A structural mechanic is a person who usually works on various forms of aircraft; he or she is responsible for maintaining and repairing hydraulic systems as well as structural elements such as the main frame or body of an aircraft. In some instances, the structural mechanic may actually be part of a flight crew who is present on board during flights to address any mechanical issues with the aircraft. Hydraulic systems are the primary concern of the mechanic, as these systems often control other elements of the aircraft structure that can be damaged if the hydraulics fail or operate incorrectly.
Inspection and troubleshooting are major job functions of the structural mechanic. He or she will routinely inspect various components of an aircraft to look for signs of wear or damage; if the damage warrants replacement, the structural mechanic will need to secure or otherwise fabricate replacement parts and install them correctly. Any other systems that may have been affected by the faulty part will also need to be inspected to ensure they are working properly and safely. This diagnosis and repair usually happens while the aircraft is grounded, though in some exceptional circumstances, the mechanic can perform repair or maintenance duties while the craft is in flight.
More complex tasks may also be part of the structural mechanic's job duties. Installing aircraft engines, for example, may be a job duty of the mechanic, and this in-depth process must be done properly to ensure safe operation of the aircraft. The process of installing engines can be time-consuming and tedious, and the structural mechanic will need to have a solid understanding of electronics, mechanical applications, and engine functions.
A person who is considering becoming a structural mechanic will need to complete a high school education. From there, the job candidate has a few different options: he or she can join the military to get a free education, but that person will need to commit to being in the military for several years. This option should be avoided unless the job candidate is passionate about and prepared for military life. Otherwise, the candidate can enroll in a post-secondary training program or degree program that covers the topics necessary to become a structural mechanic. It is possible to get a job with just a post-secondary certificate or associate's degree, coupled with job training or an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship is likely to last anywhere between one and four years, during which time the candidate will learn all the necessary skills.