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Airplane Assemblers

At a Glance

  • Read blueprints and diagrams
  • Usually work as part of a team
  • May work days, nights, or weekends
  • Train through formal training programs or on the job

Career summary

Airplane assemblers build airplanes, space vehicles, and satellites.

#No Alternate titles or job duty info used

Airplane assemblers usually specialize in one area such as:

Aircraft structure assemblers join and align the pieces of the frame or fuselage. Aircraft systems assemblers fit together the smaller assemblies such as landing gears. Aircraft rigging assemblers fabricate and install the wiring harnesses, cables, and hydraulic lines. These lines and cables connect the flight controls, navigation systems, and other parts of the aircraft.

When assembling airplanes, assemblers read and follow detailed plans and diagrams. They inspect and measure parts prior to assembly. They make sure that parts are free of defects.

Assemblers may cut, grind, or trim parts to fit properly. They use tools such as drills, wrenches, and rivet guns. They also weld and chemically bond pieces together. They recycle or contain waste from assembly to protect the environment.

All airplane assemblers work as part of a team. On automated assembly lines, airplane assemblers control robots that assemble aircraft.

At each stage, workers test the aircraft to determine if parts are installed properly. Assemblers sometimes work with inspectors to run tests. They make adjustments or replace parts when needed. They must have up-to-date knowledge of assembly methods in order to produce safe aircraft.

Assemblers also build experimental aircraft designed to use less fuel and create less pollution.

Related careers

This career is part of the Manufacturing cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to airplane assemblers.

Common work activities

Airplane assemblers perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, airplane assemblers:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Airplane assemblers frequently:

It is important for airplane assemblers to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for airplane assemblers to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Airplane assemblers need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as an airplane assembler, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Some airplane assemblers learn their skills at a professional-technical school or a two-year college. Aviation maintenance programs are good preparation for this occupation. These programs teach you to repair airplanes. Manufacturing technology programs also can prepare you to work in this occupation.

On-the-job training

Many airplane assemblers learn their skills on the job from experienced workers. You start out doing simple tasks and gradually learn more complex skills as you gain experience. It takes up to one year to learn all skills. Training includes:

Military training

The military trains people to be aircraft mechanics. Training lasts three to 17 weeks, depending on the specialty. Further training occurs on the job and through advanced courses. The experience you gain as a mechanic should transfer to assembling airplanes.

Washington apprenticeships

You can explore apprenticeship opportunities in Washington State aerospace industries by visiting the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (external link) website.

Helpful high school courses

You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state's graduation requirements. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers prefer applicants who have a high school diploma or equivalent. They also look for applicants who have some training in mechanics, electronics, or manufacturing processes.

Airplane assemblers who work on military airplanes may be required to pass a security background check prior to being hired. Many employers also require applicants to pass a drug screening test.


Formal training at a community or technical college will help in finding entry-level work. Some employers prefer to hire employees who know and can perform all aspects of assembly. The ability to learn quickly and willingness to put in the effort are important. Knowledge of composite materials is important as the use of this technology is increasing in airframe assembly.

Costs to workers

Most workers are required to join a union and pay an initiation fee and monthly dues.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers (SOC 51-2011)

Pay Period
Washington Wages for this occupation are not available.
United States Hourly $15.51 $19.50 $25.64 $33.66 $39.61
Monthly $2,688 $3,379 $4,443 $5,833 $6,864
Yearly $32,250 $40,570 $53,340 $70,010 $82,390

Wages vary by the assembler's level of skill, training, and responsibility.

Airplane assemblers who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, health insurance, and a retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

In Washington, the outlook depends on general economic conditions, cost control measures taken by manufacturers to remain competitive with other foreign companies, and the demand for military and commercial aircraft.

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Aircraft Structure, Surfaces, Rigging, and Systems Assemblers (SOC 51-2011)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 11,975 -2.3% 16.1% 1,158
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 39 10.3% 11.9% 5
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 207 -5.3% 14.6% 18
    King County 4,201 -1.7% 19.6% 413
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 578 7.6% 13.8% 71
    Pierce County 32 0.0% 15.2% 3
    Snohomish County 6,743 -3.5% 12.4% 629
    Spokane County 87 28.7% 13.9% 15
United States 45,100 -22.0% 5.2% 2,500

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for airplane assemblers is expected to decline. Automation is expected to lead to a decrease in job openings as more can be done with fewer workers. Also, some manufacturers are sending work to other countries where labor costs are lower.

Other resources

Federal Aviation Administration (external link)
800 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20591
IAMAW: Local Chapter, District #751 (external link)
9125 - 15th Place South
Seattle, WA 98108
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (external link)
9000 Machinists Place
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Washington Business Week (external link)
PO Box 1170
Renton, WA 98057
Welding.com (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational cluster