Aircraft Maintenance Technician Outlook

Over the years and decades most of us have heard the prediction, there’s an aircraft mechanic shortage coming . Yet the industry seems to get by and this wholesale shortage of AMTs, at least here in North America has not yet occurred. One can speculate...

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) 2011 General Aviation Statistical Databook & Industry Outlook market review summarizes 2011 new general aviation (GA) deliveries as not yet rebounding to levels seen during better economic times. The introduction states there are more than 320,000 general aviation aircraft worldwide, ranging from two-seat trainers to intercontinental business jets. The report states there are more than 223,000 active GA aircraft in the United States in all segments, including types such as Lighter-than-Air, Gliders, Experimental, and Light Sport Aircraft.

No surprise the group with the largest number of aircraft is Single Engine with more than 155,000. Interestingly, the next largest segment is Experimental-Amateur Built, followed by Turbo Jet, Rotorcraft, and Turboprop. The 20-year forecast for all GA aircraft shows growth in the United States up to nearly 271,000 aircraft by the year 2031. The report also states that just over half of the aircraft produced in the U.S. are exported supporting the fact that aviation continues to rapidly emerge in developing regions around the world. Although this forecast reflects only modest growth in total, GA will continue to be a vital part of the global aviation industry. Many people of my generation began their careers in GA and continue their involvement even though they have moved on to other aviation careers.

Embraer, the Brazilian manufacturer of business jet and commercial airline aircraft of 120 seats and less, forecasts in a July 2012 press release that the world air-transport demand will require 6,792 new jet deliveries in the 30- to 120-seat capacity over the next 20 years. North America will lead the deliveries followed by Europe and China. Included in with the Europe deliveries is the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) which is comprised of Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea, and Turkey.

Bombardier, the Canadian manufacturer of business jets and commercial airline aircraft, forecasts that 24,000 business jet aircraft (in all segments which Bombardier competes) will be delivered over the next 20 years. This forecast anticipates North America will receive nearly 9,500 of these aircraft, followed by Europe, with China being the third largest market. On the commercial airliner side, Bombardier forecasts 12,800 deliveries in the 20- to 149-seat commercial aircraft. Again, it predicts North America will lead the way, but in this case followed by China.

Last month the Boeing Company released its Current Market Outlook 2012-2031 which anticipates the global airline industry will need 34,000 airplanes; essentially doubling today’s worldwide fleet size. The forecast goes on to say 41 percent of these will replace older less efficient airplanes, and 59 percent will be growth. The report states that over the next 20 years the world’s airlines will need 601,000 aircraft maintenance technicians. Other interesting points, new-generation airplanes will dominate the world fleet, reliability will improve, and maintenance check intervals will be lengthened. New-generation aircraft will have new and different maintenance philosophies and different maintenance requirements than older fleets. The report goes on to say that currently many emerging markets in the world recruit already-trained personnel from outside their region. However, in the years ahead they will need to develop a foundation for training qualified technicians directly from within their regions.

As for the regions of the world aircraft maintenance technicians will be needed, the Boeing report predicts the Asia/Pacific region will need the most, followed by Europe, North America, and Latin America.

Can conclusions be drawn

One can argue that today’s data may not necessarily be tomorrow’s reality, but lacking that crystal ball, you can use today’s data to form your own conclusions; even these few data points begin to paint a picture. Based on the forecasted volume of new aircraft deliveries, there will be an increasing demand for aircraft maintenance technicians worldwide. Adding in the demographics of the current AMT workforce (at least in North America) further suggests the AMT shortage may be approaching. These simple conclusions do prompt more questions, such as why some AMT schools in this country struggle with enrollment and some have closed. What involvement should regulators, academia, and industry have in this discussion? All subjects better left for separate discussions.

We Recommend