What does an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer do?
Daryl is an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer for a section of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). He predominantly works on twin turboprop-engine aircraft. Daryl performs routine maintenance checks, inspects the aeroplanes for any defects, replaces or repairs parts if necessary and runs functional checks on aircraft systems (such as on engines and instruments).
Daryl is also involved with the modification and adaptation of medical equipment so that it can be stowed, and used, safely in the aircraft by paramedics, doctors and nurses. "There's a lot of crossover with other fields," Daryl says. "Designing modifications for the aircraft medical equipment means working with doctors and medical teams and other specialists."
How did you become an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer?
"I'd always wanted to be a pilot, ever since I was a little kid," says Daryl. He completed his Commercial Pilot's Licence, but as a side project to training as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer. "I got accepted to work for one of the airlines and gained a lot of experience." Daryl says he got into being an aircraft engineer by default but that he loves the job and "I still get to fly too".
What does a typical working day involve?
Most aircraft engineers are subject to shift work or peculiar hours, as "aircraft in the RFDS operate 24/7," Daryl explains. He works 40-to-50 hours a week, on weekdays and weekends. His shifts vary from 6am to 2pm or noon to 8pm. "And then, you're often on-call from 8pm to 6am," he says.
"In the morning we usually carry out basic safety checks, general servicing and repair outstanding defects or faults," Daryl says. The engineers do a daily inspection, looking over the entire aircraft, checking that the "lights and heated probes are working correctly", checking engine oils and tyre pressures, and cleaning the windscreen. Daryl is also involved in planning and scheduling aircraft maintenance.
What are some of the pros and cons of the job?
Daryl says that it's extremely rewarding to be part of a team that's helping people. "The planes I'm working on aren't just taking people on holidays but are immediately helping someone when they're medically in need," Daryl says. Another positive is that the technical aspects are extremely varied - from aircraft structure, systems and instruments to electrical, radio systems and engines.
"One of the downers is that occasionally you're exposed to people who might be badly injured. It makes you stop and think that your own life isn't so bad," he muses. "Being on-call can interfere with your life. Like when someone calls at 2am while you're asleep, but you have to try and understand what they're talking about and then come up with coherent answers." Daryl also mentions that the all-consuming nature of the job places a lot of demands on his time, which sometimes makes it hard to fit extra study into his routine.
What sort of skills and qualities do you need?
"You have to be willing to read a lot of technical data," Daryl says, "And be someone who enjoys a lot of systems and how they all inter-relate. You have to be interested in the concepts, laws and theories of how things work." Other useful attributes include "being good with your hands" and having a genuine interest in aviation and aeroplanes.
Are there any tips for getting a job as an aircraft maintenance engineer?
Daryl suggests that, "If you wish to become a licensed engineer be prepared to do plenty of extra study and exams, in your own time, to gain the initial licences."
Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).