Out on the Frontier of Improving Aircraft Maintenance

Sept. 1, 2000

Out On the Frontier of Improving Aircraft Maintenance

By Brian Finnegan September 2000

With each passing day, industry focus on the state of aviation maintenance becomes sharper, the spotlight brighter. Government agencies and industry associations have elevated their interest in what now seems to be an undisputed acceptance that there is a shortage of aviation maintenance professionals.
Right now, that shortage manifests itself in business' inability to meet today's awesome demand for aviation services. Aircraft sales figures are reaching the stratosphere and flight ramps around the world are glistening with corporate and air carrier promise. Service operations, scrambling to meet the demand for technicians, mechanics, and facilities, look woefully at a shrinking workforce. As the supply and demand curves continue to diverge, the only agreement among aviation's numerous participants is that something has to be done.
The big questions are what is to be done and who is going to do it? Government agencies are necessarily reliant on community input. They serve their constituencies. Those constituencies are made up of system users who are represented by many various and disparate industry associations. Those associations, by definition, either represent well their members' interests or they go out of business.
In aviation, the forest of associations representing the many interests of their respective members is daunting. With the strength of an association's influence measured by its size and its commitment to its members best interests, it is important that individual aviation maintenance professionals evaluate the messenger as well as the message when considering options for solving the looming mechanic shortage.
In the view of the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA), the future of aviation maintenance depends on high quality, technically advanced training, advanced certification, mandatory recurrent training, and individual professional development. The growth of aviation will no longer be cyclical. Every day our lives become increasingly dependent on the freedom and speed that only aviation can provide. Unless we create a maintenance infrastructure that supports itself as a legitimate and prosperous career path for its professionals, our industry will collapse under the weight of association interests that ultimately do not promote the interests of the individual aviation mechanic.
Aviation maintenance professionals do have options. Unfortunately, the option being exercised most frequently these days is to depart aviation entirely for the greener pastures (and paychecks) of other technologically advanced industries. I keep hearing that the romance of aviation is gone. I don't agree. But just like in any relationship that begins with romance, only substance will sustain it. Romance alone cannot grow a marriage, and romance alone will not pay the rent and create the professional security necessary to sustain an industry.
As our industry continues to grapple with its growing shortage of mechanics, maintenance professionals will do well to examine the missions of the individual associations and agencies intent on fixing the problem. Be suspicious if their goals do not include the basic tenets of technically advanced training, advanced certification, mandatory recurrent training for all mechanics, and a philosophy of professional development, which raises the status and substance of aviation maintenance to a true profession.