Legislation introduced on 7 March by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators aims to address the persistent shortage of aviation maintenance technicians.

The bill would establish a new pilot programme to train maintenance professionals, help veterans transition to civilian careers and recruit new technicians.

Grants of up to US$500,000 per year would be available to businesses or unions, schools and governmental entities that partner to pursue creative solutions regarding the current shortage.

The aviation maintenance industry employs more than 275,000 American workers, contributes US$44 billion to the country’s economy and helps ensure the safety of civil aircraft operating world-wide. Furthermore, the industry’s global footprint is expected to grow from around US$77 billion to more than US$114 billion over the next decade.

However, Oliver Wyman’s CAVOK Division projects that demand for technicians will outstrip supply from 2022. The 2018 member survey carried out by the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) saw more than 80 percent of respondents report difficulty finding qualified technicians and more than two thirds of responding companies saying they have unfilled positions.

As a result, companies say it is taking longer to complete work for customers, that their companies are not adding new technical capabilities and in some cases are turning down new business.

Given the scale of the threat to the industry, 17 leading aviation industry organisations signed a letter coordinated by ARSA supporting the bill, which was delivered to the sponsoring senators on 5 March. The organisations said, “Your legislation will help ensure our member organizations have the technical professionals they need to grow, compete globally, and, most importantly, continue to ensure the safety of civil aviation aircraft.”

ARSA is now working with its members and allied organisations to build support for the legislation and get it enacted this year, likely as part of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorisation bill.

For global aviation maintenance requirements over the next 20 years, see Boeing's 2017 Pilot and Technician Outlook.