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U.S. Mechanic Wages Barely Tracked Inflation In 2017

Independent MRO facility mechanics remain least expensive, but most common segment.

U.S. maintenance facilities may be having trouble attracting and retaining talent, but there is no sign the aircraft maintenance industry is starting to pay much more to recruit mechanics, at least through late spring of last year.

The median annual wage for all U.S. aircraft mechanics was $61,020 in May 2017, up only 1.2% from $60,270 the year before, according to just-released figures from the U.S. Labor Department. Median hourly pay rose just 1.2% as well, to $29.34 in 2017.

The gains in both annual and hourly median wages barely covered, or fell short of, general inflation from 2016-17. Prices rose 1.0%, according to the GDP deflator, and 1.9% according to the Consumer Price Index, which tends to overstate inflation a bit.

There remains a wide spread in mechanic wages. About 10% of technicians earn $17.32 an hour or less and 10% earn nearly triple that, $44.27 or more for an annual wage of $92,080.

Mechanic pay continues to differ widely by employer type. Mechanics averaged $74,750 last year across all airlines--majors, LCCs and regionals--38% higher than the $54,010 average for independent MRO shop mechanics. Technicians that worked for OEMs were in the middle, at $63,510. By far the highest paid mechanics reported by the U.S. Labor Department were those working for courier and express delivery services, at a median wage of $97,330 in 2017. The median at U.S. network airlines, which is not separately reported by the Department of Labor, also is likely to be quite high.  

But less expensive shop mechanics still dominate industry employment, with about 2.5 times the headcount of pricier airline mechanics. Mechanics for OEMs, sightseeing firms, non-scheduled carriers and other companies fill out the rest of the employee pool.     

Regional variation in wages largely reflects the type or employing organization. Mechanics in the Atlanta metropolitan area, many presumably Delta TechOps workers, had a mean wage of $78,420 a year and $37.70 an hour. The equivalent figures in the Miami area, with its many independent shops, were $52,540 and $25.26.

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