CLEVELAND — It’s been a turbulent year for the aviation industry, which has been plagued by pilot shortages and flight cancellations due to COVID-19.
Now there is a new challenge that could cause more headaches for the industry – a shortage of maintenance workers has aircraft repair shops struggling to fill open positions.
We tend to think of pilots and flight attendants when it comes to aviation, because they’re the most visible. But at Constant Aviation, they’re launching a new training program to meet the surging demand for aircraft maintenance workers and technicians.
It takes a lot of work to keep these planes in the air, and after 25 years, avionics technician Stan Augustine knows them like the back of his hand.
“Comm issue, entertainment issues – you go from one airplane to the next airplanes and they're working on the 450 or 650,” he said from the cockpit of one craft, gesturing to the various systems he and his crews work with.
Before a plane ever takes off, it takes a team of aviation mechanics and avionics technicians to make sure the aircraft is fit to fly.
The industry is having trouble “getting qualified technicians to work on these complicated airplanes now,” Augustine said.
Aviation leaders warn that a shortage of technicians could result in grounded planes and other headaches due to delayed repair appointments.
Constant Aviation CEO David Davies warns this could lead to delays for “multiple legs on every one of these aircraft. And if you have a problem at the start of the day, it's going to be worse at the end of the day.”
That’s why Constant Aviation is working on getting a new apprenticeship program off the ground.
“We are playing a delicate balance between physical capacity and operational capacity,” Davies said. “And operational capacity means we can't take more planes in because we don't have enough technicians.”
Constant Aviation’s program can take a person from no experience to a qualified technician in just 18 months. They’re also targeting and recruiting from other maintenance fields.
“I've always come from a kind of a mechanical background,” said technician Matt Stull. “I've worked on cars, done a lot of things with my hands, and it's just like a real nice car, I guess you could say.”
The company covers the cost of all training and certification testing, providing the tools essential to begin a career in the aviation tech industry.
Constant Aviation has also hiked pay for technicians by 10% in 2022 to not only attract but keep quality workers.
“One of the things that we work on and work on multiple different parts of the airplane on purpose to make sure that you are well rounded across the board, Stull said.
Even with private aviation experiencing record growth, Constant is also tapped to handle maintenance issues across the field at Cleveland Hopkins, in a pinch, to make sure flights stay on schedule.
“The commercial airlines that are at the gates that people fly in and out of all day long occasionally have a departure time break,” Davies said. “We've all been there before and hear it, since we're on the field here, the airlines will frequently call us. We'll go over and try and help them get their aircraft cleaned up and back in the air to meet that schedule.”
Last year, Boeing forecasted the global industry would need more than 600,000 new technicians over the next two decades.
Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.