Wings Magazine

Seaman: So you want a job in aviation?

Well, it may or may not be a good time to try.

March 28, 2008  By Rob Seaman

Just where are we going with corporate aviation? We cannot ignore that the US is suffering from the flu right now. And as we well know, if they get sick, eventually we do too. Being neighbourly and passing them a couple of Cold-fX will not help.

If the sub-prime lending mess there continues to be an issue, some corporate aircraft could start getting parked or sold. Owners have a hard time justifying the biz jet when times get tough. And some firms will find the banks strangling their credit lines to the point where they are not able to keep the private jet on call anymore. Less flying means fewer visits to Canada and that means less business for our aviation support structure – at least from our US friends. Thank heaven we have a lot of overseas visitors too.

Right now, the OEM order books are at record levels. Try to buy a new Bombardier product and you will be quoted delivery in the order of four to five years. That’s good for the manufacturers but is becoming a bit of issue for our established corporate operators. And the North American market for new aircraft no longer represents the lion’s share of corporate order books. The evolving economies in Russia, Europe, China and India are creating new and growing demand at many levels. Some say that our home market may now represent as little as 25-30% of the
total global marketplace.

Corporate aviation has developed in these new markets through the lack of dependable and modern commercial airline services. And some of these nations are under military control while others lack the flight handling, navigation and safety systems that we expect at home. They are behind us in their ground support capability. But they are catching up fast and in turn driving demand for equipment and materials and, more importantly, people. Not just flight crews but also maintenance and support personnel. And with their ability to pay salaries at global equivalent or better, they are providing not only new opportunities, but indirectly adding to the shortage already present here at home.


Shortage, you say? Why, yes. The shortage in aviation is not just a possibility. It is a current reality!

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) says shipments in 2006 rose in all sectors (piston, turboprops and business jets) and manufacturers delivered a record number of business jets, eclipsing the previous record by more than 100 airplanes. But in the US alone, the number of pilots has dropped below 600,000 for the first time in decades. And student starts are down by over 2,000 since 2005. The decline in pilots is even more alarming since the average age of US pilots is at an all-time high of 46.

GAMA has been encouraged by the introduction of light sport aircraft as a means to learn to fly at lower cost. Katie Priby, GAMA’s director of communications, notes that “two of our manufacturers in 2007, Cessna and Cirrus, both introduced their own light sport aircraft. Airplanes and the technology our manufacturers are showcasing are making flying easier and safer. General aviation manufacturers are committed to creating a renewed interest in flying through the introduction of products that will spur more people worldwide to learn to fly and choose a career in aviation.”

GAMA shares the concern of many about the growing need to hire new and replacement workers. Says Priby: “Training and attracting skilled replacements will be critical to maintaining the industry’s worldwide competitiveness in the coming decade.” She cites Wichita State University’s school of Economic Development and Business Research, which projects that over the next decade, aircraft and aircraft parts
manufacturing employment will increase 8%, adding 36,000 jobs. Wichita State says that with this increase in manufacturing, total employment for the aviation industry will increase 15% over the next decade.  

As for pay, GAMA says that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the average private sector job in the US pays an annual salary of $40,500, while the average aviation manufacturing job is 90% higher, at $77,000.  GAMA has recognized that we must do our part to encourage kids at all education levels to consider careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

So while we may be facing a short-term burp because of our US friends’ indigestion, the longer view bodes well. So tell Johnny or Suzie to get going to the flying club and start their interest in aviation. Hopefully, it will pay in the years to come. 


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