The Competition… And So Much More…

The Competition… And So Much More…

While the premier aviation maintenance skills competition shows who is best in their field, the sense of camaraderie and networking take center stage.

One of the things U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Robert Paradis likes about fielding a team to compete in The Competition presented by Snap-on is offering an opportunity for his airmen to broaden proficiencies beyond their specific area of expertise.

Avianca in Action at 2023 AMC
Avianca in Action at 2023 AMC

“It’s a huge training opportunity for us because in the Air Force, we’re very focused on our Air Force Specialty Code. For example, an engine troop will always work on engines,” Paradis said. “But this is a chance for our multi-capable Airmen to try their hand at sheet metal work and other areas of maintenance that they normally would not see on the day-to-day mission. That’s a great benefit The Competition gives to military teams.”

This will be the third year in a row Paradis and his team from the 86th Maintenance Group, based at Ramstein AB, Germany, are participating in The Competition, an aviation maintenance skills event that attracts more than 80 teams from around the world.

The Olympics of Aircraft Maintenance

Entering its 11th year, The Competition has been described as the Olympics for the aviation maintenance industry as it provides a venue for professional aviation mechanics and students to come together in friendly competition, test their skills against each other and give a loud shout-out to their presence in the industry.

Aerospace Maintenance Council PresidentJohn Goglia
Aerospace Maintenance Council President
John Goglia

“The Competition tests the multiple skills required for both basic and very detailed performance-based tasks,” said John Goglia, president of the Aerospace Maintenance Council and a former National Transportation Safety Board member. “There are also events that require techs to use their minds. In aviation, it’s not just mechanical dexterity that gets you through the day, you must use your head and think. That’s what aviation maintenance is all about, using your hands and head to come to a solution.”

The Competition kicks off April 9 at the MRO Americas convention at McCormick Place in Chicago. This year’s field includes 90 maintenance teams from around the world competing in six divisions: Commercial Aviation, General Aviation, Space, Military, MRO/OEM and School, which attracts teams from the country’s top A&P schools. Events include a wide range of skills that technicians face every day on the job, including airframe damage inspection, composite repair, engine fan blade removal, fuel tank entry precautions, and others. Each event has a 15-minute time limit, resulting in exciting, fast-paced action and great drama for spectators to watch.

Expanding Aircraft Maintenance in Colombia

One of the teams fans will see in action is Avianca. A relative newcomer to The Competition, Avianca, the flag carrier of Colombia, is hoping its presence in Chicago will serve as an inspiration to people back home, showing them that aviation maintenance is a great career option to pursue.

AviancaGustavo Aristizabal

“We are starting to see a shortage of technicians. Colombia is a country of 51 million people, and we’re trying to show to people in Columbia what they can achieve working at Avianca,” said Gustavo Aristizabal, production director, Avianca. “Going to The Competition allows our technicians to see and learn new things that they can bring back to Avianca, which will make all of us stronger.”

This is the second consecutive year Avianca, which flies a mix of both Airbus and Boeing aircraft to more than 70 destinations in North America, South America and Europe, has fielded a team in The Competition.

Aristizabal credits strong support from Avianca leadership in being able to field a team. Avianca, which has a staff of more than 1,000 technicians stationed at bases throughout its system, held internal competitions with the top performers selected to represent the airline in Chicago. Aristizabal believes Avianca will continue supporting The Competition and will soon become one of the top teams vying for the O’Brien Award.

Snap-on IndustrialBill Willetts
Snap-on Industrial
Bill Willetts

All teams in Chicago are chasing the top prize in aviation maintenance: The William F “Bill” O’Brien Award for Excellence in Aircraft Maintenance. Presented by Snap-on, the O’Brien Award is a traveling 5-foot-tall trophy bestowed to the team with the best overall winning score. In addition to the trophy, teams will also be vying for tooling and equipment prizes. Last year, FedEx Express captured the O’Brien Award for a second straight year.

The Competition / Snap-on Partnership

Contributing to the continued success of The Competition is its long-standing partnership with Snap-on, a company that strongly believes in encouraging professional development of aircraft mechanics and student technicians.

“The Competition and Snap-on share the values of teamwork, dedication and professionalism embodied by all aircraft technicians,” said Bill Willetts, vice president of Snap-on Industrial and AMC board member. “Together with The Competition we have helped shine a spotlight on the critical role technicians perform every day, while also advocating career paths in aviation and all skilled trades.

“We are looking forward to making the 2024 Competition the best yet for both participating teams and the aviation maintenance industry as a whole.”

A Two-Day Job Interview

The Competition is a great proving ground for the nation’s top A&P schools, including Salt Lake Community College. For students preparing to graduate, there is no better venue to demonstrate their skills and work ethic than competing alongside airlines and MROs, all of which are looking to hire.

“The Competition really acts as a two-day job interview for students,” said Dee Thornton, associate professor/aviation maintenance at Salt Lake Community College. “Participating in The Competition is certainly a reward for students’ hard work throughout the year, but the added bonus is many walk away with job offers. It’s a fantastic opportunity for students that certainly gives them a leg up in starting their career.”

In addition to competing, Thornton said walking through the MRO Americas convention gives students a greater view and appreciation of just how vast the aircraft maintenance industry is and all the opportunities that are available to them.

Admission to The Competition is free with your MRO Americas convention credentials. If you cannot be in Chicago, you can still catch the action through the AMC live stream at

Steve Staedler is a senior account executive at LePoidevin Marketing, a Brookfield, Wisconsin-based business-to-business marketing firm that specializes in the tooling and aerospace industries. Steve has been covering aeronautical maintenance for nearly 15 years. He can be reached at