Aviation industry offers signing bonuses and benefits to reverse mechanic shortage

The nation’s pandemic-fueled shortage of aviation mechanics on Wednesday led 25 industry employers to a Maryland flight school to offer students recruiting perks ranging from free tools to signing bonuses.

Delta Air Lines, Lockheed Martin, United Airlines and Spirit Airlines were among the disadvantaged employers who participated in a job fair on the Hagerstown campus of the nonprofit Institute of Aeronautics of Pittsburgh to court the students from their first semester of training.

Benefits included signing bonuses starting at $2,500, relocation packages, job growth and management planning, and in-kind donations of maintenance tools, according to the institute.

“As students progress through their studies, employers more frequently track students’ progress through graduation, and it’s becoming more common for a student to receive an offer of employment before graduation subject to passing the federal exam,” said Suzanne Markle, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Institute.

Recent retirements in aviation maintenance personnel and the lengthy certification process required for training airframe and power plant technicians have prompted employers to start recruiting some candidates as early as pre-registration, the school reported. .

The airline industry is grappling with staff shortages and delays at airports across the country, where resuming travel from COVID-19 restrictions requires more mechanics than those trained in the profession over the past of the past two years.

Due to the COVID-19-related air travel shutdown, a 2021 study by the non-profit Aviation Technician Education Council reported that 30% fewer aircraft mechanic certificates Federal Aviation were issued in 2020 than in 2019.

The study predicted that the need for airframe and power plant (A&P) mechanics could increase by 13% over the next two decades, with a shortage of more than 10,000 mechanics by 2041.

As a result, aviation employers are seeing their sudden labor demands clash with the lengthy training required to become a certified A&P mechanic.

Applicants to the United States must be at least 18 years old, fluent in English, and pass a series of written, oral, and practical exams mandated by the FAA. Training typically lasts two to five years and may involve attending an FAA-approved school like the Pittsburgh Institute or undertaking supervised on-the-job training. Many candidates also choose to earn a two-year associate degree.

John DeCarlo, a longtime aviation school instructor and former police chief who teaches at the University of New Haven, said 273,000 people worked in aviation maintenance in the United States in mid-January 2022. In 2019, there were approximately 296,000 workers.

That’s a decrease of 7.7% according to its composite analysis of A&P and other aviation maintenance workers, gleaned from multiple industry and government sources, including the FAA’s certification registry.

“Most likely, with the reduced airline hours during the pandemic, there just weren’t as many jobs available,” Mr. DeCarlo said.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that aircraft maintenance technicians earned an average salary of $66,680 per year or $32.06 per hour in 2020.

“But there’s a lot of overtime available,” DeCarlo noted.

The Boeing Technician Outlook reported that North America will need an additional 132,000 qualified aircraft maintenance technicians between 2021 and 2040.