Aviation maintenence career vs. flight dispatch career


New Member
I am a single male, age 42, seeking to re-career into aviation.

I am exploring both aviation maintenance or flight dispatch as career possibilities.

Aside from up-front cost for schooling, and the fact that completing an aviation maintenance education will take two years to complete, I am wondering about which career field is the better choice in the long-term? (I would likely be equally happy in either position --At my age, I am more concerned about making a decent living since retirement age is a little over 20 years away)

I know your answers will be subjective, but I am relying upon your professional experience and familiarity with aviation industry trends to point me in the right direction.

All replies are greatly appreciated!
Do you enjoy working with your hands?
I know that for me it would be an easy choice. I'd way rather sling wrenches than sit in front of a computer in a dispatch office. Also, are you in Rockford, IL? I worked there for a summer.
Ive been turning wrenches for a long time with Major/Regional airlines, Part 135 freight operator, and jet engine shops. There are times when the weather isnt favorable and its dark and cold working on the aircraft in the middle of the night on a dark ramp. There's also that feeling when you are under pressure, aircraft is due to depart, and you just repaired the grounding sqk in the nick of time. You have to take the good with the bad. Would I change anything...Notta..I enjoy being a mechanic and the whole aviation industry. It makes it easier to go to work when you enjoy the job.
What kind of money can you make turning wrenches?
depends on who you work for. Local fbo mech probably not all that much from what I've read. However my friend in Jersey just got hired on starting out at 30/hr as a newly minted A&P and with 5ish years of experience. He's working on military aircraft though, I can't remember who hired him. I wouldn't mind getting a job with Boeing but I don't want to move to Amarillo and I still want to pursue my first choice of being a pilot. Also I saw something about TN having highest average A&P salary in the states and it was like 70k/year. I'm not sure but I htink in order to make over that you have to start moving up the ladder and more into a management side of the company, but I have nothing to really base that off of.

To the OP, depends on what you would rather do. I Hate sitting inside all day. I loved being out on the line fixing things and like DFW flyer said getting a bird finished up just in time to make the launch. But the weather cna be a huge factor depending on where you are. Sucks being outside in the 100 degree heat and you can't touch the skin of the a/c because its so hot. And on the flip side when the a/c is all iced over and you fall and bust your ass or its so cold you can barely move your fingers.
What do you consider a decent living? A decent living as an aircraft mechanic is hard to come by.

If I can start making 40k per year after being in the profession for about 5 years, then I would consider that a decent living.

I am trying to find out if this is a realistic expectation from you guys & gals who work in the trenches. The internet has pre-recession salary statistics on websites and Aviation schools will tell you anything to get you in the door....Also, reading through the threads across the Jetcareers forum paints a pretty dismal employment picture for all aviation professionals.

Here is one salary table. Despite the fact that it has today's date , I do not know how accurate it really is.


Here is another table from the same site. This table shows that there are 640 job openings for AP mechanic, and 88 openings for Dispatch.


In answer to Roger, Roger's question about having a preference between slinging wrenches or working behind a computer....I love problem solving, and both of these jobs would certainly allow me to satisfy that.

At the end of the day, it comes down to where the job market in these two sectors will be heading in the next couple of years, and what my long-term prospects are for income earned over the course of the rest of my career.

Thanks for all of your replies. Every contribution is very helpful!
If I can start making 40k per year after being in the profession for about 5 years, then I would consider that a decent living.
I think that's a realistic goal. Depending on the area and type of work, you could possibly make that fresh out of A&P school.

At the end of the day, it comes down to where the job market in these two sectors will be heading in the next couple of years, and what my long-term prospects are for income earned over the course of the rest of my career.
I'm not a dispatcher, but I believe there are more opportunities in maintenance, especially if you're willing to include non-aviation maintenance jobs. Every aircraft requires maintenance; not all of them require dispatch.

I've been out of aircraft maintenance for a couple of years now, but back then it went something like this for starting pay:

Entry level jobs:
Regional airline or part 135 new hire: $14-$16 an hour
FBO: $12-$14 an hour
Repair station: $14-$18 an hour

Some experience required:
Regional airline/part135 supervisor or entry level inspector: $18-$20 an hour
Major/national airline: $22-$25 an hour
Repair station supervisor/entry level inspector $22-$25 an hour
Big FBO or flight school: $18-$20 an hour
Government contractor or UAV: $25-$30+

Now keep in mind this is just my own rough estimate of what was out there a couple of years ago, based on my own job search and talking with friends in the industry. It could be way off.

You might want to consider avionics training as well.
I have done both. I will give you my opinion on both.

Dispatch is not a bad career but it can be mentally brutal on bad days especially when hub airports have bad weather or other problems. Plus your in an office for 8 to 10 hours a day staring at a couple of computer screens it can be an eyesore (my opinion). There salary for entry level is around $27000 a year for regional airlines. But with experience you can go to large or major airlines which pays around $50000-$110000 a year depending on expierence.

As. most a mechanic your out in the fields or in a hangar . At nights You could be doing simple line checks (basically inspection on the aircraft such as checking for tire pressure or lights etc) or heavier items like an A-Check. In the daytime you will be doing gate calls but most of the time you will be deferring items (If it can be deferred). There are more oppurtunities as a mechanic you could cross over to ships, trains mx etc.

In the Northern VA area entry level regional mechanics make around

$39,000 a year (NOTE: they include a Cost of living assistance (It's VERY expensive here in Northern VA). for example base pay is $15.00/hour. But they add $5.00/hour of COLA so you make $20.00/hour )
It usually around $32000 a year in other places. Good luck on your decision.