The cyclical nature of our industry has been borne out again with the last two — almost three — years of crisis and rebound. For those “youngins” who are experiencing their first taste of the way aviation works, I say, welcome to the most interesting industry in the world. It has been impressive to watch the industry cope with the dire nature of the past years — almost as if they have figured out a few things or remembered what worked in previous crises.
The industry survived an almost complete shut down for months and to me that shows one thing is for sure, aviation will survive anything. We have gone from pilot and mechanic shortages and intense hiring to layoffs and early retirement offers to get those close to that milestone to leave and now back to worries about shortages in the seeming blink of an eye. It’s enough to make your head spin.
For those who took the packages and retired just a bit early, I hope you are enjoying your time now and have no regrets. Those offers to end lifelong careers in aviation early were tempting enough to lure thousands of people at all the airlines to leave. 17,000 employees, or 20% of its workforce, took buyout packages or early retirement, Delta reported in August of 2020. Thousands also took deals at United and American.
Now, we are back to worries about not having enough mechanics (not to mention pilot crew shortages that are limiting full recovery schedules at the airlines). As AIA puts it in one of their policy statements, “A highly skilled and robust aerospace workforce is essential to our national security and economic prosperity. Yet today the industry faces impending retirements and a shortage of trained technical graduates, which is a situation that is forecasted to worsen within the decade.” There are just no easy answers to the radical impacts to flying like those of the COVID crisis.
But now that we are through the worst of it, most folks are vaccinated and we are moving on as a nation and industry, we wanted to take a look at a few things that can help and see how some niche areas of our industry navigated through the troubled waters of the past several years.
In our cover story we examine how the engine leasing sector survived a near shutdown of operations. This crucial sector has a bird’s eye view of the industry and often sees the impact of the economy before others. These folks are eminently able to comment on the impacts of both the downturns and the recoveries.
We asked engine leasing experts not only how they managed through these times, but what they are seeing now that times are better. Tadhg Dillon, chief commercial officer at Shannon Engine Support, Patrick Biebel, managing director of MTU Maintenance Lease Services, Oliver James, VP Commercial Trading at AerFin and Anthony Spaulding, EVP at Magellan Aviation Group gave us an insider look at what happened and where we are headed. In short, Spaulding says the recovery has been “substantial” and that prices are rebounding. See more in this feature story starting on page 28.
Next, we got an update about PMA parts from several key manufacturers of these replacement parts. They are more important than ever with the ongoing supply chain challenges facing the entire aviation and wider world economy. PMA parts can be a saving grace when parts are needed quickly and with competitive pricing.
“PMA parts, by their nature, are a natural mitigation strategy for airlines. As a direct replacement for OEM parts, by including PMA parts in their maintenance programs, airlines are immediately opening up a second FAA-Approved source,” HEICO’s Pat Markham, VP of Technical Services for HEICO Parts Group, said in the story, specifically referring to airline supply chain challenges.
You can learn more from the PMA experts, including the Modification and Replacement Parts Association (MARPA) president, Jason Dickstein, quoted in this feature story starting on page 16. By the way, if your company is not a member of MARPA already, please contact them to join ASAP.
We also had a great opportunity recently to speak with Johann Bordais, president and CEO of Embraer Services and Support. Bordais is one of those rare eternal optimists who always sees the bright side — a perfect outlook for the leader of Embraer’s efforts to keep their customers in the air and happy. See Ian Harbison’s story resulting from his sit down with this global leader.
That interview also led us to learn more about Beacon. Beacon is the EmbraerX (a disruptive innovation subsidiary of the Embraer Group) new web-based system that offers the potential for substantially reduced maintenance delays. The product started out in the executive aviation sector but is rapidly expanding and has achieved considerable success with airlines in the last nine months. Learn more from Bordais and about Beacon in stories starting on page 24 and 26.
One final standout story in this issue is safety expert Jeff Guzzetti’s On Guard series entry. Guzzetti usually highlights an aircraft incident or accident that has a specific lesson for maintainers. And that holds true for his latest piece. But in this case, the tale, entitled “The Day the Nine-O-Nine Died,” has a personal twist that left me hoping the remaining B-17s of the world continue to survive and filled me with pride for our WWII veterans. Read more starting on page 48.
Finally, we invite you to join us soon for Aerospace Tech Week Americas which takes place in Atlanta, Georgia on 8-9th November 2022. The event provides a unique opportunity for the aerospace industry to focus on eight core technology areas like MRO and MRO IT, Avionics, Flight Ops IT, Testing and more. There is a main conference track for each sector which you can mix and match as well as a free central exhibition. Registration is open now at www.aerospacetechweek.com/americas/register. The early bird savings on the main conferences as well as a 3 for 1 offer make it a great value for groups. We are inviting all airlines, military/defense and government to attend for free. Airlines can also can apply for a hosted place including free accommodation. You can see excerpts from the official pre-show guide starting on page 33. We hope to see you there as an attendee, sponsor or exhibitor!