All frequent travelers are familiar with what is going on in the cabin and at the airport, but what happens when the airplane is on the ground, behind the scenes? I decided to find out and managed to get an interview with Tobias Persson who is working as a aircraft engineer in Auckland, New Zealand.
Tell Me, How Did You Become an Airplane Technician?
Not sure, guess it was more a coincidence. My plan was to become an electrician and had never really been too interested in aviation or aircraft. Had an old neighbor that worked at Malmo Sturup Airport, but never really spoke to him much about it. I chose ‘Elprogrammet”( Electrician college) and did the first year in Ystad. At the end of the first year we had to specialize in one kind of electrician either sparky (Installations), automation engineer or HiFi/computer. I was set to HiFi/computer, but at the last minute the school announced that we could now also apply for Aviation College at three different places in Sweden. I thought…Why not! And a few months later we packed the car and drove to Vasteras (100km west of Stockholm) and I spent 3 years up there. Two years to become an aircraft mechanic and another year to become an aircraft engineer (theoretically anyway, you need a few years’ experience and a type course to actually be able to sign for your work.
Please describe a Typical Shift.
At the moment I am working on a line station and we are there to make sure the aircraft can fly its schedule safely during the day. That means we will do minor checks during transit stops, but our main task is to rectify and solve problems that appears during the day. So all planned maintenance (bigger checks) are taken care of elsewhere. We have about 50 aircraft we’re looking after every day. Some days it is busy from the moment you start until you go home in the evening, but other days when the aircraft behave we might even have time for a coffee or two.
What Kind of Aircraft Do You Service?
We service the regional aircraft here and the types are ATR 72, Dash 8 Q300 and Beechcraft 1900. These are very common aircraft all around the globe. As an aircraft engineer you need a “Type course” for each aircraft you are working on(or more to the point to certify for the job you have performed). A typical type course takes 5-7 weeks and you have been taught everything about the new aircraft i.e.: structure, interior, hydraulics, engines etc.
Can You Service Everything on a Plane?
It depends what you are trained on. Most engineers choose either “aircraft or engine” or avionics (electrical systems, instruments and navigation), but there are a few that do both. If you choose “aircraft and engine” then you can service everything except radio, instruments and avionics (navigational aids), this could be landing gear, lights, hydraulic systems, engines etc.
Will I See You or Your Colleagues When Getting on My Flight?
It is not impossible and if you see me it does not necessarily mean something is wrong and you have to de-board the aircraft again. We do check the oil and tire pressures daily and other maintenance too. So most of the time we will keep the pilot up to date with what we have done and also sign for the work in the aircrafts log book.
Favourite Destination for your Holiday?
Guess I have to say Spain, just love the atmosphere, the people, the music and not to forget the fantastic food and wine. Nothing is a problem; if it does not happen today it will hopefully happen tomorrow. Sometimes frustrating as a Scandinavian when you just want to finish up the job and head home….
A big thanks to Tobias for sharing his experiences as an airplane technician. If you know more or have comments, please share your thoughts via email, in the comments below, on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.