This is more accurate Information;
2002 Aviation Maintenance U.S. Salary Survey
New contracts at big airlines boost pay, but wages at regional airlines, FBOs, and schools still lag.
By Kathleen Kocks, Contributing Editor
Salary Survey Charts
Wages By Employer
Wages By FAA Region
Last Year''s Raise
Pay For Training
Who Trains Most?
Making The Job Better
Sound the trumpets: The news is good. Despite a lethargic economy and the damage inflicted upon aviation following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the salaries of U.S. aviation maintenance professionals made decent advances this year.
Aviation Maintenanceâ€™s 2002 survey reports an overall average salary of $53,900 (about $25.50 hourly). This compares to an overall average salary of $47,300 (about $22.75 hourly) reported in our previous survey (in 2000).
Taking a broader look by comparing data from our 1998 survey with this yearâ€™s, we see that the salaries from most employers and for most jobs are staying ahead of inflation
. Salaries from manufacturers indicate astonishing gains, but we must add that this yearâ€™s response had more input from maintenance department managers and engineers, and less response from A&Ps and technicians.
Yet all is not rosy. Salary data from the training side
of the business is a cause for concern. Poor compensation in this area not only negatively impacts the individual instructor. It also hurts industryâ€™s capability to attract good instructors for future mechanics.
We are concerned that a third of our respondents reported no salary increase
, while others reported salary cuts and worries about job security.
We are also concerned because 70 percent of our response was from aviation maintenance professionals having 15 years or more experience. Where are the young mechanics?
Finally, we are concerned to hear so many respondents say they donâ€™t receive enough recognition and appreciation for their work. It is a distinct call for the aviation maintenance industry to galvanize efforts to raise awareness of this professionâ€™s contributions.
Fleshing out the responders
This surveyâ€™s data is based upon 679 responses from across the United States
. The bulk of the response, 69 percent, was from the FAAâ€™s aviation-rich Eastern, Southern, Great Lakes, and Western Pacific regions.
Once again, we are pleased with how well the respondent population compares to those of past surveys. This continuity fortifies our confidence that the salaries and sentiments reported are representative of the industry
at large. In line with our earlier surveys, most of our 2002 survey respondents said they worked for airlines and repair stations/completion shops/overhaul centers. Thus, we continued to receive good feedback from the operational and support sides of the industry.
Wrench-turning A&P and IA mechanics made up 63 percent of our respondent population. Maintenance directors made up another 26 percent. As mentioned earlier, 70 percent of respondents have 15 years or more industry experience.
The high level of respondent experience could beg the question of whether our data are reporting salaries higher than the industry-wide average. We doubt it, and the reason is related to job seniority. Despite their "industry experience
," 44 percent of our respondents said they have worked for their current employer for five or fewer years. While job-hopping in most industries translates into higher salaries, that isnâ€™t always the case in aviation maintenance.
In this business, seniority often counts for more than certification, education, and experience. This is particularly true at larger companiesâ€”where 47 percent of our respondents work. As a result, the aviation maintenance professionalâ€™s salary often drops when he or she changes jobs.
The situation is clearly explained by a line mechanic for a major airline: "Mechanics should be paid wages reflective of their total work experience, not just job seniority. Iâ€™m starting on my fourth airline in 15 years and only making $3 an hour more than I was 15 years ago."
Job-hopping also negatively impacts vacation time. Forty-nine percent of our respondents said they get 10 days or less of vacation annually.
Itâ€™s a pity education and certification donâ€™t always translate into higher compensation, because our respondents are very well trained
. Ninety-five percent reported having degrees from vocational schools or colleges, 51 percent said they have A&P licenses, and 39 percent said they have an A&P and FCC, IA, or DER certification
Money, hours, job satisfaction
As mentioned earlier, the average salary is $53,900. Corporate flight departments, manufacturers, and major airlines pay the most, while FBOs, regional airlines, and training facilities pay the least. Employers handed out fewer raises this year. . Thirty-three percent of respondents said they received no raise and 3 percent reported pay cuts. Thatâ€™s quite different from our 2000 survey, where only 5 percent said they had received no raise and 2 percent said their pay had been cut. A number of this yearâ€™s respondents attributed pay freezes, cuts, and reduced hours to the aftermath of September 11.
For the group that did receive raises, the overall average
was 6.9 percent. That robust rate was directly related to raises received by major airline mechanics, who reported an incredible 13.2 percent average raise, thanks to new union contracts. Twenty-seven percent of our respondents said they were represented by unions. Of those, 80 percent worked for an airline.
It is also important to recognize that, in many cases, these raises were preceded by several years with no wage increase. "I received a 20 percent raise this year, but it was my first raise in six years," wrote one airline mechanic. "I got a substantial raise this year, but it hardly made up for four years without any," said a repair station lead mechanic. And a regional airline lead mechanic wrote, "I havenâ€™t had a raise in four years, per our union contract, but will get a five cent raise this yearâ€”like that will make a difference!"
Another factor that impacts wages is overtime hours. The average work week reported by our respondents was 44 hours. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they are paid for overtime. Interestingly, this group averaged 43 hours a week, while the group that is not paid for overtime averaged 45 hours a week. Despite the improved salary picture, 53 percent of respondents said they believe they are not appropriately compensated. The most disgruntled group was the regional airline crowd; 83 percent said they are not fairly compensated. This group also had the second-lowest average wage and received the fewest raises.
For our 1999 and 2000 surveys, we determined that the monetary point where a majority of respondents said they were paid fairly
was about $25 an hour. This year, the point has risen to about $30 an hour. That translates into an annual salary of $62,400.
A request to rate their work environment on a scale of one (bad) to 10 (good) generated an overall rating of 6.8. The respondents citing the best environment worked for corporate flight departments (8.4 rating), while the group reporting the worst environments worked for major and regional airlines (6.1).
This isnâ€™t startling, given that airline maintenance operates around the clock, generally every day of the year. That dictates not just three shifts a day, but also schedules like six-days on/two-days off. The requirement for airline mechanics to work outside in all types of weather can add to the unpleasant environment.
On the benefits side of the equation, a few subtle changes occurred. One was an increase in 401K plans. This was counterbalanced by a reduction in pensions and profit sharing. In 1998, 76 percent of respondents said they had a 401K; today 84 percent do. Meanwhile, the percent reporting that they received pensions declined 6 percent from 1998 to 2001 and profit sharing declined 5 percent.
The percentage of respondents reporting that they received health benefits remained high, but several respondents complained about having to pay more for less coverage. However, complaints about benefits have dropped since our 1998 survey. Back then, 19 percent of respondents complained about benefits. Today, the number is 9 percent.
Making jobs better
When asked what would make their job better
, 75 percent of the respondents sharpened their pencils and gave us their candid opinions.
"MONEY!!!!!" was the top response, mentioned by 31 percent of respondents.
"The pay of the A&P technician is far below that of comparable fields. The responsibility we carry on our backs is enormous," wrote one major airline line mechanic.
"Having a five-year degree, I could be an engineer and easily make twice as much at 10 yearsâ€™ experience," wrote a repair station training director. "I know you have heard it before, but engineers donâ€™t usually put their name and livelihood on the line if their work has any mistakes in it. Iâ€™ve chosen what I do and enjoy it, but the financial prospects for the future have me looking hard outside aviation, as well as working a second job (outside aviation) to make ends meet."
"Management needs to understand that it costs more to live each year and you canâ€™t pay for all the health insurance, social security, federal, state, and local taxes, and still have a decent standard of living in this nationâ€™s economy," wrote a maintenance director at a maintenance school. "After all the deductions are taken out, there is not much left to raise a family on, and saving for the future is impossible."
"We need to be paid for what we are worth," wrote a corporate flight department line mechanic. "Good thing for overtime, because sometimes we wouldnâ€™t be able to make it. The job is great; the pay stinks."
"Iâ€™ve spent 23 years in this industry, from turbine engine technician to shop supervisor to avionics installer," argued a repair station avionics technician. "Iâ€™m a VERY skilled craftsman, producing meticulous, fine work on a consistent basis, yet I make the same wage I made 10 years ago! Until this industry starts paying its very skilled people, the shortage of those people will continue. We are still either not demanding enough or foolish enough to tolerate it."
A desire for more training
was the number two request, from 26 percent of respondents.
"Since the FAA doesnâ€™t regulate us as much as pilots, companies do not invest resources on maintenance staff," said a lead mechanic at an air-taxi operator. "As a result, training has not kept up with new technology."
"I think recurrent training should be required for employers to offer to their employees on a consistent and timely schedule," said a line mechanic for a major airline.
is an area that has shown improvement each year since our 1998 survey. Back then, 58 percent of respondents said they received company-paid initial and recurrent training. For this yearâ€™s survey, 66 percent did. The percentage of employers reported to offer no training has also declined, from 25 percent in 1998 to 21 percent today.
Ranking third was a chorus of pleas for better management. One major airline line mechanic summed up the main complaints very well: "Iâ€™d like to see management wake up and start listening to the mechanics as to what we need to get the job completed in a timely manner," he wrote. "We also want to be treated with respect. Some of us are more educated than our supervisors, and we can make and do make the decisions to complete jobs."
"Competent management would help make my job better," penned another major airline line mechanic. "I often feel that I or we do a great job despite managementâ€™s best efforts to tie our hands."
"I would like to see less focus on trying to â€˜manage the numbersâ€™ and â€˜executive troubleshootingâ€™ and more focus on getting parts and tools and developing people," said a maintenance director for a major airline.
Having tools ranked fourth on respondentsâ€™ wish lists. "It is very discouraging to troubleshoot and work for hours on a problem only to have to wait for hours to get a partâ€”if you get it at all," complained a line mechanic for a major airline.
As they have in years past, respondents said recognition as professionals and appreciation for their work would make their jobs better. Some called for the Department of Labor or the FAA to redefine the profession as a way to raise prestige. [A proposal circulating at FAA headquarters suggests such a change to Part 65, but it is not yet a proposed rule change.â€”Editor]. Others called for trade associations to help. Or for unionization. Another major airline line mechanic turned the tables:
"I have found aircraft mechanics to be our own worst enemy. We as a whole need to be more professional and carry ourselves with pride. We should not let outside problems (i.e. management) take away who we really are and what we do and stand for."
As you contemplate this yearâ€™s salary survey, weâ€™d like to leave you with some thought-provoking words from a fellow aviation maintenance professional, a director of maintenance at a corporate flight department: "I started with an A&P in 1973, making $3.10 an hour at a small flight school/FBO. Through dedication to my profession, paying attention and learning, loyalty to the company I worked for, a little luck and perseverance, Iâ€™ve had a good life and career.
"I have been in my present position for 22 years. I am proud to be an A&P/IA. It is a good profession. I have worked hard to get to this point and have enjoyed doing it.
"Today, there is an idea that everyone should start at the top, in pay and position. Real life doesnâ€™t work that way. If you truly enjoy working on aircraft, stick with it. Learn from those who know and respect that knowledge.
"I read letters in the trades about everyone sitting around complaining about pay. If you are not happy with your job, you will again be unhappy [six weeks after you get a raise]. If this is the case, then get out; find a position that makes you happy. Donâ€™t spend your life thinking money will make you happy."