If you are interested in this career, you can begin exploring by arranging to shadow an aviation safety inspector at work. Talking with aviation safety inspectors and observing them as they work will give you a sampling of their duties, as well as the type of situations they encounter from day to day. Visits and interviews can be arranged through the Federal Aviation Administration. Another option that will help you learn about aviation safety inspectors is to arrange to take a tour of an airport. Many aviation safety inspectors began with jobs such as aircraft pilots, air traffic controllers, and aviation mechanics or repair workers. Visiting an airport and taking a tour will give you a broader understanding of the basis of aviation safety and will enable you to observe how aviation safety issues affect those careers and the public travelers who pass in and out of an airport on a daily basis. Visits can be arranged through most airports and many airlines, although there might be limitations due to security concerns. Every branch of the military services offers opportunities for vital experience for these jobs, and many jobs that are closely related.
The duties of an aviation safety inspector generally include making sure that aircraft are airworthy, that the facilities surrounding aircraft are safe, that the parts and equipment that are used to repair aircraft are of top quality, and that the personnel working on or flying aircraft complete their work safely and correctly. The specific duties of aviation safety inspectors depend on the area in which they specialize.
Aviation safety inspectors usually work in one of three general areas: operations, pertaining to the operation of aircraft; manufacturing, pertaining to the manufacture of aircraft or related equipment; or airworthiness, pertaining to the maintenance and repair of aircraft and related equipment in order to ensure safe flight. In addition, the FAA has identified and defined eight different types of aviation safety inspectors: general aviation avionics inspectors, general aviation maintenance inspectors, general aviation operations inspectors, air carrier avionics inspectors, air carrier maintenance inspectors, air carrier operations inspectors, manufacturing inspectors, and cabin safety inspectors. These inspectors all administer and enforce safety regulations and uphold set standards. The differences are in the general areas that the inspectors regulate and/or the size of the aircraft they inspect.
Aviation safety inspectors working in operations are concerned with the people operating aircraft and their training programs, equipment, and facilities. The inspector evaluates pilots, navigators, and flight instructors and issues initial certification that they are proficient and meet the necessary requirements. This certification is done on a continuing basis, and the inspector is responsible for that as well. They also evaluate the manner in which these workers are trained, the equipment they use, and the facilities in which they work and train to make sure they meet safety regulations and standards. One way an inspector might do this is by running simulations with flight personnel, ground crews, and air traffic controllers to monitor performance of the people and equipment involved.
Aviation safety inspectors working in manufacturing are concerned with the design and manufacture of aircraft, aircraft parts, and avionics equipment. They examine these materials to make sure they match the necessary design specifications. Inspectors may use hand tools and test instruments to accomplish this. They also issue the original certificates determining airworthiness for all aircraft. Inspectors in this area also inspect manufacturing facilities to make sure they meet safety regulations and standards.
Aviation safety inspectors working in airworthiness are concerned with the repair and maintenance of aircraft, aircraft parts, and avionics equipment. They assess the skills of the mechanics that work on aircraft and related parts and equipment and issue initial certification that they are proficient and meet the necessary requirements. This certification is done on a continuing basis, and the inspector is responsible for that as well. They also assess and certify repair facilities and evaluate mechanic training programs. Inspectors perform inspections of aircraft to determine airworthiness, checking for any problems due to damage or deficient components. One way they do this is by starting the aircraft being inspected and observing the gauges, meters, and other instruments to ensure they are working properly. These inspectors are also responsible for examining maintenance programs and facilities, the equipment and procedures used for maintenance, and maintenance schedules. They advise whether new equipment needs to be acquired or if existing equipment needs to be fixed or modified. They check maintenance records and flight logs to see if prescribed service and maintenance procedures were performed and completed in a timely manner.