Without avionics technicians, most military and high-tech planes would be unsafe. Avionics technicians test, maintain, and produce aviation electronics, including missile-guidance systems, jet engines, and flight-control circuitry. Much of an avionics job is preventative. Technicians work unusual hours, providing maintenance and support to private research concerns, aerospace companies, the military, and other government agencies. Levels of satisfaction in the industry are high, mainly because it provides intellectual curiosity with a very close attention to detail. The installation of electronics devices, their calibration, and their testing are all critical to the success of any aviation endeavor.
Many avionics technicians specialize in one area of expertise, such as microcircuit television microscopy, oscilloscope review, or computerized guidance systems. Since the field is evolving, many people’s specialties change over time. Because of rapid changes in technology, continuing education through professional reading, and attending company-sponsored seminars, industry events, and conferences is the norm in this field. Most technicians are also educated through interaction with their colleagues; while each member has an assigned responsibility, the majority of technicians work as part of a team. Communication skills and the ability to write comprehensive and complete reports are as important as technical skills.
Two discrete professional categories exist for those in the industry. The first are those involved in the research and development (design and testing stages) of new electronic equipment. These technicians must have curious minds that can imagine potential problems that might occur, including atmospheric conditions, magnetic field interference, and weight limitations. The second category are those involved in the direct installation and maintenance. These people must be extremely attentive to detail, organized, and interested in high degrees of responsibility and long hours. The two fields do cross over at a variety of points, but in general, the fields are separate.
Most people attend a specialty school or community college that specializes in electronics engineering for one to three years. Major aerospace employers run their own schools and training centers; but corporate-run schools teach only about each company’s own product line. General coursework at these schools includes electronics, the physics of electricity, circuit design, and computer science. Familiarity with math (calculus-level studies are preferred) and a degree of manual dexterity are both helpful. If communications equipment is part of your job, you also will need an Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license as a restricted radio-telephone operator. Most specific skills, such as use of an oscilloscope, or a circuit analyzer, are part of on-the-job training.
Some avionics technicians continue their education and become aviation engineers, electrical engineers (specializing in circuit design and testing), or communications engineers. Others become repair consultants, in-house electronics designers, or join research groups that test and rate developed products. But few avionics technicians leave the field, due to the interesting work and competitive salaries the profession offers.