A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has just introduced legislation to address the technician shortage issue posing a threat to the long-term health of the country’s aviation maintenance industry. The bill, which was authored by Senators James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), would create a new pilot program aimed at recruiting new technicians, training maintenance professionals and helping veterans transition to civilian careers.
Under the proposed bill, grants of up to $500,000 per year would be available for businesses, unions, schools and government entities partnering to pursue creative solutions to the technician shortage. The Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) has been heavily involved in developing the bill and is working with Senator Inhofe on ways to include it as an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Bill being considered.
“If there’s one issue keeping ARSA’s members awake at night, it’s where to find the next generation of technical talent,” says Christian A. Klein, ARSA’s executive vice president. “This bill is an important step in the right direction. It will incentivize local cooperation to develop new aerospace professionals and help veterans and others transition to careers in this high-tech, growing industry.”
Klein says ARSA’s goal is to rally support for the bill and gain as many co-sponsors as possible within the next few weeks so it can be offered as an amendment to the FAA bill when it is considered on the senate floor, which ARSA expects to happen sometime this summer. As part of these efforts, ARSA coordinated with 17 leading aviation industry organizations on a letter in support of the bill, which was delivered to its sponsoring senators on March 5.
The letter cites Oliver Wyman’s forecast that aviation maintenance technician demand will outstrip supply by 2022 and an analysis by Boeing suggesting that 118,000 new technicians will be needed in North America during the next two decades. The letter also points out preliminary results of ARSA’s 2018 member survey in which more than 80% of respondents report difficulty finding qualified technicians, which some companies say is causing them to have longer turnaround times and creating the need to turn down new business or refrain from adding new technical capabilities.
Klein says it is important to note that both labor and trade associations are on board with the bill, which he believes is a good sign for the bill’s outlook.