Avionics Technicians

QUICK FACTS*:

School Subjects: Math

Personal Skills: Mechanical/manipulative; Technical/scientific

Work Environment: Indoors & outdoors; Primarily one location

Minimum Education Level: Some postsecondary training

Wage or Salary Range: $ 27,330 to $41,450 to $56,410+

Certification or Licensing: Required (technicians who work with radio transmit ting equipment)

Future growth: About as fast as the average

DOT: 823

GOE: 05 05 10

NOC: 2244

O*NET: 17 3021 00,49 2091 00

OVERVIEW

Avionics (from the words aviation & electronics) is the application of electronics to the operation of aircraft, spacecraft, & missiles. Avionics technicians inspect, test, adjust, & repair the electronic components of aircraft communications, navigation, & flight-control systems & compile complete maintenance-and- overhaul records for the work they do. Avionics technicians also calibrate & adjust the frequencies of communications apparatus when it’s installed & per form periodic checks on those frequency settings. Avionics technicians hold about 17,000 jobs in the United States.

HISTORY

The field of avionics grew out of World War II, when military aircraft were operated for the first time using electronic equipment. Rockets were also being developed during this time, & these devices required electronic systems to control their flight. As aircraft rapidly grew more complicated, the amount of electronic apparatus needed for navigation & for monitoring equipment performance greatly increased. The World War II B-29 bomber carried 2,000 to 3,000 avionic components; the B-52 of the Vietnam era carried 50,000; later, the B-58 supersonic bomber required more than 95,000. As the military grew increasingly reliant on electronic systems, specialists were required to build, install, operate, & repair them.

The development of large ballistic missiles during & after World War II & the rapid growth of the U.S. space program after 1958 increased development of avionics technology. Large missiles & spacecraft require many more electronic components than even the largest & most sophisticated aircraft. Computerized guidance systems became especially important with the advent of manned space- flights. Avionics technology was also applied to civil aircraft. The race to be the first in space, & later, to be the first to land on the moon, stimulated the need for more & more trained specialists to work with newer & more complex electronic technology. The push for achieving military superiority during the Cold War era also created a demand for avionics specialists & technicians. From the 1950s to the present, the commercial airline industry grew rapidly; more & more planes were being built, & the drive to provide greater com fort & safety for passengers created still greater demand for avionics technicians.

Avionics continues to be an important branch of aeronautical & astronautical engineering. The aerospace industry places great emphasis on research & development, assigning a much higher percentage of its trained technical personnel to this effort than is usual in industry. In addition, stringent safety regulations require constant surveillance of in-service equipment. For these reasons there is a high demand for trained & experienced avionics technicians to help avionics engineers in the development of new satellites, spacecraft, aircraft, & their component electronic systems & to maintain those in service.

THE JOB

Avionics engineers develop new electronic systems & components for aerospace use. Avionics technicians assist engineers in these developments. They also adapt existing systems & components for application in new equipment. For the most part, however, they install, test, repair, & maintain navigation, communications, & control apparatus in existing aircraft & spacecraft.

Technicians use apparatus such as circuit analyzers & oscilloscopes to test & replace such sophisticated equipment as transceivers & Doppler radar systems, as well as microphones, headsets, & other standard electronic communications apparatus. New equipment, once installed, must be tested & calibrated to prescribed specifications. Technicians also adjust the frequencies of radio sets & other communications equipment by signaling ground stations & then adjusting set screws until the desired frequency has been achieved. Periodic maintenance checks & read adjustments enable avionics technicians to keep equipment operating on proper frequencies. Technicians also complete & sign maintenance-and-overhaul documents recording the history of various equipment.

Avionics technicians involved in the design & testing of a new apparatus must take into account all operating conditions, deter mining weight limitations, resistance to physical shock, the atmospheric conditions the device will have to withstand, & other factors. For some sophisticated projects, technicians will have to design & make their tools first & then use them to construct & test new avionic components.

The range of equipment in the avionics field is so broad that technicians usually specialize in one area, such as radio equipment, radar, computerized guidance, or flight-control systems. New specialty areas are constantly evolving as innovations occur in avionics. The development of these new specialty areas requires technicians to keep informed by reading technical articles & books & by attending seminars & courses about the new developments, which are often sponsored by manufacturers.

Avionics technicians usually work as part of a team, especially if involved in research, testing, & development of new products. They are often required to keep notes & records of their work & to write detailed reports.

REQUIREMENTS

High School

If you are interested in pursuing a career in avionics, you should take high school mathematics courses at least through solid geometry & preferably through calculus. You should also take English, speech, & communications classes in order to read complex & detailed technical articles, books, & reports; to write technical reports; & to present those reports to groups of people when required. Many schools offer shop classes in electronics & in diagram & blueprint reading.

Postsecondary Training

Avionics technicians must have completed a course of training at a postsecondary technical institute or community college. The training should include at least one year of electronics technician training. If not trained specifically in avionics, students should obtain a solid background in electronics theory & practice. Further specialized training will be done on the job, where technicians work with engineers & senior technicians until they are competent to work with out direct supervision.

Larger corporations in the aerospace industry operate their own schools & training institutes. Such training rarely includes theoretical or general studies but concentrates on areas important to the company’s functions. The U.S. armed forces also conduct excellent electronics & avionics training schools; their graduates are in high demand in the industry after they leave the service.

Certification or Licensing

The Electronics Technicians Association International (ETA-I) offers four levels of voluntary certification (Certified Associate, Journeyman, Senior, & Master) for electronics service technicians who wish to specialize in avionics. To become certified, technicians must have a specified number of years of work & /or electronics training & pass an examination. Contact the ETA-I for more information.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations require that anyone who works with radio transmitting equipment have a restricted radiotelephone operator’s license. Such a license is issued upon application to the FCC & is issued for life.

Other Requirements

Students who are thinking about this kind of work should have strong science & mathematics skills. In addition, you will need to on proper frequencies. Technicians also complete & sign maintenance-and-overhaul documents recording the history of various equipment.

Avionics technicians involved in the design & testing of a new apparatus must take into account all operating conditions, deter mining weight limitations, resistance to physical shock, the atmospheric conditions the device will have to withstand, & other factors. For some sophisticated projects, technicians will have to design & make their tools first & then use them to construct & test new avionic components.

The range of equipment in the avionics field is so broad that technicians usually specialize in one area, such as radio equipment, radar, computerized guidance, or flight-control systems. New specialty areas are constantly evolving as innovations occur in avionics. The development of these new specialty areas requires technicians to keep informed by reading technical articles & books & by attending seminars & courses about the new developments, which are often sponsored by manufacturers.

Avionics technicians usually work as part of a team, especially if involved in research, testing, & development of new products. They are often required to keep notes & records of their work & to write detailed reports.

REQUIREMENTS

High School

If you are interested in pursuing a career in avionics, you should take high school mathematics courses at least through solid geometry & preferably through calculus. You should also take English, speech, & communications classes in order to read complex & detailed technical articles, books, & reports; to write technical reports; & to present those reports to groups of people when required. Many schools offer shop classes in electronics & in diagram & blueprint reading.

Postsecondary Training

Avionics technicians must have completed a course of training at a postsecondary technical institute or community college. The training should include at least one year of electronics technician training. If not trained specifically in avionics, students should obtain a solid background in electronics theory & practice. Further specialized training will be done on the job, where technicians work with engineers & senior technicians until they are competent to work with out direct supervision.

Larger corporations in the aerospace industry operate their own schools & training institutes. Such training rarely includes theoretical or general studies but concentrates on areas important to the company’s functions. The U.S. armed forces also conduct excellent electronics & avionics training schools; their graduates are in high demand in the industry after they leave the service.

Certification or Licensing

The Electronics Technicians Association International (ETA-I) offers four levels of voluntary certification (Certified Associate, Journeyman, Senior, & Master) for electronics service technicians who wish to specialize in avionics. To become certified, technicians must have a specified number of years of work & /or electronics training & pass an examination. Contact the ETA-I for more information.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations require that anyone who works with radio transmitting equipment have a restricted radiotelephone operator’s license. Such a license is issued upon application to the FCC & is issued for life.

Other Requirements

Students who are thinking about this kind of work should have strong science & mathematics skills. In addition, you will need to have good manual dexterity & mechanical aptitude & the temperament for exacting work.

EXPLORING

One way to learn more about avionics is to visit factories & test facilities where avionics technicians work as part of teams designing & testing new equipment. It’s also possible to visit a large airfield’s repair facilities where avionics technicians inspect, maintain, & calibrate communications & control apparatus. You can also arrange to visit other types of electronics manufacturers.

Useful information about avionics training programs & career opportunities is available from the U.S. armed forces as well as from trade & technical schools & community colleges that offer such programs. These organizations are always pleased to answer inquiries from prospective students or service personnel.

EMPLOYERS

Fewer than 10 percent of the 173,000 aircraft mechanics & service technicians employed in the United States are avionics technicians. Most technicians work for airlines or airports & flying fields. Other major employers include the federal government & aircraft assembly firms.

STARTING OUT

Those entering the field of avionics must first obtain the necessary training in electronics. Following that training, the school’s placement officer can help locate prospective employers, arrange interviews, & advise about an employment search. Other possibilities are to contact an employment agency or to approach a prospective employer directly. Service in the military is an excellent way to gain education, training, & experience in avionics; many companies are eager to hire technicians with a military background.

ADVANCEMENT

Avionics technicians usually begin their careers in trainee positions until they are thoroughly familiar with the requirements & routines of their work. Having completed their apprenticeships, they are usually assigned to work independently, with only minimal supervision, doing testing & repair work. The most experienced & able technicians go on to install new equipment & to work in research & development operations. Many senior technicians move into training, supervisory, sales, & customer relations positions. Some choose to pursue additional training & become avionics engineers.

EARNINGS

Median earnings of avionics technicians were $41,450 in 2001, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The top 10 percent of technicians earned more than $56,410 a year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,330 a year. Federal government employees (not including armed forces personnel) on the average earn slightly less than avionics technicians employed by private aerospace firms. Their jobs, however, are more secure.

WORK ENVIRONMENT

Avionics technicians work for aircraft & aerospace manufacturers, airlines, & NASA & other government agencies. Most avionics technicians specialize in a specific area of avionics; they are also responsible for keeping up with the latest technological & industry advances. Their work is usually performed in pleasant indoor surroundings. Because this work is very precise, successful technicians must have a personality suited to meeting exact standards & working within small tolerances. Technicians sometimes work in closely cooperating teams. This requires an ability to work with a team spirit of coordinated effort.

OUTLOOK

The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that employment for avionics technicians should grow as fast as the average for all other occupations.

Avionics is an important & constantly developing field for which more & more trained technicians will be needed. Reliance on electronic technology has grown rapidly & in virtually every industry. Many defense contractors have begun to branch out into other prod ucts, especially in the areas of electronic & computer technology. Commercial applications of the space program, including the launching of privately owned satellites, are providing new opportunities in the aerospace industry.

The aerospace industry is closely tied to government spending & to political change, as well as to the economy, which also affects the aircraft & airline industries strongly. The cancellation of one space craft program or a decline in airline travel that leads to employee cut backs may throw a large number of avionics technicians out of work, making competition for the remaining jobs very keen.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

For industry information, contact the following organizations:

Aerospace Industries Association

1000 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1700

Arlington, VA 22209-3901

Tel: 703-358-1000

General Aviation Manufacturers Association

1400 K Street, NW; Suite 801

Washington, DC 20005

Tel: 202-393-1500

For information on certification, contact

Electronics Technicians Association International

5 Depot Street

Greencastle, IN 46135

Tel: 800-288-3824

Email: eta@tds.net

For information on aviation careers & scholarships, contact

National Air Transportation Association

4226 King Street

Alexandria, VA 22302

Tel: 800-808-6282

Email: info@nata-online.org

For career information, visit AlA C’s website.

Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (ATAC)

60 Queen Street, #1200

Ottawa, ON K 5Y7 Canada

Tel: 613-232-4297

Email: info@aiac.ca

http://www.aiac.ca

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