Time Is Undefeated

Aug. 10, 2023

In 2015, I was honored to join AMT Magazine’s inaugural class of 40 under 40 honorees. Having now surpassed the milestone birthday that removes me from eligibility for the list, it’s worth reflecting on what the passage of time means for the value of the young professionals recognized this year.

Using my editorial space in that edition, I recognized the never-ending demands of life in aviation:

“Even though they deserve it, the honorees described in these pages cannot take a break to celebrate, and we stand right beside them. There is always a departure leaving the gate and an arrival waiting on the ramp. Components need overhaul, rules need review, inspectors need help, and the clock never stops. Passengers are safe in their seats and cargo is secure in the hold and AMTs are working long into the night to get them home.”

This relentlessness of aerospace employment feels more demanding than ever. The industry has emerged from the pandemic facing endless opportunity tempered by one great limiting factor: the ability to find and grow the very kind of talented individual celebrated in the 40 under 40. Every industry forecast, including those from Boeing and Airbus as well ARSA’s own assessment performed by Oliver Wyman, predicts intense need for personnel alongside challenges in finding and retaining them.

The good news is we know pressure and thrive in it. Over most of the past decade, a career development crisis was “looming” in one form or another. As a result, companies and individuals have found ways to be more efficient while their trade associations, unions, and other collective advocacy groups have re-focused policy and regulatory discussions on how to grow the workforce of the future (while supporting the work of right now). The ARSA-supported grant programs form a visible case in point: What was born as a “let’s see if this works” idea has become a favorite cause on Capitol Hill – both increasing funds and program expansion seem likely in the upcoming reauthorization of the FAA. While the grant program has attracted fans on the Hill, the careful work of assessing and improving the aviation regulatory and business environment continues every day.

For most of the “official” pandemic years, I represented repair stations on the Department of Transportation’s Youth Access to American Jobs in Aviation Task Force. Representatives from every corner of the industry invested their experience in calling out every potential pathway into and through an aviation career. From a baggage handler to a cargo facility processer to a software developer, the experience reinforced the breadth of good people – and skills they hold – on which we already depend and will need to expand in the future. The task force closed its two-year run by delivering its congressionally mandated report and handing government and industry a checklist for improving aviation career opportunities.

Since 2015, I’ve delighted in celebrating the future aviation professionals recognized by the magazine. The men and women working in aviation maintenance (regardless of age) routinely inspire those of us who support them. I wasn’t the lone ARSA team member selected that year: My colleague Crystal Maguire joined me – it turns out we nominated each other – and has since made an indelible mark on the maintenance training world as executive director of the Aviation Technician Education Council. Time may be undefeated, since advancing age will turn today’s youth into tomorrow’s retiree, but so is the ingenuity and resilience of competent professionals. Schedules never cease, components are always awaiting work on the shelf, and manuals need continual improvement to support our collective procedures, all dependent on a collective commitment to good work. Let’s use this reminder to inspire continued commitment to making ourselves better and stimulating the development of others.

In gratitude for the time dedicated to good safety, good business, and plenty of good friendships in aviation, as I said in 2015:

“To each one who carries this responsibility – not just those celebrated in this magazine, but every anonymous pair of hands we place our families’ lives in every day – thank you. We can’t fly without you.”

Brett Levanto is vice president of operations of Obadal, Filler, MacLeod & Klein, P.L.C. managing firm and client communications in conjunction with regulatory and legislative policy initiatives. He provides strategic and logistical support for the Aeronautical Repair Station Association.