By Reese, Susan
Techniques , Vol. 76, No. 8
This special section on aviation was placed on our editorial calendar last May for publication in this issue of the magazine. During the preparation of these articles, the world of aviation--and indeed our whole world--changed. But, with the calls from our nation's leaders, to stay the course in our personal lives and in our workplaces, and with the faith that we will take back our skies, we proceeded with these stories.
There are few fields of endeavor that can inspire the passionate dedication that is found in aviation. Mankind's fascination with flight dates back to long before the historic feat of the Wright brothers, and our interest in it continues to soar.
The 2001 National Secondary Aviation Magnet School Survey reflects a growing interest in aviation education at the secondary level. In 1991, the first aviation magnet school survey identified just nine high schools with programs. The 2001 survey identifies 59 programs--with seven more scheduled to start--for a total of 66 secondary aviation magnet school programs. Nineteen other secondary schools with unique academy or other specialized aviation or aerospace programs were also identified.
Fortunately for those with a love of aviation, there are rewarding careers to be found both in the air and on the ground. In addition to professional pilots, job opportunities are available in aviation business and management, air traffic control, reservations and ticketing, and aircraft maintenance.
FROM MECHANICS TO TECHNICIANS
Aviation maintenance technicians (AMTs) are required to keep aircraft operating with the highest level of efficiency and safety, and the majority of them train for this awesome responsibility at one of approximately 170 schools certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The Aviation Technician Education Council stresses that those who maintain today's modern aircraft can no longer be called mechanics. The higher level of training required to keep the new technologically complex planes flying in top operating condition merits a higher-level designation for these men and women. They are now termed technicians. Aviation maintenance technicians may specialize in one type of aircraft--such as jets, propeller-driven planes or helicopters--or may work on many different types.
Powerplant technicians are authorized to work on engines and do limited work on propellers, while airframe technicians are authorized to work on any part of the aircraft except the instruments, powerplants and propellers. Those who are certified as combination airframe and powerplant technicians (A&P technicians) work on all parts of the plane except instruments. Avionics technicians repair and maintain components used for aircraft navigation and radio communications, weather radar systems, and other instruments that monitor primary functions such as flight and engine.
THE TECHNICIAN SHORTAGE
According to the FAA, approximately 24,000 A&P technicians entered the workforce in 1991, but that figure declined to 10,000 in 1997 and has been closer to 8,000 for the past three years. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Labor projects that by 2006, there will be 155,000 A&P technicians needed in the United States. There are now 1 37,000 employed. The Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook says that the outlook for aviation technicians should be favorable over the next 10 years. It also reports that median hourly earnings for technicians in 1998 were about $18.30, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $24.40 per hour.
Dr. Richard Dumaresq of the Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC) cites industry estimates of a need for 10,000 to 12,000 new AMTs each year. He also says that training programs are only producing around 4,000 each year. Those leaving the military number about another 4,000 or 5,000, but the specialization of military training means that additional education may be necessary. …