On March 11, the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) released its 2020 Global Fleet & MRO Market Assessment. The report, which was prepared for the association by aviation management consulting firm Oliver Wyman assesses the current state of the global aviation maintenance market and projects continued industry growth through 2030.

The 2020 study echoed findings from previous years: The global aviation maintenance industry's total economic impact will near $100 billion in 2020 and will reach $130 billion by the end of the decade after a period of continued - but slowing - growth. New technologies, airline fleet modernization and the rising global middle class will power aviation business growth, even as they continue to struggle to recruit and retain the technical talen needed to meet expanding demand.

Along with this familiar storyline, including the usual economic uncertainty of long-term forecasts, there are also a series of new crises that will challenge growth projections. In addition to the fallout from the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union - the turmoil leading up to "Brexit" in 2019 gave international regulators time to blunt the worse effects - the new decade has brought new crises in the form of response to a global pandemic (coronavirus) and constraints on new airframes entering the global fleet (resulting from increased 737MAX scrutiny).

"The report shows that interesting times are ahead," said Brett Levanto, ARSA vice president of operations. "We're quite used to growth projections by this point, particularly in developing economies, but this year's come with the recognition that there are a lot of economic moving pieces that could pull [the market] dramatically in one direction or another."

The report's employment section describes a healthy US market. Almost 288,000 Americans support aviation maintenance and manufacturing, producing more than $52 billion in economic activity each year. FAA-certified repair stations - the companies forming the core of ARSA's membership - are the largest employers with just less than 194,000 people at work in their US facilities.

Considering those strong employment numbers and reflecting on the cost to industry posed by its desperate need for more technical workers, Levanto explained that global crises do not change the basic areas in which maintenance providers should focus for growth. "The message [of ARSA's policy engagement] is consistent: smooth out international regulatory cooperation, stimulate career development and take advantage of the ability of repair stations to specialize by adapting to changing market conditions."