The Wright Stuff: Top Five Trends in the Aviation Industry

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As America celebrates Wright Brothers Day, the annual commemoration of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first successful flight on December 17, 1903, prospects for job-seeking aviation professionals are definitely looking up.

In the last quarter of 2015, U.S. airline carriers like Southwest and American Airlines, have experienced an increase in passenger traffic that translates to higher profits, lower costs and — you guessed it — more jobs.

“While the rate of growth for the overall industry has been slowing over the last two years as a result of declines in defense sector spending, the commercial aerospace sector is likely to enjoy close to an 8 percent growth rate,” according to Deloitte’s Global Aerospace and Defense Industry Outlook. “Revenue and earnings growth in the commercial aerospace sector is expected to be a bright spot and driving force behind…industry performance.”

Aviation hiring gains speed

According to JSFirm’s 2015 annual forecast which surveyed 342 aviation companies across various sectors:

  • 92 percent planned to hire in 2015
  • 78 percent projected growth in 2015
  • 72 percent did not cut jobs in 2014 (up from 68 percent in 2013)
  • 55 percent experienced an attrition rate of less than 5 percent (up from 48 percent)

“The aviation shortage is real and starting to impact bottom lines,” says Aerotek’s Director of Business Development, Kirk Hardy. Many companies in the aviation field are turning to staffing agencies to meet their growing needs.

Big data takes off

“The acceleration of big data collection and analysis in the aviation sector this year is unprecedented,” says Hardy. New technology such as Boeing’s 737 MAX onboard network system and Bombardier’s C-Series jets that collect data on thousands of mechanical considerations from environmental control to electrical systems has created demand for more software and hardware engineers.

These technologies can predict signs of trouble preemptively, making air travel safer for passengers. Enhancements in organizational structure, operating model and work practices are being seen across the industry to streamline their operations and reduce costs.

Addressing the skills shortage

As airlines utilize technologically advanced analytics to monitor the health and safety of their aircraft, highly skilled maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) technicians are needed to care for them. But well trained tradesmen are hard to find.

“A number of clients are struggling to find qualified mechanics, and mechanic postings remain among the largest hiring areas,” says JSFirm.

One way that aviation companies are hoping to fill the gaps in their workforces is by aggressively partnering with trade schools, vocational high schools and the broader business community to spread the word about skilled trade opportunities.

Come in, air traffic control

In October 2015, the National Air Traffic Control Association called for a congressional hearing to address the problem of understaffing in their field.

According to new data from the NATCA, “national staffing totals [for air traffic controllers] have fallen nearly 10 percent since 2011.” Although the job requires an associates degree and on-the-job experience, air traffic controllers earn a median income of $122,340 per year, or $58.82 per hour, according to 2014 figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet, being an air traffic controller typically means long hours and requires “total concentration at all times,” according to the BLS.

Rising above the clouds

As the commercial aerospace sector sees continued strength, the aviation and transportation industry is becoming leaner, quicker and more data-driven.

The current growth, partnered with evolving technology and a shifting landscape, offer a real opportunity for the industry.