Panelists Discuss Urgency of Maintenance Shortage

NASHVILLE—An aircraft maintenance technicians shortage is coming at the regional airline industry “like a freight train,” RAA Chairman and Trans States Holdings President Rick Leach told the President’s Council Luncheon at the 44th Annual RAA Convention here.

Leach moderated a Maintenance Panel during the luncheon, exploring the technicians shortage and what the industry can do about it. “How do we replace a full generation of missing mechanics?” Joel English, vice president of operations at the Aviation Institute of Maintenance, Centura College and Tidewater Tech, asked.

According to English, a panelist, the U.S. “fell out of love in the 1980s with vocational education,” leading to a host of shortages, including plumbers, electricians and aircraft mechanics.

Republic Airways CEO Bryan Bedford said the regional airline industry needs to “get into junior highs and high schools” and bring awareness to career opportunities in aviation maintenance.

“These are outstanding jobs,” SkyWest Airlines CEO Chip Childs added. “The return on investment in becoming an aircraft mechanic is just outstanding. These are great jobs.”

English said the industry should reach out to kids in the 10-15-year-old range, when they can be given a “sense of wonder” about aviation.

“Grass roots education isn’t that heard to do,” agreed Joshua Krotec, senior vice president of First Aviation Services. “It doesn’t take a lot for us to host field trips from local elementary schools.”

When asked how young people interested in maintenance technician careers can be persuaded to choose aviation over other industries, such as automotive engineering, Childs said simply: “Airplanes are cooler than cars.” –Aaron Karp