Line vs. shops

The Line

Why does it seemline mechanics that line mechanics get all the glory? The line guys are on “front lines” of aircraft maintenance by keeping aircraft airworthy and in service.   The glory of the line mechanic is reminiscent of the military crew chief.   The position of the crew chief while rewarding, was often filled with long days and nights. It is a beautiful thing be responsible for an aircraft. It brings responsibility but more importantly it brings pride.

The line mechanic rarely does “heavy maintenance” and instead spends their time doing quick fixes.  Those quick fixes are nonetheless important however, even a small problem can ground an aircraft. The line mechanic does not need a huge roller tool box, he/she only needs a tool bag packed with only the essentials. Knowledge of the aircraft is essential, and the line mechanic knows his/her airplane in and out.

The line mechanic may not know what an inside of a gearbox looks like or a gyro, but he/she sure knows what the MEL (minimum equipment list) looks like. Knowing the MEL and how to use it properly is essential to keeping an aircraft in service. Lets face it, aircraft do break, and some things can be allowed to be broken.  A skilled line mechanic takes advantage of this and utilizes the MEL to keep the aircraft up.


The repair station folks, or shop people often work in much more suitible conditions. Most of their time is spent inside a hangar. Avionic technicians often times get climate controlled a & p license mechanicenvironments to practice their trade. This is where all the heavy inspections or checks get done. The line mechanics send all the big problems to the guys in the shop.  Working in a 145 repair station often means working regular hours. The back-shops always have the tools available and working in the hangar makes things easier.

The mechanics who work in the American wheel and brake center work a regular shift away from the harsh outdoor environments. These type shop mechanics become extremely proficient in a somewhat narrow field.  These mechanics are very detailed orientated and if you don’t believe me, visit an engine shop.

Pay is roughly the same for either type of mechanic. It is possible that a good avionic technician and especially sheetmetal mechanics might be able to earn slightly higher than the rest of us. This largely depends on the negotiating that takes place during the hiring process.

Finding Pride

Regardless of where you end up in your aviation career, one this is for sure, you serve an essential role in aviation safety.  It may seem that flight line mechanics get all the glory, but trust me, we all share this glory evenly. We all share the burden of responsibility of this kick ass profession.  There are many moving parts to an aviation maintenance team and each one is important.


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