An aviation inspector could...
|Investigate air accidents to help determine their cause.||Evaluate an ejection seat to make sure it can be safely fired in an emergency.|
|Inspect the rotors on a helicopter for cracks to prevent a catastrophic failure.||Check that the emergency exits on a commercial flight are functioning and properly marked.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||Aviation inspectors are critical to ensuring that aircraft are safe to fly. They conduct pre-flight inspections to make sure an aircraft is safe. They also inspect the work of aircraft mechanics, and keep detailed records of work done to maintain or repair an aircraft. As problems are identified, they may make changes to maintenance schedules, and may be called upon to investigate air accidents.|
|Key Requirements||Meticulous, detail-oriented, organized, and mechanically oriented, with excellent communication skills and physical agility|
|Minimum Degree||Vocational or Associate's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Physics, computer science, algebra, geometry, algebra II, English; if available, applied technology|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||Little or No Change (-2% to 2%)|
|Interview||Watch this video to meet Stephen Baity who started working as an aircraft mechanic and worked his way up to chief inspector of hydraulic pumps, motors, and actuators for aircraft.|
Education and Training
Aviation inspectors usually start out as aircraft mechanics who have fulfilled the requirements for a particular job. This means a 2- or 4-year degree, government certification, and 18-24 months of instruction at an FAA-approved school. They then accumulate several years of experience before they qualify to become inspectors with the FAA, which may require special authorization.
Although some people become aircraft mechanics through on-the-job training, most learn their jobs in 1 of approximately 170 schools certified by the FAA. About one-third of these schools award 2-year and 4-year degrees in avionics, aviation technology, or aviation maintenance management.
FAA standards established by law require that certified mechanic schools offer students a minimum of 1,900 class hours. Coursework in schools normally lasts from 18 to 24 months and provides training with the tools and equipment used on the job. Aircraft trade schools are placing more emphasis on technologies such as turbine engines, composite materials—including graphite, fiberglass, and boron—and aviation electronics, which are increasingly being used in the construction of new aircraft.
Courses in mathematics, physics, chemistry, electronics, computer science, and mechanical drawing are helpful because they demonstrate many of the principles involved in the operation of aircraft, and knowledge of these principles is often necessary to make repairs. Recent technological advances in aircraft maintenance require mechanics to have an especially strong background in electronics to get or keep jobs in this field. Courses that develop writing skills also are important because mechanics are often required to submit reports. Mechanics must be able to read, write, and understand English.
A few mechanics are trained on the job by experienced mechanics. They must be supervised by certified mechanics until they have FAA certificates.
To start a career as an aviation inspector, people usually first train to become an aircraft mechanic. Aircraft mechanics must do careful and thorough work that requires a high degree of mechanical aptitude. Employers seek applicants who are self-motivated, hard working, enthusiastic, and able to diagnose and solve complex mechanical problems. Additionally, employers prefer mechanics who can perform a variety of tasks. Agility is important for the reaching and climbing necessary to do the job. Because they may work on the tops of wings and fuselages on large jet planes, aircraft mechanics must not be afraid of heights.
Advances in computer technology, aircraft systems, and the materials used to manufacture airplanes have made mechanics' jobs more highly technical. Aircraft mechanics must possess the skills necessary to troubleshoot and diagnose complex aircraft systems. They also must continually update their skills with and knowledge of new technology and advances in aircraft technology.
Nature of the Work
Aviation inspectors examine aircraft and procedures to ensure that planes conform to federal safety regulations. They also examine maintenance procedures, air traffic controls, air navigational aids, and communications equipment. If they find the aircraft in compliance with federal safety regulations, they issue certificates of worthiness. Most aviation inspectors work for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). They also investigate accidents and equipment failures and determine the need for repairs and changes in service.
Aviation inspectors usually work 40-hour weeks. They work outside or inside in airplane hangars. Their tasks may be physically demanding, as inspectors have to climb and move into precarious positions to inspect some machinery and equipment. The job may be stressful, as their work can affect flight schedules and the safety of passengers and crew.
On the Job
- Inspect work of aircraft mechanics performing maintenance, modification, or repair and overhaul of aircraft and aircraft mechanical systems to ensure adherence to standards and procedures.
- Start aircraft and observe gauges, meters, and other instruments to detect evidence of malfunctions.
- Examine aircraft access plates and doors for security.
- Examine landing gear, tires, and exteriors of fuselage, wings, and engines for evidence of damage or corrosion and the need for repairs.
- Prepare and maintain detailed repair, inspection, investigation, and certification records and reports.
- Inspect new, repaired, or modified aircraft to identify damage or defects and to assess airworthiness and conformance to standards, using checklists, hand tools, and test instruments.
- Examine maintenance records and flight logs to determine if service and maintenance checks and overhauls were performed at prescribed intervals.
- Recommend replacement, repair, or modification of aircraft equipment.
- Recommend changes in rules, policies, standards, and regulations, based on knowledge of operating conditions, aircraft improvements, and other factors.
- Issue pilots' licenses to individuals meeting standards.
- Investigate air accidents and complaints to determine causes.
- Observe flight activities of pilots to assess flying skills and to ensure conformance to flight and safety regulations.
- Conduct flight test programs to test equipment, instruments, and systems under a variety of conditions, using both manual and automatic controls.
- Approve or deny issuance of certificates of airworthiness.
- Analyze training programs and conduct oral and written examinations to ensure the competency of persons operating, installing, and repairing aircraft equipment.
- Schedule and coordinate in-flight testing programs with ground crews and air traffic control to ensure availability of ground tracking, equipment monitoring, and related services.
Companies That Hire Aviation Inspectors
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
- Does Weight Affect a Drone's Battery Life?
- Flight Simulators: From Flaps to Flying
- Fractography: The Way Things Break
- Helicopter Liftoff: How Does the Speed of the Rotor Affect the Amount of Lift?
- How Far Will It Fly? Build & Test Paper Planes with Different Drag
- How Things Break
- Let's Go Fly a Kite!
- Make a "Whirly Bird" from Paper
- Parachutes: Does Size Matter?
- Rocket Aerodynamics
- Showing the Airflow in a Wind Tunnel
- Solid Motor Rocket Propulsion
- The 'Ultimate' Science Fair Project: Frisbee Aerodynamics
- The Wright Stuff: Using Kites to Study Aerodynamics
- What Makes a Good Aerodynamic Design? Test Your Ideas with High-Performance Paper Gliders
- Which Wing Design Creates the Greatest Lift?
- Why Do Flying Rings Go So Much Further Than Frisbees?
- Why Winglets?
- Winglets in Wind Tunnels
Do you have a specific question about a career as an Aviation Inspector that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
National Air Transportation Association: https://www.nata.aero/
- O*Net Online. (2016). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved July 1, 2017, from https://www.onetonline.org/
- Design Squad Global. (2010, December 24). Mark Caylao - Blimps | Design Squad. Retrieved August 8, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSu_fJPiO2Q
- Net Industries. (2009). Transportation Inspector: Job Description, Career as a Naval Architect, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job. Retrieved August 8, 2019, from https://careers.stateuniversity.com/pages/811/Transportation-Inspector.html
- WXIItv. (2008, November 22). Aviation Inspector. Retrieved August 28, 2009, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b160ltUIDwI
We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of:
- Northrop Grumman
Explore Our Science Videos
Stretchy Balloons! Fun STEM Activity
BlueBot 4-in-1 Robotics Kit
Make a Water Strider - STEM Activity