Changes in Aircraft Maintenance Jobs

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Changes in Aircraft Maintenance Jobs

The changes in aircraft maintenance jobs are due to the tight supply of mechanics, pressure from management and criticism received for finding issues that are out of scope, the difficulty of recruiting and retaining talent, and airlines outsourcing their maintenance jobs to other countries. Below is an overview of the findings.

CHANGES IN AIRCRAFT MAINTENANCE JOBS

CHANGE #1: TIGHT SUPPLY OF MECHANICS

BRIEF EXPLANATION OF THE ISSUE
  • As of mid-November 2017, in the U.S. the enrollment at all FAA-certified Aviation Maintenance Technician schools was approximately 17,800 students, however, the capacity is almost 34,300. ​
  • According to school officials, approximately 20% of graduates continue their careers outside of aviation, and only 60% take the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) test for mechanic certification.
  • According to WSU Tech President, "students can begin taking classes in the A&P and avionics tech programs while still in high school and get a jump start".

HOW IT IS CHANGING AIRCRAFT MAINTENANCE JOBS
  • The shortfall of aircraft mechanics is due to a combination of three factors: "low unemployment, retirement, and competition with airlines and other industry."

CHANGE #2: SHIFT IN CULTURE AND PRESSURE

BRIEF EXPLANATION OF THE ISSUE
  • Mechanics feel "unduly pressured or threatened, chastised, criticized for finding issues that are out of scope."
  • American law, particularly the AIR 21 whistle-blower statute, has provided the "necessary means to resist management pressure to turn a blind eye to corrosion, gouges, and other significant aircraft damage."

HOW IT IS CHANGING AIRCRAFT MAINTENANCE JOBS
  • Due to the location change and the shift in culture, mechanics are under duress and face the dilemma of either diverting the safety hazards for passengers and consequently working beyond the scope or looking the other way, under the pressure from management, when they see a potential safety problem on airplanes.

CHANGE #3: RECRUITMENT OF AVIATION MAINTENANCE TECHNICIANS IS A HURDLE

BRIEF EXPLANATION OF THE ISSUE
  • Recruiting and retaining talent has been difficult over the years as the industry pays under what is offered by other industries with competing skill sets and the regulatory threshold of entry is significantly higher than that of competing industries.
  • H.R. 5701 was introduced in the House of Representatives on May 8, 2018, "to establish an aviation maintenance workforce development pilot program" which would provide incentives for businesses, "labor organizations, schools, and governmental entities to work together to develop technical talent and encourage workers to pursue aviation careers."

HOW IT IS CHANGING AIRCRAFT MAINTENANCE JOBS
  • The technical workforce is going through a crisis with too few skilled workers and aviation mechanics are disadvantaged as it takes much longer for them to be work-ready compared to other paying career paths.

CHANGE #4: OUTSOURCING AIRLINE MAINTENANCE JOBS

BRIEF EXPLANATION OF THE ISSUE
  • JetBlue, Southwest, American West, Northwest, United Airlines outsource their maintenance jobs to other countries.
  • By outsourcing maintenance jobs to other countries the airlines have seen a significant decrease in the cost of their operations.
  • Airline workers in other locations receive 33% of the salary earned by on-site mechanics in the U.S.
  • In the last decade, many big players in the U.S. airlines industry have shifted their maintenance work to places like El Salvador, Mexico, and China, where few mechanics are FAA-certified and where there are minimum inspections.

HOW IT IS CHANGING AIRCRAFT MAINTENANCE JOBS
  • Maintenance mechanics are choosing companies that are not outsourcing tasks for more job stability. They fear they might lose their jobs during the transition to outsourcing.
  • This also causes general uneasiness, lower morale, and less productivity among workers.
  • As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "this practice is expected to reduce employment growth opportunities in the air transportation industry over the next 10 years."

RESEARCH STRATEGY

We started our initial research on the changes in aircraft maintenance jobs. In this research we came across news articles/media publications (from General Aviation News, CBS News), industry blogs (like Spokane Journal, AA Outsourcing, among others) that focused on current trends in the aviation industry, the latest news, and laws, among others. We also scoured government databases (such as Data USA, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) to identify any patterns in the way aircraft maintenance jobs are changing today. These articles gave us vital findings on the aircraft maintenance jobs, such as the tight supply of mechanics, high pressure and threat among workers, and jobs being outsourced. They provided insight into how the current factors and the changes align with the changes in aircraft maintenance jobs.

We have avoided the details covered in the previous request to avoid duplication of information and under the assumption that this information is already known. We have used a recent source from AA Outsourcing that highlights and compiles points from an article dated 2015. This was used to corroborate more recent data found and provide a comprehensive overview of the same.


Sources
Sources

Quotes
  • "Nationally, ARSA is supporting Senate Bill 2506, which would offer up to $500,000 in grants to increase the pool of trained aircraft maintenance workers."
  • ""There's no doubt that this whole aviation industry has critical workforce issues looming like a tsunami," Utash said."
Quotes
  • "While new people make up just 2% of the aviation maintenance technician (AMT) population, 30% of the workforce is at or near retirement age, according to the report."
Quotes
  • "In the last decade, most of the big U.S. airlines have shifted major maintenance work to places like El Salvador, Mexico, and China, where few mechanics are F.A.A. certified and inspections have no teeth."
Quotes
  • "Airline mechanics say they feel pressured by management to look the other way when they see potential safety problems on airplanes, an eight-month-long CBS News investigation reveals. In some of the cases, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) agreed with those mechanics."
Quotes
  • "According to the MROs surveyed by ARSA, the most common factors in staffing were “difficulty finding and retaining technical talent” tied with “regulatory costs/burdens”."
Quotes
  • "“H.R. 5701 would incentivize businesses, labor organizations, schools, and governmental entities to work together to pursue strategies to develop technical talent and encourage workers to pursue aviation careers,”"
Quotes
  • "How safe can it be when the people with the outsourced jobs aren't required to hold licenses? In some situations, the employees are not required to have the same licensing that United States maintenance workers are. Only the supervisors have to be licensed."
Quotes
  • " Some airlines may outsource maintenance work to specialized maintenance and repair shops both domestically and abroad. This practice is expected to reduce employment growth opportunities in the air transportation industry over the next 10 years."