The top subject at the late-September meeting of the Regional Airline Association in Long Beach, California, was the shortage of pilots for regional flying. But many participants also mentioned an increasing challenge in recruiting and training mechanics.
For example, Brian Bedford is chair of RAA and CEO of Republic Airline, which now flies 189 Embraer 170s and 175s. Bedford believes his industry must find smarter ways to train mechanics who will have to use the high-tech equipment and predictive techniques of modern aircraft maintenance.
Dion Flannery is president of PSA Airlines, which now flies 132 aircraft, plans to have a 150-aircraft fleet and has aspirations to grow even larger eventually. PSA has expanded from two to eight maintenance bases, the latest in Pensacola, Florida. Flannery sees a tight supply of mechanics and has recently invested in a program to transition military mechanics to commercial work.
At PSA, experienced military maintenance mechanics, coming from either a fixed or rotary-wing background, can now receive up to $10,000 to assist them in earning their airframe & powerplant license. PSA supports this military transition by sponsoring the full cost of the A&P course, FAA license testing, tools and toolbox.
Once on board, the new commercial mechanics receive industry-leading first-year pay up to $52,000. That is not much below the 2017 U.S. average of $62,500 for all aircraft mechanics, junior, mid-career and senior.
The ex-military mechanics need only commit to stay three years with PSA to repay the carrier’s investment in their shift to commercial maintenance. Flannery says PSA is seeing a very good reaction to the program.