Aviation Technician Shortage is a Gathering Storm, Although There are Solutions on the Horizon

Maintenance technician shortage numbers nearly match the shortage of pilots in the U.S.

airplane maintenance technician shortage
Small businesses are expected to be hit hardest with the shortage of maintenance technicians.ARSA

Brett Levanto told Congress yesterday the shortage of aircraft maintenance technicians is hurting small aviation companies, the aerospace sector and the entire U.S. economy. Levanto, Vice President of Communications for the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA), was testifying before a House Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce in a session called, "Troubled Skies: The Aviation Workforce Shortage's Impact on Small Businesses." ARSA is the international trade association for repair stations, maintenance facilities certificated by the FAA and other civil aviation authorities.

The workforce data Levanto presented during his testimony paint a picture of a gathering storm: Eighty-two percent of respondents to a recent ARSA survey have had difficulty finding technicians and ARSA projects its members have as many as 2,500 unfilled technical positions. The association projected in 2017 that unfilled positions cost U.S. maintenance companies $1.95 billion in lost opportunity and foregone revenue each year.

Levanto said that because of technician shortage ARSA members are taking longer to complete customer work, are passing on facility expansions and turning down work, impacts that make the nation’s aviation system less efficient while slowing economic growth. He also emphasized that while the popular perception is that the aviation industry is dominated by big companies, “small businesses are the rule, rather than the exception” and of the 4,900 aviation maintenance firms worldwide, 81 percent are small and medium sized companies.

ARSA also said the technician shortage could get much worse. Boeing projects the need for 189,000 new technicians in North America over the next two decades, as well as massive industry retirements will leave a daunting bigger hole to fill. Levanto believes the Congress has woken up to problem however and said the FAA reauthorization bill contains an entire aviation workforce development title, including a new grant program to help attract and retain the aerospace technicians. Highlighting the “shared responsibility to grow the next generation of aviation professionals,” Levanto encouraged the subcommittee’s members, “By voting for the FAA bill, you will be doing just that.”

The House passed a five-year FAA Reauthorization Bill yesterday. That legislation is soon expected to move on to the Senate.