,000 and $130,000.
Pay rates for Royal NZ Airforce aircraft maintenance engineers
Pay for Air Force aircraft maintenance engineers varies depending on experience and level of responsibility.
- Trainee aircraft maintenance engineers receive a recruit's salary of $36,000 a year.
- Trained aircraft maintenance engineers can earn between $46,000 and $51,000.
- Senior aircraft maintenance engineers can earn between $50,000 and $63,000.
Aircraft maintenance engineers in the Air Force also receive benefits such as free medical and dental work, and subsidised food and study.
Source: Service IQ and Royal NZ Air Force, 2017.
(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:
- check engines, airframes, electronic and mechanical systems of aircraft to ensure they work correctly and meet safety requirements, in accordance with Civil Aviation Authority regulations
- read diagrams
- repair or replace faulty or old parts or systems
- test parts and systems to make sure they work
- use electronic test equipment to view structures without taking them apart (non-destructive testing)
- keep records of repairs.
Licensed aircraft engineers also inspect and approve the work of other aircraft maintenance engineers.
Skills and knowledge
Aircraft maintenance engineers need to have knowledge of:
- aircrafts' electronic, mechanical and structural systems and equipment
- how aircraft fly (aerodynamics) and how different materials react during flight
- the maintenance requirements of the aircraft they are servicing
- approved repair techniques and procedures
- safe work practices and aviation safety rules and regulations.
Aircraft maintenance engineers:
- usually work shifts, and may have to be on call during evenings and weekends
- work in hangars or workshops, and on airfields
- work with chemicals such as fuel, oil and hydraulic fluids, which can be dangerous if not handled correctly, and in conditions that may be noisy and stressful
- may travel around New Zealand or overseas.
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 maintenance 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.
There are no specific requirements to become an aircraft maintenance engineer.
However, you can complete training and gain a qualification.
Industry training organisation ServiceIQ oversees aircraft maintenance engineering apprenticeships.
Different ways to qualify as an aircraft maintenance engineer
To begin an aircraft maintenance engineering traineeship you need to complete an initial qualification such as a:
- New Zealand Certificate in Aeronautical Engineering (Pre-Employment Skills) (Level 3), available from Air New Zealand's Aviation Institute
- Certificate in Aeronautical Engineering Fundamentals (Level 3) through Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology or the Royal NZ Air Force.
You then need to complete an apprenticeship and gain either of the following:
- A New Zealand Certificate in Aeronautical Engineering (Level 4).
- A Diploma in Aeronautical Engineering (Level 5).
Training as a civilian aircraft maintenance engineer
- Air New Zealand Aviation Institute website - information about engineering qualifications
- Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology website - information about aviation programmes
- Service IQ website - information about aeronautical engineering qualifications
Training as an Air Force aircraft maintenance engineer
- Defence Careers website - information on training as an aircraft technician
- Defence Careers website - information on training as an electronics (avionics) technician
- Defence Careers website - find out more about training as an aeronautical metal worker
NCEA Level 2 in English, maths and science is usually needed to enter tertiary training. Processing technologies, and construction and mechanical technologies may also be useful.
For Year 11 to 13 students, the Gateway programme is a good way to gain industry experience.
Aircraft maintenance engineers need to be:
- skilled at 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 aviation work.
Aircraft maintenance engineers need to have a good level of fitness because they spend a lot of time on their feet, working in and around aircraft, and may do heavy lifting. The must also have normal colour vision, because some aircraft components are colour-coded. They should also be comfortable working in confined spaces, as they work in cockpits and wheel cavities.
All aircraft maintenance engineers who supervise aircraft engineering and maintenance work need to be Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (LAMEs), approved by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Find out more about training
- Air New Zealand Aviation Institute
- (09) 255 5701 - (03) 374 7070 - 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 - www.nmit.ac.nz
- Service IQ
- 0800 863 693 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.serviceiq.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Aircraft maintenance engineer vacancies are limited because most people stay in the role for a long time. However, some vacancies do arise due to retirement or qualified people moving overseas to work.
About 2,700 aircraft maintenance engineers work in New Zealand.
Air New Zealand takes up to 20 trainees a year
Air New Zealand is New Zealand’s largest employer of aircraft maintenance engineers. It 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 20 trainees a year.
The Royal NZ Air Force also offers traineeships for aircraft maintenance engineers.
Types of employers varied
Most aircraft maintenance engineers work for:
- Air New Zealand, its regional airlines, and other airline and helicopter companies
- aircraft maintenance and design firms
- the Royal NZ Air Force
- the Royal NZ Navy (working on helicopters).
Some aircraft maintenance engineers are self-employed.
- Air New Zealand Aviation Institute website, accessed December 2017, (www.aviationinstitute.co.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission), 2015.
- Royal NZ Air Force website, accessed December 2017, (airforce.mil.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Aircraft maintenance engineers may progress to become licensed aircraft engineers, who supervise and sign for completed work.
They may then move into management roles, or do further studies to move into aeronautical engineering.
Aircraft maintenance engineers may specialise in:
- gas turbine engines and other mechanical systems of aircraft
- aircraft structures and frames
- aircraft electrical systems, instruments and radios (avionics).
With further training, aircraft maintenance engineers specialising in avionics may progress to become aeronautical or electronics engineers.
Last updated 26 January 2018