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Tools Used in Aircraft Maintenance

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Aircraft mechanics need general mechanical aptitude and knowledge coupled with very particular skills to do their jobs correctly. Similarly, they also utilize general mechanics' equipment as well as very specialized tools to perform specific tasks and repairs. Civilian mechanics are generally required to own their own tools for basic maintenance. Mechanics also use shop tools such as drill presses and other large machines that must remain centrally located in a shop or hangar.

Speed Handle

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Flight-line maintenance workers don’t usually have much time to troubleshoot and repair problems. Aircraft are full of service panels secured by several screws or bolts. A speed handle is basically a very long screwdriver with the middle of its shaft offset. This part is used as a handle that a mechanic can spin very quickly with one hand while using his other hand, or entire body, for leverage. Speed handles can also be equipped with sockets.

Torque Wrench

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Screw-type fasteners on aircraft need to be installed to a specified torque, or tightness. The only way to reliably tighten a screw, nut or bolt to the correct torque is to use a calibrated torque wrench. Torque wrenches are designed to be set at various torque amounts. Once the wrench tightens to the specified torque, the wrench clicks to let its user know that the desired torque has been reached.

Safety Wire Pliers

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Even though fasteners are torqued to safe specifications, failsafe mechanisms are often employed o ensure that fasteners do not loosen. Safety wire is one of the most common methods to do this. Safety wire pliers spin strands of aluminum wire into a strong braid that is used to “tie” nuts and bolts together in such a way that any loosening of a nut or bolt would increase toughness on the strand of safety wire and prevent any further loosening.

Metal Working Tools

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Airframe mechanics repair the actual metal structures of airplanes. They use tools to cut, bend, grind and fasten metal. Drills and rivet guns are essential to installing rivets that hold aircraft skins and other integral structural components. Workers use die grinders with interchangeable discs to cut or grind aluminum, steel and even titanium. Workers also use other tools that are much less mobile, such as electric band saws and sheet metal rollers.


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Small metallic parts, fasteners and tools can cause catastrophic failures if they make their way into moving cable assemblies or engines. Long and often extendable magnets are useful in retrieving stray metallic items from locations that offer little accessibility.


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Aircraft mechanics don’t always have a direct line of sight to the parts they are working on or inspecting. Sometimes using a mirror is the only way for a mechanic to see what she is doing. But sometimes mirrors aren’t even enough and mechanics have to install or remove fasteners by touch alone.


Michael Signal began writing professionally in 2010, with his work appearing on eHow. He has expert knowledge in aviation, computer hardware and software, elementary education and interpersonal communication. He has been an aircraft mechanic, business-to-business salesman and teacher. He holds a master's degree in education from Lesley University.

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