New report forecasts a shortage of aviation mechanics in North America

From left to right: Brian Prentice, a consultant at Oliver Wyman firm, and Dr. Joel English, the executive vice president of the Aviation Institute of Maintenance, discuss the shortage of aviation mechanics in North America. (Photos courtesy of guests listed above)

The aviation industry is forecasting the start of an aviation mechanics shortage.

It’s a problem that’s expected to keep growing and reach its peak by the year 2027.

On Monday’s edition of “Closer Look,” Brian Prentice, a consultant at Oliver Wyman firm, spoke about the findings of a new report that suggest the aviation mechanics shortage could trickle down to flight cancellations, delays and other travel and staffing issues.

“We have an aging workforce that is starting to retire,” said Prentice. “ So we have demand going up and supply going down.”

Prentice further explained that about 35% of aviation technicians in North America are over the age of 55.

Following Prentice’s conversation, Rose Scott then spoke with Dr. Joel English, the executive vice president of the Aviation Institute of Maintenance.  

English explained the contributing factors to the declining interest in aviation maintenance and what the institute is doing to attract more people to the line of work.

“Closer Look” reached out to several airline companies for their responses to the aviation mechanics shortage. Please find their responses below.

Delta Airlines

“Delta’s longstanding and strong reputation as a great place to work continues to attract talent across our business, including for aviation maintenance technicians. To date in 2023, we’ve hired more than 500. In recent years, Delta has established partnerships with more than 50 FAA-certified aviation maintenance training institutions around the country, including seven in the state of Georgia. We have also bolstered our strategic recruitment of transitioning military personnel, veterans and their families along with initiatives to cultivate new technician talent in collaboration with our regional partners and to upskill members of Delta’s existing workforce.”

Southwest Airlines

“We continue to be an employer of choice for mechanics with our industry-competitive contract and award-winning Company culture. Airlines for America, our industry group, may have more to offer on the industry as a whole.”

United Airlines

  • Since January, we’ve hired more than 850 aircraft maintenance technicians – more than half of the total technicians we hired last year.
  • And let me be honest, in this highly competitive job market, our biggest challenge has been hiring for this core function.  
  • Frankly, we need to hire more than 7,000 maintenance technicians by 2026.
  • And to help us address the hiring challenges and diversify our pipeline, last November we launched Calibrate, a 36-month in-house apprenticeship program.
  • Rather than joining the airline after going to school to obtain the appropriate licenses, often at a cost of about $50,000, Calibrate is a full-time, paid apprenticeship program, where participants learn through hands-on experience with state-of-the-art aircraft, ground service equipment and facilities maintenance as they follow a clear path to a career as a technician at United.
  • And although Calibrate is currently only available to union-represented employees, external interest is increasing rapidly.
  • In January alone we had 3,000 people signal their interest in Calibrate through our website. We are very much looking forward to opening the program externally to all United employees and the community at-large later this year.

American Airlines

“American continues to take proactive steps to ensure a full pipeline of highly skilled, certificated aircraft maintenance technicians (AMTs). We’ve enhanced our recruiting efforts to focus on hiring recent graduates of FAA-certificated aviation maintenance schools who hold airframe and powerplant ratings. We also work closely with educational institutions around the country to ensure the next generation of AMTs is expertly trained, certificated and ready to join our team upon graduation. But importantly, it’s our responsibility to ensure aspiring AMTs see the very real and attainable path to our hangars. As part of that mission, last year we announced a partnership with the Aviation Institute of Maintenance in Chicago that provides students with ongoing engagement with our team of AMTs, access to our maintenance facilities and guarantees top candidates interviews with American. We’re incredibly proud of these partnerships and are eager to welcome the next generation of AMTs to our team.”