SINGAPORE--Greater industry cooperation and better workforce incentives are possible solutions to help bridge India’s technician shortage, says an executive of airframe and line maintenance provider GMR Aero Technic.
India’s MRO segment is estimated by Aviation Week forecast data to grow at an impressive 9.4% compound annual growth rate each year over the next decade, but a shortage of technicians could potentially hamper the country’s growth ambitions, believes Girish Deshmukh, chief marketing officer of GMR Aero Technic.
Speaking at MRO Asia-Pacific on Nov. 7, he says the volume of aircraft being regularly inducted by Indian carriers such as Indigo, SpiceJet and Jet Airways is not supported by the supply of certified manpower. This scenario, according to Deshmukh, results in negative factors such as a drop in skill levels as airlines have to turn to available technicians and engineers not possessing the necessary experience.
Another pejorative outcome is the creeping of maintenance errors, Deshmukh says. “If there is a maintenance error from a certified aircraft because of the non-availability of an expert, the work will need to be re-done and this will result in delays,” he says. “This increases downtime and the cost of operations will certainly go up.”
Deshmukh believes there is much to do for the industry to reverse the technician shortage. “We can’t simply be sitting idle and looking at the problem, but we need to actively be trying to solve that problem,” he says. One solution lies in using effective methods to retain technicians on the workforce.
Overtures from MROs in the Middle East, which benefit from being able to offer higher technician salaries, is another challenge facing India’s MRO segment. “A problem in India is we train technicians, give them licenses and nurture them before an airline in the Middle East takes them overseas,” he says. Deshmukh feels raising salaries to be more competitive is one solution. “If we give technicians more licenses then we need to pay them qualification pay--this is an attraction of working for an MRO rather than an airline where they would have less licenses.”
Deshmukh also believes more collaboration is needed across the industry to better attract young people into the aviation industry, with GMR Aero Technic typically taking between 30 to 40 graduate engineers annually. “We are all guilty of not having done enough to attract aircraft maintenance engineers into the profession,” he says. “We need to explain to young people how advanced aircraft are, both in terms of technology and digitally.”
The country’s regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, also has a “very active and significant role to play,” Deshmukh believes. “To our dismay, we’ve found regulators haven’t been able to keep pace with developments in the aviation industry,” he says. “They will pass laws where endorsements for technicians will only be granted after a high volume of tasks have been conducted on an aircraft. MROs, airlines, regulators and aircraft maintenance schools should all work together as stakeholders with contributions from OEMs also.”