It’s Getting Hot in Here

It’s Getting Hot in Here

Whether you believe in global warming or not, this is one of the hottest summers on record for the planet Earth. June 2023 was the hottest June on record going back 174 years according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

First, a few stats:

• The month of July was the first time since 1974 Phoenix had 18 days in a row of 110-degree or higher temps. Meteorologists predicted Phoenix would break that 49-year-old record and hit a nineteenth day of extreme high temps.

• The forecast for that day called for a high of 115 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperatures are “very extreme,” said Matt Salerno, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Phoenix, in a report in the New York Times. “We’re talking 10 degrees above where they normally are.”

• Another heat record the city of Phoenix set on Monday evening, July 17, was for eight consecutive days in which the overnight temperature never dipped below 90 degrees.

• According to, close to 100 million people across the United States were under active National Weather Service extreme heat advisories, watches and warnings.

• Every June for the last 47 years has been hotter than the twentieth century average for the month.

• This June was the hottest month ever recorded for the world’s oceans.

Elsewhere in the world, things aren’t much better. The Persian Gulf International Airport in Iran reported a heat index of 152°F (66.7 C) on July 16 at 12:30 p.m. A remote town in China set a record temp of 126 F (52.2 C) on Sunday, July 16, that country’s state media reported.

And, according to the European Environmental Agency, “Europe is warming faster than the global average. The mean annual temperature over European land areas in the last decade was 2.04 to 2.10 C warmer than during the pre-industrial period. The year 2020 was the warmest year in Europe since the instrumental records began according to all datasets used, with the range of anomaly between 2.53 C and 2.71 C above the pre-industrial levels. Particularly high warming has been observed over eastern Europe, Scandinavia and at the eastern part of the Iberian Peninsula.”

More than 61,000 people died due to summer heat waves across Europe in 2022 a recently published study in Nature Medicine stated.

Why write about high temps and possible global warming in a magazine about the business of aircraft maintenance? Anyone who has worked in this industry knows exactly why. These high temps are especially concerning for people who work outside or in hangars that are not climate-controlled, as well as for people with any type of chronic illness such as cardiovascular or respiratory disease. This means you or the people who work for you.

Officials recommend learning the signs of heat exhaustion, heatstroke and other heat-related illnesses, staying hydrated and taking time to adjust and acclimate to the environment when temperatures rise. Signs of heat exhaustion include sweating, fatigue, dizziness and headache. A person experiencing heat exhaustion might experience nausea or lightheadedness, muscle cramping, increased fatigue and accelerated heart rate. See image.

Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) image.
Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) image.

Know when to seek medical attention. This would be necessary when a person begins to show signs of heat-related illness. First, it is recommended to move the person to the coolest place possible, give them water or an electrolyte drink and keep skin moist with a wet washcloth. Remove unnecessary clothing such as shoes, socks and jackets. Then, observe and monitor their symptoms which will hopefully improve within 30 minutes, experts say. If they don’t get better or start having worse symptoms, seek medical help. Heatstroke looks like rapid breathing and rapid heart rate, confusion and loss of consciousness/passing out. This is a serious, life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical assistance.

It’s important to stay hydrated with water or electrolytes (like sports drinks). If you don’t want to consume the sugar in sports drinks, make your own electrolytes at home. An easy electrolyte recipe would be lemon and pink salt in water. If you want to get a bit fancier, add potassium chloride (a quick source is Lite Salt) and magnesium (in the form of magnesium citrate) as well as a sweetener, like stevia. There are recipes on the internet.

For those of you working in this heat — take care of yourselves. For those of you supervising a workforce in this heat, please be proactive about taking care of your people.

Good luck and stay cool!

no surprises

No Surprises

Hardly anything surprises me about aviation anymore. But I have to say, I have been pleasantly encouraged by how quickly the airline sector has bounced back from the brink of the worst days of Covid-19. Each time I traveled in the last year, I was amazed to see how strong the load factors are and how eager everyone is to get somewhere.

The decrease in air travel that resulted in a reduction in demand for maintenance services and aircraft repairs, and led to layoffs and furloughs for many in aviation is over and we are now experiencing a shortage of people, especially aircraft mechanics. Some of those that were laid off won’t be returning for various reasons.

For example, some took a package deal and fully retired. Others looked for, and found, better opportunities in other sectors. Some have said they needed more stability and would never come back to aviation due to the disruption to their finances and families. We’ll see.

But this, coupled with the already-in-progress wave of retirements of both maintenance professionals, pilots and others, has left a deficit of people. According to the Aviation Technician Education Council, more than a quarter of maintenance professionals are 64 years old or older.

Airlines are stepping up hiring again across the board. In our cover story this issue, we take a look at the aviation maintenance skilled workforce shortage and what is being done to improve the situation. It isn’t going to be easy. The pipeline takes a long time to fill, but it must be done. See our story, “Help Really, Really Wanted” starting on page 16.

One of the biggest challenges facing the aviation maintenance industry is the need for digitization. It should be a no-brainer. The use of digital technologies can improve efficiency, reduce costs and enhance safety in aircraft maintenance. The adoption of technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive maintenance can help identify potential problems in aircraft before they occur, minimizing the risk of safety incidents and increasing operational efficiency.

But where to start? For one idea, take a look at our story on electronic logbooks. As our writer, James Careless, puts it, the “volume of advantages associated with migrating from paper-to digitally-based maintenance tracking may well astound you.” Integrating these tech logs with airline maintenance and flight operations will provide the most up-to-date, accurate picture of what is happening with the aircraft and gives maintenance the best chance to service it properly. A win-win. That story begins on page 24.

In another feature, I had the opportunity to speak with Jean-Marc Lenz, CEO of SR Technics, recently. Lenz became CEO in September of 2019, just before the pandemic struck. I had a wide-ranging talk with him in Atlanta, Georgia, recently to learn how the company navigated the past several years and about their big plans for the future. See my interview with this quietly confident MRO leader starting on page 38.

I also want to call your attention to our regular On Guard feature. This issue, former NTSB and FAA investigator, Jeff Guzzetti, examines what many believe is the most striking example of an airline accident caused by systemic deficiencies in maintenance and safety culture. The piece looks at Continental Express Flight 2574, an Embraer 120 Brasilia turboprop that broke up near Eagle Lake, Texas, killing the two flight crewmembers, one flight attendant, and 11 passengers. This accident helped introduce the topic of safety culture as an essential tenet in aviation safety because although there were clear missteps by certain individuals, the entirety of the events leading up to the accident were complex and multifaceted.

Failure to follow procedures, shift changes, a lack of quality control inspections, lack of equipment and poor communications were all factors in this tragic and preventable event. It is a fascinating case study and the stuff of maintenance nightmares. There is so much to learn in Guzzetti’s recap of this classic case. Please read it starting on page 40, share it with your team and make it discussion starter at your next safety meeting.

For those of you who joined us in March at our Aerospace Tech Week event in Munich, thank you so much for coming and making it our best event ever. We hope you will consider coming to our next event, Aerospace Tech Week Americas, which will be held in Atlanta, Georgia, on November 14-15. Please mark your calendars and make plans now to attend.

Finally, I want to take a moment to remind everyone still here in the aviation maintenance business how critically important your work is. Even though I know you know it, it is important to hear or see it periodically and to appreciate the importance of what you do to keep the aviation industry thriving.

First and foremost, you provide an essential layer of safety. Without proper, regular maintenance checks potential issues can quickly escalate and lead to serious safety incidents. Next, in our highly regulated industry, compliance is crucial. Though rare, failure to comply with FAA regulations can result in severe penalties, including fines and the revocation of operating licenses. The work you do makes reliability possible.

Operators rely on their aircraft to meet their schedules and maintain their reputations. Regular maintenance helps to ensure that aircraft are in good working order and reduces the risk of unexpected breakdowns and delays. And one more thing: proper maintenance can actually save operators money in the long run by reducing the risk of expensive repairs due later. Identifying issues early on when they are easier to repair and less complicated saves money (not to mention lives).

Thank you for all you do.

Join Us in Munich March 29-30 for Aerospace Tech Week Europe

Join Us in Munich March 29-30 for Aerospace Tech Week Europe

Aerospace Tech Week is an event that has been held in one form or another since its origins, when it was known as the “Avionics” show in 2001. It has been expanding the technology sectors that it covers since that first one and it now covers connectivity, MRO IT, flight ops IT, testing, MRO, space and sustainability. This event has grown and developed in new and wonderful ways recently, with a sister event being held in the U.S. in Atlanta, Georgia, this past November and we will hold it again in Atlanta in November of this year.

But now, we invite you to join us in Munich, Germany, on March 29 and 30 for the upcoming European Aerospace Tech Week event. The event is specifically designed to bring together airlines, aircraft operators, maintainers, OEMs, innovators and aerospace developers in one easy-to-get-to location to share ideas, learn from one another and see what is coming next in our industry. One thing we have learned during the past several years is there is nothing like being together, face-to-face, to spark creativity, learning and advancements.

There will be speakers from the likes of The European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation, commonly known as Eurocontrol, which is an international organization working to achieve safe and seamless air traffic management across Europe which currently has 41 member states and is headquartered in Brussels; The European Space Agency, an intergovernmental organization of 22 member states dedicated to the exploration of space; as well as The European Organization for Civil Aviation Equipment which deals exclusively with aviation standardization, for both airborne and ground systems and equipment.

One topic at the event will cover growth areas like EVTOLs, UAMs and drones. EVTOLs/air-taxis and drones are an area to watch in the near future. All require airspace and air traffic management in the shared airspace with commercial aircraft and around airports. What is the future of the air taxi service, how will they operate near and within commercial airspace (UTM) and how does the current infrastructure need to evolve (including TCAS)? All of this will be discussed at the event.

Another topic will cover trends in data and cybersecurity. Data is the new lifeblood of any aircraft that the operator or OEM can use to analyze and find areas for improvements, efficiencies and cost savings. But how do we decide what data is first required — can data structure hierarchy assist? How do we get that data to the ground securely, with the prevalence of cyber threats, and within the bandwidth (on-board vs. on-ground computing)? How do EASA and FAA guidelines compare for consistencies? This will be debated at the event.

We will also have a look at how innovation can assist in aviation sustainability. With the need for the aerospace sector to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030, innovation and technologies will continue to play a major role in the development for a sustainable aerospace industry. What innovations are already being deployed, and what developments are around the corner? During this track there will be presentations from leaders like Marylin Bastin, head of aviation sustainability at Eurocontrol and Mattia Nurisso, Airbus Air traffic management program manager in charge of the SESAR Very Large Demonstrator Albatross managing ATM related projects in close cooperation with the major stakeholders of the worldwide ATM community, in Europe, focusing on supporting SESAR program. We hope you will come and learn about some amazing developments that can help your company achieve their sustainability goals.

Connectivity has become de rigueur in modern air travel both in the flight deck and the cabin. In Europe alone, skies are expected to see a large increase in flights in the next 20 years.

Systems such as Iris and Certus are designed to help the air traffic modernization program, which can also adopt System Wide Information Management (SWIM) applications to facilitate greater sharing of information such as airport operational status, weather information, flight data, and status of any airspace restrictions. There will be a session looking at use case examples and how airspace modernization can work for the airline. Speakers from the likes of The Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO), a representative body of companies that provide air traffic control, and others will discuss the coming challenges and what needs to be done to keep up with this phenomenal growth. If connectivity is of concern to your operation, this is the track for you.

There will also be certified training at the event. Some sessions will cover Aircraft-Cybersecurity Certification for Airlines: The DO-326/ED-202-Set Operational Aspects; Applying DO-178C / ED-12C (Europe) Avionics Software Guidelines and The New Aviation Safety Paradigm ARP4761A Is Coming – What’s Next?

In addition to the incredible content at this event, consider the setting. It’s being held in Munich, in the German state of Bavaria, which is home to gorgeous centuries-old architecture, museums and rich history. The city is known for its beer halls, including the famed Hofbräuhaus, founded in 1589. In the Old Town, the central Marienplatz square has landmarks like the Neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (town hall), with a popular glockenspiel that chimes and reenacts stories from the 16th century. There is something for everyone here so stay a few extra days and plan a few excursions. Day trips abound, like to the fairy tale castle, Neuschwanstein or over the border to Salzburg, Austria.

Register online now at, book your flight and hotel, bring your partner and we will see you there in March.

Continue to Reach Out

Continue to Reach Out

For years, the parent company of this magazine has been hosting a conference and exhibition annually in Munich, Germany. Years ago it was called The Avionics Show but most recently it was dubbed Aerospace Tech Week and we launched a magazine to go alongside of the event called Aerospace Tech Review. Both the event and the magazine cover areas like avionics, connectivity, flight operations IT, MRO IT, aerospace testing, space and aerospace innovations. You can check out the sister publication at

During the pandemic days, the European event was postponed and finally ran in March of this year in Toulouse, France. Before the shutdown of travel in 2020, we were making plans to have a U. S. version. Those plans were put on hold but, happily, they finally came to fruition this month on November 8 and 9 in Atlanta, Georgia. We had a great event with some truly amazing speakers, presentations, training and exhibitors. Most of all, it was wonderful to be back together, in person, to learn and grow.

One session talked about the benefits of blockchain technology for MRO. Another session included speakers from United Airlines, INFORM — a German company specializing in artificial intelligence and machine learning, Colombian engineering firm SkyOn Aeroengineering and IATA’s head of operational cost management, Dr. Chris Markou.

One track focused on sustainability with numerous sessions, including one that targeted optimizing fuel efficiencies and featured presentations from Collins Aerospace, GE Digital and Honeywell Aerospace, while other tracks looked at the latest in connectivity, testing and avionics.

In our opening keynote session we heard from Rick Uber, managing director of airframe maintenance at Delta Air Lines. Rick gave his insights on the state of our industry, talking about where the industry stands with the challenges of labor force shortages, capacity shortages and supply chain bottlenecks. He shared lessons learned from the airlines’ response to covid and the drive to digitize in MRO.

We were fortunate to have Dr. Alicia Taylor, program director of the Open Group FACE Consortium. The Open Group is an international vendor- and technology-neutral consortium leading the development of technology standards, certifications and best practices. The Future Airborne Capability Environment, or FACE Consortium, collaborates on developing open software standards to innovate processes and practices, and accelerate FACE adoption. It was announced that they are opening membership internationally, with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom eligible for membership. The move came in response to a growing demand from both businesses, the U. S. and other governments, as international cooperation grows in importance.

Another one of our keynote speakers was Skyler Shuford, founder and COO of the company Hermeus, located in Atlanta. Hermeus is working towards creating a hypersonic aircraft that will fly at Mach 5, more than twice the speed of the supersonic Concorde. Their goal is to make flying from New York to Paris a quick 90 minute hop.

Attendees at Aerospace Tech Week in Atlanta Georgia on November 8, 2022 peruse the exhibits and discuss products on display. Image by Clayton Finnegan.
Attendees at Aerospace Tech Week in Atlanta Georgia on November 8, 2022 peruse the exhibits and discuss products on display. Image by Clayton Finnegan.

Within the last 18 months Hermeus has built a 110,000 sq ft. factory, transformed an open field into a test facility, conducted more than 100 engine tests, designed and constructed a prototype of its first aircraft, and tested a full-scale proprietary Mach 5 engine. The company also raised $100 million to continue on the difficult journey of design and creation.

Seeing Skyler Shuford speak about his, and his co-founders’ passion, inspired me. He was matter of fact and frank about the fact that along the way, there will be failures. But, he also reminded all that we learn from our failures.

His words made me remember a story from the history of manned powered flight. In October of 1903, a mere two months before the Wright Brothers successfully flew at Kitty Hawk, N. C., Samuel Langley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, conceived and built a full-scale aircraft that was named the Great Aerodrome. It was loaded on a tall houseboat on the Potomac River, and made ready for takeoff. Smaller versions of it had flown briefly, unmanned, twice before. With news reporters watching and photographers taking pictures, it was launched, but sadly collapsed and fell into the water. Less than 10 days later, the Wright brothers flew.

As a well-known public figure, Langley was excoriated by the press for his very public failure. But Wilbur Wright, when asked about this attempt and the subsequent humiliation of a fellow inventor, called it “shameful.” And added that, “His work deserved neither abuse nor apology.” I hope all will keep this in mind as we head out into new unknown territories whether it be in hypersonic attempts or advanced air mobility. We need to encourage growth, development and invention at the highest levels. Even when that includes failure. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.”

If you weren’t able to join us in Atlanta this time, please consider coming to Munich on March 29-30, 2023 or once again in Atlanta on November 14-15, 2023.

Back to Normal… Whatever That Is!

Back to Normal… Whatever That Is!

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 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!

Parts, Supply Chain and Labor Shortage, Oh My!

Parts, Supply Chain and Labor Shortage, Oh My!

Fresh out of the Covid crisis, the aviation maintenance industry is finding itself, like so many other industries, facing new market stressors. Specifically, those challenges include the parts and supply chain break down as well as the labor shortage that has been predicted for years but finally appears to be happening as well as inflation and threats of new variants of Covid that could prove potent and impact air travel. Other huge concerns are geopolitical instability like the Russian invasion of Ukraine, inflation and rising interest rates. It’s never easy, is it?

Recently at an industry conference, Mark Wibben, VP, engineering and programs at Southwest Airlines said of these unusual times that key to dealing with these ever-changing challenges is the ability to adapt. Nothing new there but always good to remember that just because you have always done something one way, doesn’t mean you must continue to do it that way. On the contrary, finding new ways to navigate through these crazy times is key to surviving them.

On a positive note, The Oliver Wyman forecast says the global aircraft fleet size grew by 13% last year. There are also reportedly 2000 aircraft that are were parked and stored during the pandemic slowdown that the group believes will be brought back online rather than sold for parts. “MRO demand should recover to pre-COVID levels by 2024, but annual growth in the second half of our 10-year forecast period will be 2.8%,” said Brian Prentice, one of the authors of the report. “By 2030, MRO demand is expected to reach $118 billion, 13% below the pre COVID forecast of $135 billion.”

One of the biggest bright spots in our industry is cargo conversions of passenger aircraft to freighters (P2F). There have been a record number of aircraft — around 100 — that were converted to freighters last year. We look at the very latest in the MRO P2F conversion business in our story “P2F Conversions Surge Through Pandemic,” written by Ian Harbison. That story begins on page 26 and covers the need for more aircraft to be converted as the supply chain struggles to find its new normal in this age of online purchases of everything. Harbison talked to several MROs as well as one OEM that specialize in this complex work.

Tied together with cargo conversions is the aerospace supply chain that is under pressure. You can read our story about the aerospace supply dilemma in our Summer 2021 issue starting on page 14. That cover story, “Better Faster Stronger — How to Fix the Aerospace Supply Chain” gives actionable items that businesses can take to improve their part in the supply chain, and it is as relevant today as it was the past summer. As for the Oliver Wyman report, it says, recovery may be complicated by supply chain disruption and delays, as well as labor shortages. “Many aerospace suppliers were forced to cut output and lay off employees in the first year of the pandemic as the airframe and engine OEMs scaled back production with the drop-off in air travel. Given the rebound in the economy in 2021, employers have been and still are challenged to hire and train new workers fast enough to meet rising demand.”

The report goes on to say delays in global shipping and in the industrial ramp-up will make it hard to access parts and raw materials. Having employees out sick die to COVID-19 outbreaks is not helping the supply chain.

Speaking of the workforce shortage, we have been covering it for years, even before it began to manifest. Not to be over dramatic, but we put the shortage front and center of this magazine in the June/July 2018 issue with a cover story called Military Maintainers: Has the Mechanic Shortage Reached the Services?” Also, in May 2019 with the story, “The State of the Shortage,” and most recently in our cover story in the last issue starting on page 26 called, “Who Will Fix it? The Helicopter Mechanic Shortage,” as we looked at the even more pronounced need for helicopter mechanics.

Surely you know the old quote often (erroneously) attributed to Einstein: “Doing the same things over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” It seems like that is what is happening regarding finding, training and keeping people in aviation maintenance because I only heard the same thing being repeated by anyone asked what they are doing to get more people. The answer: reaching out to local schools and apprenticeships. Yes, those are the ways the industry has been trying to funnel more people onto the shop floor. But that has been happening for years. If it isn’t reaping rewards now, maybe it is time to try something different.

Also in this issue is a must-read story by Jim McKenna on the digitization of the MRO industry. It is finally happening. New or expanded digital capabilities, like software supporting maintenance planning, artificial intelligence-enabled inspection techniques and remote and collaborative inspection are finally being implemented to bring MRO into the digital age. As an added benefit, it may help alleviate some of the shortage dilemma. McKenna asked top leaders in the industry what they are doing as well as cutting edge companies about their product offerings for digitization. That story starts on page 34.

If all of the above is overwhelming and you don’t know where to start, please read the story on photoluminescent paint for propellers and rotor blades as shown on the cover. This is something you can act on right now and it will likely prevent an injury or even save a life. Sherwin-Williams’ AfterGlo paint is easy to apply, makes these invisible spinning parts glow with reflective paint that charges in the sun. As most of us in this industry know, there are too many stories of moving props or blades on the ramp where someone lets their guard down for just a second and is injured or killed — grabbing a hat blown off in a gust or when a child breaks free from a parent’s hand and runs…Check it out on page 42 — you may never know whose life you have saved by using it.

Cut the Red Wire, But First...

Cut the Red Wire, But First…

Human factors in aviation maintenance is a topic that never gets old for me. Understanding how our human nature can lead to being lax on the job, thinking we have a better way and holding biases impact the work in hangars and on aircraft is paramount to preventing those things from causing errors. And reducing errors is always the goal.

We have covered human factors over the years but felt the time was right to revisit this topic and take a look at some of the things we can do to improve our work. The nature of the task, the workload facing maintenance workers today, the working environment, the design of the work environment, tools used and the role of procedures in accomplishing the complex work of maintaining aircraft is essential to getting it right.

One issue that is intertwined with human factors is failure to follow procedures. A study commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) states that “Procedure not followed re-occurs with depressing regularity in incident and accident reports in aviation.” Other researchers list Failure to Follow Procedures (FFP) as the number one cause of maintenance mishaps. The FAA study published in 2017 is still an excellent source of information about this and is worth a read. Their results showed that the top three areas of concern were the validity and availability of the procedure documentation, the difficulty of the task being performed, and the organizations social rules/norms.

Work culture, starting from the top leadership all the way to the hangar floor is the linchpin of any organization’s safety and commitment to making efforts to improve. Individuals also play a key role in adhering to procedures, improving skills, continuing education, training and rooting out new and better ways to work by following the proper system of making changes.

Having a solid safety management system (SMS) can be a good way to include and address human factors and should be part of regular training within any risk control program. Addressing how human factors impact employees can yield multiple benefits like higher productivity rates, better safety and fewer on job injuries, less rework and, of course, saving money. For more on SMS, please check out Part 7 of Jason Dickstein’s SMS series in this issue starting on page 46. Parts 1-6 of his series can be found on our website.

There are excellent resources at free for the taking. One is a course called “FFP: The Buck Stops With Me” and is a great starting point for training or even conversations in meetings as a way to keep the topic top of mind for employees.

Also at the “Dirty Dozen” is available for download. Most people know about and have read through these. If it’s been a while, I highly recommend reviewing these twelve human factors hot topics like complacency, distractions, stress and poor communication. Some may find the cartoonish way they are depicted off-putting but don’t let those cartoons mislead you. This resource is full of excellent information and suggestions for counteracting these pitfalls. It makes for great safety meeting discussion points — I guarantee if you open up a conversation in a safety meeting with one of these twelve and review the info from the Dirty Dozen flyer with your team, there will be a lively discussion about it.

For more in-depth information, please read our story on human factors and the problem of failure to follow procedures written by Jim McKenna, starting on page 16.

In lock step with human factors is training. In this issue we take a look at the state of maintenance training. Writer Kathryn Creedy takes a look at how the FAA has been congressionally mandated to reform Part 147 training and yet the changes don’t seem to be happening. In spite of this situation, new training technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are being implemented around the world.

Companies are demanding better trained mechanics and technicians. They want workers that are well-versed in the current technologies of today, not the wood, dope and fabric of yesteryear. Flexibility to add or adjust curricula is going to be crucial as technology rapidly advances. Our update of the challenges being faced in training the next generation of A&P mechanics and avionics technicians starts on page 30.

We also take a look at parts tracking in this issue starting on page 22. This piece written by James Careless gives insight into new technologies that can help the ever-present challenge of finding the right parts, close by or as close as possible and getting them quickly, in spite of the current supply chain challenges (see the cover story in the summer issue of Aviation Maintenance called Better Faster Stronger — How to Fix the Aerospace Supply Chain).

Ian Harbison also provides a comprehensive look at hangar and hangar door developments. There are some incredibly innovative solutions out there for both hangars and doors. Whether you need a large temporary structure that can be relocated at a future date or a door system that can open and shut quickly, there are options that can satisfy the most unique challenges all while looking architecturally stunning. Check out this story on page 38.

Hope you enjoy this issue and the upcoming holidays — here’s to a fabulous 2022!

Tempus Fugit

Tempus Fugit

Tempus fugit is the Latin phrase meaning time flies. They say the older you are, the faster time appears to go, which may be related to the ratio of years lived to increments of time and how we perceive time. Not trying to get too philosophical here but it does seem to be true. For example, we are making note of two big milestone anniversaries of extraordinary events in the aviation industry and to me they seem like they happened just yesterday. I’ve talked to many colleagues who feel the same way. Perhaps it’s because these events made such a huge impact on our collective psyches in the aviation industry but also likely because of the personal connections and results that reverberated throughout our lives.

A night view of the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.
A night view of the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.

First is the 25th anniversary of TWA Flight 800 that crashed on July 17, 1996. First, let me say that this accident happened on my husband’s birthday so, we remember the date exactly and make a note of it every year. We are both lifers in the aviation industry, so we pay attention to these types of events but never more so than this one. Why? Because second, we had recently moved to Montoursville, Penn. You may have a brief memory of the fact that many members of a high school French club were onboard that flight to Paris for an experiential learning trip — and all of those kids were from this small, tightknit town, Montoursville, Penn. Try to imagine the devastation of 16 students and 5 adult chaperones from the French club of your high school perishing all at once. That event clearly hit this small town hard. As if that isn’t enough, the third reason this particular accident stays with me all these years later is that I had flown for a TWA feeder, knew some folks at that airline and one in particular whose fiancé died onboard that aircraft.

All 230 people on board TWA 800 died in the crash making it one of the deadliest in U.S. history. Accident investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) traveled to the scene, and later, officers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other security-related agencies arrived amid speculation that a terrorist attack was the cause of the crash. There are some who still believe that there was a cover up and that the accident was the result of being shot down or a bomb.

But as you will see in Jeff Guzzetti’s piece, “Wired for Safety” on page 38, the TWA 800 accident was the result of the center wing fuel tank of the older 747 exploding, which was likely caused by wire chaffing and arcing outside of the fuel tank. In Guzzetti’s piece, he looks not only at the TWA 800 accident, but at several others that are all related to wiring.

If you have ever had the privilege of taking courses at the NTSB Academy, you may have seen the truly amazing and extensive reconstruction of the TWA 800 accident aircraft in a huge hangar-like facility at the academy. It is something to behold and the epitome of accident reconstruction. Unfortunately, the NTSB announced recently that they will be disassembling the display and that it will no longer be available for viewing.

The reconstruction was housed in a 30,000 square foot hangar along with other training tools at the NTSB’s Training Center, has been used in the NTSB’s accident investigation training courses for nearly 20 years. The NTSB said “advances in investigative techniques such as 3-D scanning and drone imagery, lessen the relevance of the large-scale reconstruction in teaching modern investigative techniques.” Unfortunately, in the time of conspiracy theorists, this decision has reignited the flames of those who believe there was a cover up of a sinister act that caused the accident. Read Guzzetti’s explanation on page 38 to understand more.

Moving on. This September we are also commemorating the 20th anniversary of the events of 9/11. Again, for all of us who have worked in the aviation industry, we felt the impact of that terrorist attack deeply, personally and its effect continues to reverberate in the lives and careers of so many. When I thought about the fact that it happened 20 years ago, I was stunned. It seems like it just happened.

I think of all the things that came out of that time period. The change to the New York skyline. The changes to aviation security. The military actions made poignant by the recent withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Let me take a moment to express my gratitude to anyone who served there and please know that the sacrifices you made are appreciated and valued — thank you.

I have written before about my college friend, David Charlebois, who was the first officer aboard American Airlines Flight 77 that was deliberately crashed into the Pentagon that day. I remember him every year at this time. He was living the dream we talked about at college — flying around the globe as a pilot and building experience to become a captain someday. He was well on his way. He was so motivated and one of the first of our cohort to have made it to the right seat of the 757. He gave us all hope that we too might make it, someday.

I feel the need to finish on a high note so let me try. I entitled this piece tempus fugit but let’s don’t forget another oft-quoted Latin phrase: carpe diem. Seize the day. If I had one piece of advice for all, especially now in the throes of the pandemic, it is to seize the day. Tomorrow is not promised. Take the leap. Do the thing you have been putting off. Get the degree. Forgive the one you’ve been holding a grudge towards and move on. Protect yourself, get vaccinated and then, carpe diem. The next thing you know, 20 years — or 25 — will have passed.

Are We Out of the Woods Yet?

In early 2007 (doesn’t that seem like forever ago?), I recall attending a conference where a leader in the business jet MRO sector was raving about the boom times. In that time period, the business aviation market was truly booming with multiple multi-aircraft orders at all the shows and backlogs at the business jet OEMs that made it seem impossible to get a slot for an aircraft order in anything close to a timely manner.

This gentleman had been in the business for at least 30 years — likely more. He was considered an expert — a trusted leader and was well-liked and respected. He was sitting on a panel at the conference where he was asked about the potential for the next few years and whether he saw a slowdown coming or more good times. The question was phrased, “When do you predict the boom will end?” The hubris of his answer has stayed with me all these years. He replied, “I don’t see it ending. Ever.” He wasn’t alone. The entire panel — all big name leaders in the business — agreed.

I’m not here to dis that guy or the panel, but even then, I remember thinking, doesn’t he remember the economic recession of the early 80s? Or the hard times of the early 1990s? Or what about the rough patch right after 9-11 exacerbated by the dot com bubble bursting? Those quickly popped to mind and made me recall layoffs and furloughs and green tails stacked up on the ramp – oh my!

Shortly thereafter, towards the end of 2007, the real estate bubble burst. Then, the car manufacturers started suffering hard times and several of them flew into Washington, D. C. in their company business jets to ask Congress for financial assistance in keeping their factories afloat. This act of using business jets to beg for money was seized upon as the ultimate disconnect between those executives and the reality of the impact of the economic downturn on the average person during the Great Recession. Consequently, many business jet operators were shamed into selling or underutilizing their jets and cancelling jet orders.

Just a few months later, by early 2008, that overly optimistic guy I mentioned above, who didn’t see an end to the boom times, was offered early retirement from his very high visibility position at a leading business jet manufacturer and we haven’t heard from him since. Such an incredible domino effect of events, in hindsight.

A year and a half ago, who could have predicted what was to come in 2020 and beyond? Truly no one, which is one of the reasons industry forecasts and overly optimistic experts bother me. I can see why they are necessary but, aside from putting in a statement to the effect, “Pending any ‘black swan” events…” no one could have foreseen a pandemic that would nearly cripple the industry negating any forecast published in the 2018-2019 time frame.

In case you don’t know, a black swan event is an unpredictable event that is beyond what is normally expected of a situation and has potentially severe consequences. Black swan events are characterized by their extreme rarity, severe impact and some would even say they were obvious in hindsight. Truly, this pandemic is a black swan.

On the spectrum of optimism and pessimism, I like to think of myself as right in the middle, a realist. I’ve been around long enough to see the cyclical nature of the aviation industry. The ups and downs make it like a thrill ride and whenever I see the boom days I think back to those downturns and wonder how businesses are preparing for that inevitability.

In any case, I am now asking the question, “Are we out of the woods, yet?” with regards to the pandemic and my realism is telling me not quite yet. What do you think?

To that end, in this issue we have some great stories that take a look at various segments of our industry and what is happening now. For example, large engine operators were impacted more severely than operators of small engines so we wanted to see how MROs responded to that situation. See the story on widebody engine MRO starting on page 14.

Next, we are surely seeing some light at the end of this very long tunnel of the pandemic. Many aircraft were sent to storage in the Arizona desert (and other places around the globe) to ride out the slowdown in airline operations. Now that COVID cases are decreasing, vaccinations are preventing the spread and pent up demand for travel is reaching new heights, we are seeing those aircraft being returned to service, especially for the busy summer travel season. What does it take to pull a mothballed aircraft out of the desert and put it back in the operational rotation? Great info on this process in our story about returning aircraft to service starts on page 28.

We also wanted to check out the latest in connectivity options for business jets. With Zoom calls de rigueur and the desire for rapid internet across the board, what offerings exist to help? We checked in with leaders in connectivity solutions for business jets, to see. That story starts on page 36.

Finally, in our ongoing series, On Guard, written by safety expert Jeff Guzzetti, he takes a look at some lessons learned prior to COVID for Post-COVID Returns to Service. The piece examines a B767 fuel leak and fire and how the lessons learned from that event can help now. Read it on page 42.

I’m excited about the light I’m seeing in the tunnel and I’m ready to get back in the air. But the realist in me thinks — as the old joke goes — hopefully it’s not another train.

A Very Important Attribute

FAA Administrator Steve Dixon announced on November 18, 2020, as we were going to press, that he was rescinding the order that grounded the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft 616 days after it was taken from the skies. What a long, strange trip it has been.

Before saying anything else, let us take a moment and acknowledge the 346 lives that were lost aboard both Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. We wish those families peace. Boeing also reflected on those losses. “We will never forget the lives lost in the two tragic accidents that led to the decision to suspend operations,” said David Calhoun, Boeing CEO. “These events and the lessons we have learned as a result have reshaped our company and further focused our attention on our core values of safety, quality and integrity.” Please see Jeff Guzzetti’s article about the Lion Air accident and related maintenance concerns in our last issue, Autumn 2020, starting on page 36.

The Airworthiness Directive published by FAA specifies design changes that must be made before the aircraft returns to service including installing software enhancements, completing wire separation modifications, conducting pilot training and accomplishing thorough de-preservation activities that will ensure the airplanes are ready for service.

FAA also issued a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC) and published the MAX training requirements. Accomplishing all of these things will slow the MAX from returning immediately to the skies. The pilot training program revisions must be incorporated by each airline operating the MAX. Airlines must also take required maintenance steps to prepare them to fly again.

In a press conference on November 18, 2020, Administrator Dixon said the MAX journey had been a “painful and arduous process” that ultimately strengthened the cooperation between other regulators. “We serve as the certifying authority; they serve as the validating authority. In this particular case, one of the things I’m really proud of is the transparency that we’ve had with them throughout this process,” Dixon said. “We worked side by side with the foreign authorities. This is the most heavily scrutinized transport aircraft in history,” Dixon said.

When asked if anyone was held accountable for the MAX situation Dixon replied, “I think we all hold ourselves accountable every day and I never want to take the easy way out. It’s easy to point the finger, blame individuals for things. I’m interested in improving processes and continuing to raise the bar on safety. If I see a need to make a change in certain areas, I will do that…We are doing that. We stood up an ODA office. We have measures in place to make sure it does not happen again and to make sure that we’ve got a solid human factors and an operational perspective throughout the entire certification process.”

Dixon was asked if he felt what happened with the MAX would result in longer certification times for future aircraft. He said one of the things they needed to do was exercise oversight from a “systematic perspective.” He said putting in place safety management systems (SMS) would help them do that. He stressed the need for manufacturers to push data and information to FAA on a more regular basis, rather than on a transactional basis. “I don’t know that it necessarily increases the amount of time, but I think it does improve the systematic rigor of the process. And that’s what we’re shooting for in terms of improving and moving to really the next level of safety with aircraft certification. I wouldn’t say longer, but I would say better,” Dixon stressed.

He repeated numerous times the FAA’s desire to improve the certification process, make it more systematic and to be more data driven. However, he also added, “The design of the aircraft was not the only causal factor. We had maintenance issues. We had also had issues with how the airplane was operated. So we’ve got to take a look at all of those and how they all interact.” Administrator Dickson personally took the recommended pilot training and piloted the Boeing 737 MAX, so he could experience the handling of the aircraft firsthand. He was already a type-certified 737 captain for Delta Air Lines for many years.

Rescinding the previous order to ground the MAX will allow airlines that are under the FAA’s jurisdiction, including those in the U.S., to take the steps necessary to resume service and for Boeing to begin making deliveries.

Boeing says they have worked closely with airlines, providing them with detailed recommendations regarding long-term storage. The beleaguered company also says in a statement that it has focused on improving their company by taking concrete steps to ensure a similar problem does not occur again. These steps include an organizational alignment, bringing 50,000 engineers together in a single organization that includes a new “Product & Services Safety” unit and unifying safety responsibilities across the company. Boeing also says a shift in cultural focus has taken place where engineers have been further empowered to improve safety and quality. The company says they are identifying, diagnosing and resolving issues with a higher level of transparency and immediacy.

Although the company, the FAA and other regulators seem to be on board with this important move towards getting the MAX airborne again, Dixon admitted that some may still feel trepidation, even though it is the most heavily scrutinized transport aircraft history. He said he would put his own family on it. Still, he admitted that being skeptical was understandable. “Skepticism in aviation is a very important attribute,” Dixon said.