The rumored shortage of aircraft mechanics is having some counterintuitive effects on pay. The latest data for U.S. aircraft mechanic pay shows a significant boost in average rates. But this increase was entirely concentrated in airline shops, where unions are strongest and pay is already highest. Average real pay for independent shop and OEM mechanics was flat or even slightly declining in the year through spring of 2018.
U. S. aircraft mechanics averaged $31.36 per hour and $65,230 per year in May 2018, according to the Labor Department. Wages were widely distributed, with the bottom 10% of mechanics earning just $17.67 per hour and the top 10% $47.03 or more per hour and about $98,000 per year.
The average wage for all mechanics was $30.07 in May 2017, so the nominal increase in the year to May 2018 was 4.3%, well above the 2.5% increase in consumer prices. Average real wages thus increased 1.7% for all mechanics from spring 2017 to 2018.
But mechanic pay is largely determined by the type of maintenance organization in which technicians work. The largest count of mechanics worked in independent shops and averaged $26.51 in pay in 2018. Airline mechanics– majors, LCCs and regionals -- pulled in an average of $38.87 per hour. OEM mechanics averaged $31.31 per hour.
In 2017, the comparable averages were $25.97 for shops, $35.94 for airlines and $30.53 for OEM mechanics. After adjustment for consumer prices, the real increases in wages were thus -0.5% for shop mechanics, +5.4% for airline mechanics and 0.0% for OEM mechanics.
In other words, airlines mechanics, already the best paid workforce, extended their advantage over other segments in the year through 2018. Union strength may account for this advantage, or the 2018 increase may have been a catch-up after long negotiation of expired contracts.
The Labor Department also reported that in 2018 courier and express-delivery services paid the highest wages, an average of $42.66 per hour and $88,720 per year.
The biggest state counts of mechanics last year were Texas with 17,160 workers averaging $30.70 per hour, Florida with 13,100 averaging $30.31 per hour and California averaging $34.01 per hour.
Metropolitan areas with the highest concentrations were Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, with 7,570 mechanics averaging $33.26 per hour, Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell with 6,240 averaging $40.08 per hour and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach with 5,880 averaging $29.38 per hour.