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Happy National Aviation Day! The Sky’s No Limit for this Soaring Industry!

Close up of airplane engine
On August 19, we celebrate National Aviation Day. What better time to familiarize ourselves with the aviation industry and its many career prospects? If you are one of the many people under the impression that a career in aviation is restricted to pilots or flight attendants alone, think again. This is a diverse and lucrative field that offers numerous opportunities to ascend.

Retiring boomers create talent gaps

According to aviation workforce expert, Dr. Tara L. Harl, “government and industry forecasts paint a picture of an industry facing critical shortages in the next two decades, as 10,000 baby boomers become eligible to retire each week.”

Those shortages spell opportunity for new and experienced aviation professionals with a variety of skillsets, says Aerotek Account Executive, John Brown

“Traditionally, aviation professionals have worked in one of three segments—military, commercial, or general aviation,” says Brown. But shortages have created opportunities for those already in the field to move from one segment to another.

Avionics technicians are in great demand

Aerotek Market Research Analyst, Edward Beaver, and data partner, EMSI, highlight that job opportunities for avionics technicians are expected to increase four percent (2015-2017). While these professionals work behind the scenes, their efforts play a vital role in keeping aviation equipment safe. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the varied and crucial roles played by these technicians who “install, inspect, test, adjust or repair avionics equipment, such as radar, radio, navigation and missile control systems in aircraft or space vehicles.” 

Most avionics technicians hold associates degrees and must pass licensing and certification tests after graduation. As of May 2015, the median income for avionics technicians was $58,540, per the BLS.

Jobs plentiful for aircraft mechanics

Like avionics technicians, these professionals ensure that our aircraft are safe and efficient. Per the BLS, aircraft mechanics “diagnose mechanical or electrical problems, repair aircraft components, replace defective parts, test aircraft parts, inspect completed work to make sure it meets performance standards and keep records of maintenance and repair work.”

Many aircraft mechanics and technicians receive training from aviation maintenance technician programs approved by the FAA. Others are high school graduates who enter the field through on-the-job training or as veterans trained during military service.

According to Beaver, the states poised to see the most growth in jobs for aircraft mechanics and avionic technicians are North Carolina, South Carolina and Nevada, where job growth is projected to grow nine percent from 2015-2017 and New York and Kentucky, where it’s projected to grow seven percent from 2015-2017.

Skill sets of sheet metal/structural mechanics needed

The FAA relays that “sheet metal aircraft construction dominates modern aviation.” It’s no wonder then, why mechanics with this skill set are highly sought after in the aviation field. According to BLS, sheet metal mechanics typically receive their training on-the-job, through apprenticeships or at technical schools and earn a median income of $45,750 as of May 2015. 

Robotic technology front and center

“The unmanned vehicle or drone market is in the midst of a significant expansion,” says Brown. According to the U.S. Military Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) Market Forecast, “The U.S. military UAV market is projected to grow at a 12% compound annual growth rate reaching $18.7 billion in 2018” and that “the U.S. military UAV market will generate $86.5 billion revenues over the period 2013 – 2018.”

Although drones fly without pilots on board, they still need human pilots on the ground to monitor and control their whereabouts. The industry also needs aeronautic engineers to construct drones as well as mechanics to maintain and repair them. Overall, there is no shortage of labor needs in the unmanned aviation sector and opportunities continue to grow to meet increasing demand. 

Global markets impact the industry

“The slowing global economy and BREXIT concerns have taken a toll on aircraft orders in 2016, with major orders from American, European and Gulf Arab carriers very weak or non-existent,” says Beaver. Yet he quickly adds that this should not present an immediate problem.

“Two of the largest aircraft manufacturers have an enormous order backlog to fulfill and it will take at least a year or more to catch up,” says Brown. He also notes, “The fact that orders for new planes are down means the need for maintenance will go up with aging aircrafts. It’s an ebb and flow market where planes in operation are accruing hours in flight and will require regular service in order to remain in the air.” He adds, “Service requirements increase with the age of the plane. More hours in flight means more maintenance.”

Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) technology guarantees jobs

By 2020, all aircraft will need to meet new FAA standards for compliance with this new means of air traffic control. According to the FAA, “ADS-B uses GPS signals along with aircraft avionics to transmit the aircraft’s location to ground receivers. The ground receivers then transmit that information to controller screens and cockpit displays on aircraft equipped with ADS-B avionics.”

This safety regulation has significant ramifications for the aviation industry since it “will necessitate a rush to modernize [planes] so they are in compliance by January 1, 2020,” says Brown. 

Brown speculates that “the rush to comply is really expected to heat up this fall,” when the FAA will help owners of less-expensive general aviation aircraft to comply with the ADS-B Out rule by offering a $500 monetary incentive. This is intended to prevent owner/operators from waiting until the eleventh hour to meet the requirements of this very important legislation.

Want to learn more about a career in the aviation industry? Reach out on Facebook or Twitter. Job-hunting? Visit our job board. Happy National Aviation Day!