Airplane mechanic shortage opens opportunities for students


BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — As the aviation industry rapidly recovers from the pandemic, the need for aviation maintenance technicians is growing.

Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation has been working to expand its capacity with forecasts predicting a high number of job openings.

Raymond Thompson, the associate dean of the college, says even if you average estimates from Boeing and Airbus, the numbers are staggering.

“Soon we’ll be entering a technician shortage,” Thompson said. “About 700,000 positions will be needed over the next 20 years and that’s worldwide, a lot of growth in Asia, here in the U.S., we’re looking at almost 200,000 of those.”

It is not just the openings that make these jobs appealing, but also the pay.

“Top level technicians make well over $100,000 a year. It can be a very lucrative profession, often come with flight benefits, if you’re working for an airline,” Thompson said.

Greg Dellinger with AAR Aviation Services says retirements and growth in its business are fueling the demand.

“You are absolutely seeing elevated demand for leisure travel and slowly business travel, and of course that requires literally an army of aviation maintenance technicians,” Dellinger said.

The company services planes for major airlines around the world and is ramping up hiring.

“We do a day-to-day analysis to ensure that AAR, that our wages, are competitive and then you look at all of the different benefits that go into it, including tuition reimbursement,” Dellinger said.

The company has a partnership with WMU to match graduates with open positions.

For Western students like Jace Arnold that will soon enter the workforce, the growing job prospects are seemingly endless.

“It’s very exciting because right now with the job market, everything is very open, like I can go anywhere in the country I want to and work,” Arnold said.

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