Statistics compiled by the FAA suggest that women are making significant strides toward greater representation in several aviation careers. However, a current FAA statistic suggest that the representation of women among the ranks of certified mechanics remains very low. Estimates as of 1993 placed the number of active female aircraft mechanics at 3,901. While a dramatic increase over the number of active female mechanics of a decade ago, this number represents only just over 1% of the number of active mechanics in the workforce.
Responsibilities and Duties: An avionics mechanic performs maintenance on an aircraftıs electrical systems. This includes everything from reading lights to navigation systems to the automatic pilot system. An avionics mechanic must perform routine checks to ensure that systems were operating normally, as well as find problems once they were reported by the flight crew.
Training Required: The minimum training required is a two-year trade school diploma. This diploma would have to be from a very specialized accredited trade school with a specialty of avionics maintenance. Someone wanting to enter such a trade school would have to have a high school diploma with good grades and have completed some trigonometry and some physical science.
Working Conditions: As an avionics mechanic, you have to wear a uniform and be willing to work at any time of the day or night, including weekends. (An avionics mechanic at Delta Air Lines has to have about ten years of seniority to hold the day shift.) One avionics mechanic describes the conditions: ³You have to be willing to get dirty and work in dangerous environments. You have to be able to work for extended times in cramped, dark spaces not much bigger than your body. You have to be able to lift about one hundred pounds and be able to carry heavy items up and down a ladder. You have to be able to work in high places and work on ladders all day long.² In other words, you have to be strong and you cannot have claustrophobia or a fear of heights!
Personality Traits: One woman gives her advice on how to deal in a male-dominated environment: ³The women who I have seen adapt well to working with men fall into one of two categories. Category One is the women who adopt male-like behavior. For example, if a man makes a snide remark about women, a Category One Woman will retaliate with her own remark about men. Some women find this works well for them. Category Two Women, on the other hand, just let the guys be guys and pretend not to hear them say ungentlemanly remarks. Sooner or later they just learn what not to say around these women. This does not work in all cases. . . . In order for a woman to be accepted where women comprise a very small minority of the workers, she must find some way to fit in.²
Average Salary: Assuming five years of experience, an avionics mechanic working for a major airline makes about $44,000 a year. The same person working at a small repair station might make about $29,000 to $32,000 per year. In general, the person working for the bigger company will have better retirement, health and flight benefits.
The Best and the Worst Aspects of the Job: The employment possibilities for a woman in this field are very good for getting into the field, but may be more difficult for getting promoted. (Government agencies, including the FAA, are generally better at promoting women than private companies.) ³The best aspect about my job is knowing that I am totally responsible for something. I canıt blame the mistakes on anyone else and no one else can take credit for my good work. The worst part is having to work inside the fuel tanks.² - one female avionics mechanic.
Special thanks to Wendy for her help!!