Aviation Maintenance Technician Shortage Predicted
Aviation International News reported in May that aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus say that about 500,000 extra pilots are needed during the next 20 years. Boeing has also predicted that aviation maintenance technicians will be in even greater demand—to the tune of 600,000 by 2031. JSfirm.com agrees technicians will be in more demand than pilots—to the tune of 30 percent of planned aviation hiring for technicians versus 7.5 percent for pilots. This shortage could create a great opportunity for you.
Plenty of other people and groups agree. Eighty-six percent of Aeronautical Repair Station Association members reported having difficulty searching for qualified workers, and 26 percent said the search was “very difficult.” Mike Lee directs maintenance training business development for FlightSafety international and concurs that there are just not enough personnel skilled for aviation maintenance. Chuck Horning chairs the Aviation Maintenance Science program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., and reports that almost 100 percent of graduates get placed into jobs.
The Job of an Aviation Maintenance Technician
So, what does an aviation maintenance technician do? Basically, they keep passengers and flight crews safe. As part of that, they diagnose aircraft problems, repair and replace parts, meet performance standards and record all their work. They work in various settings and scenarios: for the government, for private employers, outdoors, indoor, in hangars, at airports and at repair stations. According to the Aeronautical Repair Station Association, about 473,000 people work in more than 4,700 repair facilities across the globe. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median pay of $55,230 per year in 2012.
Where to Begin
There are several ways to get your foot into the field. First, you could attend a school approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. These schools are called Part 147 Aviation Maintenance Technician schools and will grant you a certificate. You’ll then be able to sit for FAA exams and sidestep FAA experience regulations. You’ll be in even better shape if you get an associate’s degree. You’ll learn about flight instruments and computer controls—and get higher-level work and better pay.
If you’re not sure you want to go to school, you need a high school diploma or its equivalent to get hired. However, your chances of getting a job are much better if you get post-secondary education. With just a high school diploma, you will learn what you need on the job but must still pass FAA exams. You’ll work under supervision until the FAA has certified you.
Keep in mind that many employers have quality concerns. Some say that schools don’t teach students like they used to. One reason may be lack of funding; students work on older aircraft because schools can’t afford newer models.
The education can be fun. Many schools such as FlightSafety incorporate iPads into their lessons to simulate cockpits. They also load maintenance manuals onto iPads.
Aviation Maintenance Technicians in Need
Aircraft Maintenance Technicians really are needed. For example, according to the Aviation International News report, West Star Aviation’s facility in East Alton, Illinois, has 36 positions open for various aircraft. Timco has openings as well and has been visiting schools to promote the field. AAR Aircraft Services also held a career day that allowed high school students to interview for internships. That is not all. Aviation job sites list hundreds of available maintenance positions worldwide on various aircraft—even helicopters.
The Aviation International News report explains that retirement is a main cause for this worker shortage. Instructors will be in heavy demand as well; for example, FlightSafety likes to see 10 years of job experience, with at least five of these being on heavy jets. Finding a suitable teacher can take up to seven months.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics explains that the FAA offers two kinds of certifications for technicians. These lead to better pay and more job offers. You could earn both certifications to put yourself in even better position. The “A”(airframe mechanics) certification shows you can work on airplane bodies. The “P” (powerplant mechanics) certification qualifies your ability to work on engines. There are opportunities for further ratings and certifications and more-specialized work.
While you’re in aircraft maintenance technician training, you’ll work on climbing planes without falling, pay attention to detail, work with tools to handle them quickly and smoothly, learn to work with gauges and how to interpret engine noises, and use critical thinking skills.
Your education will continue even after you are certified, especially given the fluid and ever-changing nature of computer systems and aircraft systems. You’ll need this continuing training to stay certified and can enroll in classes through your employer, a school or an airline manufacturer, your employer or a school. Working weekends and nights is common with day-shift priority usually given to workers with seniority.
Related Article: Aviation Maintenance Technician Training: A Simple Definition
For more information about aviation maintenance training, the Aviation Institute of Maintenance Aircraft Mechanic School Programs is where you can learn more. Visit our Consumer Information Disclosure page, Gainful Employment Disclosure and Consumer Information.
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