What's Next for Aviation Mechanics?

aviation worker

With the airline industry struggling, aviation mechanics face an uncertain road forward. An Aerotek expert shares advice on what to do next. Aviation mechanics had been one of the most sought-after and well-compensated specialized professions. But with the aviation industry hit particularly hard by COVID-19, experienced mechanics are in a bind.

Should you look into a career shift that could reduce your short-term earning potential? Do you need to work toward a new set of certifications, or build up experience across a broader spectrum of aircraft?

To answer those questions, we spoke with Aerotek Account Manager Hunter Phillips, whose relationship with aviation employers in the New England market helps him know what’s coming and how to adjust. He has three major recommendations.

Diversify to get by in the short term

Traditionally, aviation mechanics can earn more as their expertise becomes more specialized to a particular fleet type, aircraft or system. The market is different now, with diversified skills more sought after. 

“A lot of mechanics are in wait-and-see mode with commercial flights and travel grounded,” says Phillips, “but that work will eventually come back.”

Aviation mechanics shouldn’t spend too long in a holding pattern. “You’re better off if you can stay flexible and diversify — people with diverse experience have been thriving,” says Phillips. 

Consider the following options:

  • Expand your job search from commercial to corporate or general aviation opportunities 
  • Bulk up your skill set with avionics or structural mechanic courses
  • Shift temporarily to another industry, such as automation, railways or material handling

Every aviation mechanic has a few options. Skills and experience in mechanical systems, especially pneumatics and hydraulics, are directly applicable to numerous other industries. Employers everywhere also know that an A&P certification represents a serious investment in proper adherence to safety protocols, which is highly valued on any worksite.

For more info on career alternatives, check out our previous article on 3 Reasons To Apply Technical Skills To an Automation Career

In a profession that can require a good deal of travel to wherever the jobs are, aviation mechanics can move more readily than many. “It’s not like the industry has been eliminated,” says Phillips. “There are still options for hands-on mechanics.”

A flexible mindset will be the most important tool for aviation mechanics in the coming months.

Communicate to set yourself up in the medium term

The best way for aviation mechanics to find out about the latest developments is to stay engaged with their professional network. Colleagues, recruiting partners, and aviation certification schools are great resources for finding the next opening.

“The schools within aviation are one of the best sources for up-to-date info,” says Phillips. “That’s where employers go first to ask about general worker availability, so checking in is a great idea.” 

As the aviation industry returns, those who have stayed engaged and visible will be first in line for new opportunities. That’s true for mechanics as well as individual actors within support organizations such as staffing partners, trade organizations and certification schools. Regardless of each player’s role in the industry, active communication and networking will reshuffle their card to the top of the deck.

While asking around, aviation mechanics should stay friendly and make a good impression, but also take note of who knows what. Those who have the freshest, most actionable information can be regarded as a priority relationship.

Persist to succeed in the long term

While the short and medium-term prognosis for the industry may be shaky, aviation mechanics are still positioned well to bounce back as in-demand employees.

“The relatively high median age for mechanics still indicates an upcoming wave of retirements,” says Phillips. “When the industry picks back up, that vacuum will still be there to build demand for those with active certifications.”

There’s light at the end of the tunnel for aviation mechanics. 

If you’re a mechanic with specialized skills, be flexible, maintain your contacts and persist. You’ll be rewarded. 

“We know it’s tough, we know your career is in a holding pattern and you’re holding your breath to see what’s going to happen. But just stay the course and do what you can right now,” says Phillips. “The tipping point for mechanic demand will probably happen sooner in aviation than it will in the broader economy”

Plotting your next move? Keep your head up and maintain a positive outlook. You could be in great shape when things turn around.  

To search for opportunities in aviation or applicable fields, check out our job board or reach out to your Aerotek representative for advice.