Get Yourself to 33,000 Feet

March 6, 2019
Pull back and think in broad terms about your business, industry, government, and career. Gaining that 33,000-foot perspective will put new wind beneath your professional wings

When you work in aviation maintenance, it’s easy to get stuck in the weeds. You’re mired in regulatory compliance, performing highly technical work (or supervising it), hustling to keep and find customers, or managing the business (maybe all the above).

Chances are that on a day-to-day to basis, you’re focused on the problems right in front of you, not the big picture. That can make it hard to pull back and ponder important questions: How does your company fit into the broader aviation industry? What looming economic, political, and regulatory developments will affect your company’s future? How can your business do what it does better? And what do you need to do to keep your own career on a positive trajectory?

As you read this, aviation maintenance professionals from around the world are getting ready to descend on Washington, D.C., for the Aeronautical Repair Station Association’s (ARSA) 2019 Annual Conference. The March 12 to 15 meeting is designed specifically to help industry leaders take a step back and answer the questions posed above (or at least think about them).

ARSA’s Executive-to-Executive (E2E) briefings on March 12 feature a packed schedule of meetings with the State Department, FAA, Department of Transportation, and other parts of the government. It’s an opportunity for a small group of self-selected industry executives to engage with high-level executive branch officials. Each meeting is an opportunity to educate them about our industry and hear about government initiatives that could affect MRO. This year, E2E participants will also receive a special briefing from the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) legal team about the new IATA-CFM agreement on the latter’s aftermarket practices.

March 13 is Legislative Day, when attendees go to Capitol Hill to advocate for policies to strengthen maintenance markets and reduce repair station costs of doing business. The focus this year is on obtaining funding for the new maintenance workforce grant program ARSA helped create as part of last year’s FAA bill. Attendees will hear directly from members of Congress and key committee staff about planned legislation and FAA oversight activities. Reps. Sam Graves (R-MO) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL), the lead sponsors of the legislation in the last Congress to create the new workforce grant program, will receive the association’s 2019 Legislative Leadership Award at a special session.

Another important part of Legislative Day is the release of the ARSA’s 2019 Global Fleet & MRO Market Assessment, which is produced annually for the association by Oliver Wyman and provides attendees with proprietary insights about the myriad economic factors affecting the growth of aviation maintenance worldwide. The report also includes data about the industry’s employment and economic footprint by state that Legislative Day participants use to help build awareness about their presence in communities throughout the country.

The ARSA Symposium on March 14 and 15 includes sessions on certification and continuing airworthiness featuring senior officials from the world’s leading aviation authorities: the FAA, EASA, Transport Canada, and Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency. Topics in the spotlight this year include Brexit, the new U.S.-Canada Maintenance Implementation Procedures, and Change 7 to the U.S./EU Maintenance Annex Guidance (MAG).

The technician shortage will also be front and center. Speakers will discuss how to better define maintenance career paths to recruit new talent and help potential employees understand their long-term opportunities in the industry. On Friday morning, a pair of breakout sessions will give attendees an opportunity to dig deeper into regulatory and business topics in a more intimate setting.

Networking is also an important part of the conference. C-level executives, technical personnel, regulators, and policymakers all mix and mingle at receptions and over shared meals. Professional relationships and friendships are forged and strengthened.

ARSA’s team is proud of the top-flight conference we put on each year, but this article isn’t intended to be a sales pitch; my goal is to illustrate how attending just one meeting per year can help you think beyond your day-to-day challenges and gain new perspectives.

The Greek philosopher Socrates is credited with saying that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Apply that philosophy to your company and career. Whether it’s ARSA’s conference or one of the other excellent industry events our allies coordinate, find at least one annual professional event that allows you to pull back and think in broad terms about your business, industry, government, and career. Gaining that 33,000-foot perspective will put new wind beneath your professional wings.

Christian A. Klein is the managing member of Obadal, Filler, MacLeod & Klein, P.L.C. overseeing the firm’s policy advocacy practice. He represents trade associations as a registered federal lobbyist and provides strategic communications and legal counsel services to clients. He is executive vice president of theAeronautical Repair Station Association and represents the American Concrete Pressure Pipe Association. Mr. Klein is a member of the University of Virginia’s adjunct faculty.