Academic journal article Journal of Transportation Management

Assessing the Impact of the Shortage of Aviation Maintenance Technicians on Air Transportation

Academic journal article Journal of Transportation Management

Assessing the Impact of the Shortage of Aviation Maintenance Technicians on Air Transportation

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

This research report investigates the relevant supply and demand issues concerning Aviation Maintenance Technicians (AMT). immediate and long term effects upon the aircraft maintenance environment are evaluated. The analysis focuses on three areas: (1) the general economic forecast for the US aviation industry; (2) an overview of the global aviation maintenance industry in general; and (3) current developments within US AMT and global maintenance training.

All aspects of the aviation industry have sustained cyclical trends and AMT hiring has seen these same cycles (Lombardo 1998; Young 1998). However, the aircraft maintenance industry from general aviation to the major air carriers is positioned for a rather dramatic change within the next five years. One change the aviation maintenance industry has to deal with is the impending shortage of qualified AMTs. Already some flights have been cancelled due to a lack of maintenance personnel and firms are scheduling maintenance procedures weeks in advance. The days of being able to call a maintenance facility in the morning and fly the plane in for service that afternoon are gone (Lombardo 1998).

The recent supply of AMTs is approximately 11,000 newly certified aviation mechanics annually The recent annual demand for just the major air carrier industry alone has been around 10,000 AMTs (Lewis 1998) with one forecast predicting the demand for AMTs through the year 2004 averaging about 15,000 new hires per year (Lombardo 1998). When considering the additional need for AMTs within the commuter, general aviation, third party outsourcing firms, and even the manufacturing sector, it is easy to see that the current surplus of 1,000 AMTs not needed by the major air carriers is not enough to satisfy the forecast demand. Even though the current market situation is not yet extreme, changing market conditions within the next five years warrants considerable concern and proper planning.

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THE AVIATION INDUSTRY OUTLOOK AN OVERVIEW

The Economic Environment

The growth within the US aviation industry is linked directly to the performance of the US economy. With no significant inflationary pressure, the US economy has maintained its current expansion, now into its seventh year. This is the third longest expansion period in the post-World War II era. Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has averaged a gain of 2.9% annually since the early 1990's, and just recently the GDP growth for 1997 was 3.6%. World GDP also increased, at an annual rate of 2.6%. Even when factoring in current regional uncertainties, the strongest showings have been within the Asia-Pacific sectors, up an average of 7.8% per year (FAA 1998). Figure 1 represents the recent and anticipated US and World economic growth over the next 12 years as measured by GDP.

This growth in both world and US economies will have a major impact upon the demand for aviation services. One potential factor to consider when forecasting economic activity, and its impact upon the aviation industry, is fuel prices. For example, the Gulf War of the early 1990's, and its effect upon world oil prices had serious ramifications for the aviation industry (FAA 1998). Changes in future oil prices must therefore be included in any long-term economic outlook. Fortunately, fuel prices are expected to stay relatively stable throughout the long-term (Figure 2).

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According to the FAA Aviation Forecast (1998-2009) additional positive indicators of economic growth in the US relate to demographic and income trends in the long-term. The results of an aging population, associated with growth in disposable income for the older generations, contribute to the positive indications of increased demand for air travel. As the generations become older their tendency is to spend more on air travel (FAA 1998). The current and future elderly populations have more time and money to travel than previous generations. …

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