When it comes to large commercial airlines, most people believe that these corporations all have full-time airplane mechanics and maintenance staff that work solely for that carrier, but this may not be exactly true.
Yes, most commercial airlines do have a staff of highly trained and qualified mechanics on the payroll, but there is some conjecture that this may soon be a thing of the past. It is becoming increasingly popular for many mid-sized airlines to outsource many of their repairs and routine maintenance to specialty shops for a number of reasons.
Cost Is a Big Issue
While three of the world’s largest commercial passenger airlines are based in the United States, Germany and France round out positions four and five respectively. These large corporations with holdings in the billions can afford to keep a full-time repair and maintenance crew on staff. Some of the smaller passenger lines may struggle to pay a truly knowledgeable and experienced staff.
Just one airplane mechanic who is an expert in the various turbine engine lubrication systems, for example, could fetch a salary in the high five-figure bracket. It then becomes logical to outsource major jobs to a specialist repair shop rather than keep even one man on location in the event that major repairs may need to be done over time.
The Largest Passenger Airlines by Assets
There are large commercial airlines that would be well served to keep mechanics on the payroll, but even these don’t find it cost-effective to keep airline mechanics on the ground at all landing locations. Take a look at just five of the world’s largest airlines:
- American Airlines
- United Continental
- Air France
You’ll understand just how much it would cost to keep highly skilled and qualified airplane mechanics on the ground at every single airport. What would happen if a plane suddenly had engine problems in a location where they had no knowledgeable mechanics on-site? Chances are they’d outsource to a local airplane maintenance and repair shop if one was available. This is one of the reasons why aircraft maintenance startups are on the rise – the sheer cost involved in keeping master mechanics on the payroll at all locations is prohibitive. From a practical standpoint, it doesn’t make sense.
There Is No Room for Second Guessing
It stands to reason that if one master mechanic earns a high five-figure salary, then it would not be logical to keep hundreds on staff so that there would be one expert in every area of airline service and repair at every location.
Bearing in mind that with an airplane there is no room for second guessing, it is more logical to outsource repairs in some of these smaller cities that have airports. When something is awry, it needs to be dealt with before that plane can take off again and that’s why repairs need to be made before it is cleared to leave.
These are the cities where aircraft maintenance startups are on the rise, and these are the cities where they can make a small fortune with the right credentials! Imagine a dozen different airlines flying into a moderately small airport. Think of the routine repairs these shops can handle because those airlines opted to keep a minimal ground crew on the payroll in that particular city.
This is one of the reasons why so many qualified airplane mechanics are finding it more lucrative to go into business for themselves. It is even predicted that in the future more and more of the Big 5 will also be outsourcing major repairs at major stops, as well as at smaller airports around the world.
Technology Is Key
As time goes on, technology is advancing exponentially in literally every industry. The same holds true for aviation. What we ‘knew’ to be true even a decade ago may no longer be true today because of the technology that is built into each and every piece and part of every type of aircraft on the market.
Many of today’s aircraft repair and maintenance shops are well-versed in the technology that has been developed in recent years. Why? This is their field of expertise and you will find that many of these startups specialize in certain repairs and won’t touch others.
A Quick Summary of the Reasons Why Startups Are on the Rise
Do you remember the days when almost every town and city had a company that rebuilt carburetors? While these companies still exist, many times these repairs are shipped out because of the speed at which packages arrive in the 21st Century. Next day air is nothing new and more cost effective in many cases than sending a carburetor with a local courier to the next town. The gas alone eats up any profit or raises the cost of an automobile repair by that much more.
This is the same principle under which airlines now find it more cost effective to outsource a great percentage of even routine repairs and overhauls to startups that are cropping up around the world. So then the first reason why airplane repair and maintenance startups are on the rise is because of the costs involved.
Next is the area of technology. If an airline is to keep every single mechanic they have up to speed with advances in technology as they happen in real time, it would cost millions of dollars annually to keep these mechanics recertified in their field.
One single repair shop can keep a few master mechanics recertified annually at no additional cost to the airlines, passenger or freight. It makes sense to outsource if there would be a need to continually educate and recertify what could amount to thousands of master mechanics on a global level.
Thinking of going into business as an airplane mechanic? Now would be the time to hit the ground running. It is projected that within the next decade you will see more specialized mechanics in business for themselves than working for airlines. That’s something many mechanics are already taking to the bank. Wouldn’t it be nice to join them?
Founder Dinis Guarda
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