An Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) is a highly-skilled technician that keep aircraft flying safely and reliably. They inspect, service, repair and overhaul all makes and models of aircraft; both for regularly-scheduled maintenance based on hours flown (just like a car requires scheduled maintenance based on kilometres travelled) and unscheduled maintenance.
AMEs work directly for aircraft manufacturers and operators (including airlines) in their own hangars, or indirectly for them through dedicated Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) companies.
MROs typically perform regularly-scheduled maintenance work on a shift basis at their own facilities. Unscheduled work is performed at various locations; with AMEs being flown to that location with tools and equipment to do repairs.
Aircraft in service today run the gamut from aluminum-framed models made in the 1930s (or earlier) to carbon fiber composite fuselages fresh out of the factory. Add the evolution of aircraft control systems – known as avionics – from hydraulics and tube-based electronics to fly-by-wire electric motors and digital glass cockpits (so-called because they use computer displays), and the technical/intellectual challenges faced by an AME are substantial. This is why AMEs keep updating their training throughout their careers.
To be an AME, a candidate should have mechanical abilities and enjoy working with their hands as well as their head. An ability to read and understand technical manuals, a firm grasp of science/engineering, and a calm, methodical mind that enjoys solving problems are a must.
They should be able to perform well under pressure, such as when an aircraft breaks down unexpectedly and needs to be fixed as soon as possible and comfortable working in high places.
How to Learn
To become an AME, a candidate must successfully complete an AME basic training course at a Transport Canada-accredited community college or equivalent educational institution. Courses can run anywhere from 10 to 24 months, depending on the institution’s academic schedule.
In taking these courses, AMEs can choose to be Generalists, or specialize in repairing Avionics (electronic systems and wiring) or Mechanical systems (such as airframes, wings, and other aircraft structures).
Upon graduation, the student applies to Transport Canada for their AME licence. They need to be at least 21 years old, and have a graduation certificate from their school to apply. Not all employers accept distance education programs, so check with your desired organization prior to training.
After graduating from an AME basic training course at a Transport Canada-accredited community college or institution, AMEs are designated as Apprentices. Opportunities for Apprentices exist in airline manufacturers, operators and MROs. Many organizations work with Apprentices so they can obtain their AME Licence.
As they gain experience and skills, an AME’s may advance to senior positions. Staying current on new aircraft technology through ongoing training also helps make an AME more marketable.
The average apprentice salary is $49,000 per year. The salary range for an AME is $70,000-$90,000 per year. AMEs are eligible for benefits and overtime as well.
Costs for college-level AME basic training vary from province to province.
Use this Transport Canada link to drill down to the college/training organization you’re interested in, and look up fees on their individual websites.
Need More Information?
Transport Canada’s website has considerable information about becoming an AME in Canada. Also, the Canadian Federation of Air Maintenance Engineers Associations provides links to regional AME associations throughout Canada.