Aviation NewsBrief: Industry Growth Faces Trained Technician Shortage


Prior to the COVID pandemic, the average age of a highly trained aircraft technician was 57. The airline industry, like so many others, reacted to the pandemic by reducing operations and offering early retirement as way of balancing the workforce with demand. Now the airline industry is experiencing unprecedented growth and thanks to the early retirement of senior MRO technicians, the industry is experiencing a shortfall in its population of qualified personnel.

The Problem: Too Few Young Mechanics Joining the Ranks

Not enough young mechanics are joining the trade. Exacerbating the situation is the extensive training and dated equipment aspiring technicians must contend with before they can join the workforce.

  • While the number of prospects in the mechanic pipeline needs to grow by at least 20% to meet industry’s needs, national enrollment at Airframe & Powerplant (A&P) schools is only growing at about 2% per year. 1
  • Supply deficit by 2027 projected at more than 48,000 aircraft maintenance workers – 27% lower than needed. This shortage is based on the projected growth of the aircraft MRO industry. 2
  • Research projects that the global aircraft fleet will grow from 28,000 to over 38,000 by 2032 (figure 1). 2

The Solution: Using Technology Innovations to Attract Technicians

MRO tasks are being simplified and streamlined thanks to advancements in computing, the miniaturization of sensors and electronics, and better battery technology, combined with flatscreens and touch-enabled displays. With the loss of experienced, senior-level technicians, having the availability of these high-tech tools to  streamline tasks and reduce time and manpower can work to alleviate the technician shortage.

There are many new diagnostic products and innovative approaches entering the aviation industry. To keep up with the growing demand and the widening resource shortfall, however, there is a need to speed up this effort and rethink how to simplify the work and further reduce operational complexity by applying the latest technology. This requires challenging the accepted norms for the minimum skillsets required to perform the job – and to put a heavier burden on technology rather than the technician.

In the following paragraphs, three new diagnostic products developed by three different MRO equipment manufacturers are described to demonstrate this concept in action. This equipment is presented to exemplify the new thinking the industry needs to embrace when defining the skill set of an aviation technician. These  technologies place a heavy emphasis on reducing complexity and focus on ease of use and speeding up diagnostics. In all instances, these examples demonstrate a significant reduction in time expended by technicians and in one case, the instrument enable the procedure to be accomplished using just one tech instead of two.

Solution Example 1: Turbofan Vibration Analysis & Balancing

The PBS eXpress, an aircraft engine vibration analysis and balancing system from MTI Instruments runs advanced algorithms to record vibration and speed and

Figure 2. The handheld PBS eXpress system uses advanced, modern functionality for extremely simplified turbofan vibration analysis and balancing.

generates a one-shot balancing solution for small-frame turbofan and turboprop engines, commonly used in regional business jets and general aviation. The portable, handheld PBS eXpress (Figure 2) is based on the same technology as the company’s well-known PBS-4100+ products and adds a modernized touchscreen and other advanced functionality.

This includes Balance Wizard technology that significantly streamlines the diagnostic and balancing process. According to the company, the system’s “intuitive user interface enables first-time users to perform vibration analysis and engine rotor balancing, with minimal training.” Perhaps even more important, the PBS eXpress enables a single technician to perform the procedure that would otherwise require two techs.

PBS eXpress key benefits for technicians include easy to set up: pre-configured engine parameters so connect cables and begin testing. The unit has an intuitive touch-based user interface and guides even first time users to success in as little as two engine runs.

Aircraft fleet is projected to grow by over 10,000 by 2032

Industry Objectives

The MRO industry recognizes the urgency of this situation and is striving to resolve this shortfall through:

  • A&P Training Programs – Offered in local vocational schools & community colleges and collaborating with nearby MROs to attract, train and place young aviation technicians.
  • Legislative Efforts – Support federal legislative efforts to expand access to A&P test prep courses & training, including protecting or expanding the applicable uses for the GI Bill.
  • Accelerated Accreditation – Shorten the traditional career path from training to an MRO (or contract job or regional airline) and then to an airline.

Solution Example 2: Electrical Wiring Troubleshooting

The wiring diagnostic company, WiN MS, offers aviation technology for monitoring the state of health of onboard electrical networks and complete infrastructures. It promotes its Aero Smart-R Kit as “the easiest tool to perform fast and accurate troubleshooting on electrical wiring systems.” The tool ensures essential time savings for technicians by reducing downtime and improving productivity. It provides five times faster wire inspection than the traditional method, requires minimal set up and supports wireless connectivity. In addition, data from WiN MS tools bring new benefits for technicians including state-of-health knowledge at regular intervals of a fleet and the ability to identify anomalies upstream and to anticipate failures.

Solution Example 3: Aircraft Dent Measurement & Detection

The Iris dentCHECK drone combines innovations from two companies: Donecle’s drone technology and 8tree’s dentCHECK 3D sensor technology. The Iris dentCHECK is designed to fly around an aircraft checking flaps, slats, radome, doors and fuselage. During the drone’s pilot-free, fully autonomous flight, its 3D sensor finds and measures dents on aircraft down to 0.1mm-depth accuracy.

The dentCHECK drone is positioned by the company as being able to “detect and measure dents and buckles on the surface of the aircraft 50 times faster than  manual methods.” This digitized method, it says, “slashes dent-mapping/reporting times by 90 percent” compared with traditional methods.

Iris dentCHECK frees up technician time by completing the detection process 50 times faster than manual methods and reducing dent-mapping reporting by 90 percent.


When one looks at today’s aviation MRO industry, the misconception of the younger generation’s expectations of the skillset needed to join the workforce is significant. Much of the industry’s electronic equipment was developed at least 20 years ago and is unintuitive, difficult to use and cumbersome. As a consequence, the operation of such tools is reserved for older, experienced staff, who are increasingly scarce. In contrast, the advanced technologies shown in the examples above –3D sensors, drones, WiFi networking and touchscreens – are being utilized to make emerging MRO equipment dramatically easier to operate by the next generation of more technology-savvy technicians.

New, innovative aviation technology is a force multiplier when it comes to reducing job complexity and attracting a greater pool of talent to this exciting industry – an industry in desperate need of workers on the cusp of a decade of growth.