FAA Launches Aviation Maintenance Workforce Grant Program

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The FAA has introduced an aviation maintenance technical workforce development grant program aimed at recruiting students and increasing interest in aviation maintenance careers. The program is designed to support projects such as establishing new educational programs, providing scholarships or apprenticeships, supporting career outreach efforts and enhancing aviation maintenance technical education. It is funded via $5 million appropriated by Congress for fiscal year 2020 to “address the projected shortages of aviation maintenance technical workers in the aviation industry.”

Congress has currently authorized the grant program through the end of fiscal year 2023. The FAA plans to release a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the program on Nov. 13, with additional NOFOs to follow annually for as long as the program is funded. The NOFO is expected to remain open for 60 days.

Grant amounts from $25,000 to $500,000 will be available for eligible groups. “The goal is to provide grants to academia and the aviation community to help prepare a more inclusive talent pool of aviation maintenance technicians, to inspire and recruit the next generation of aviation professionals,” the FAA said. The program is open for public comment until Sep. 23, 2020.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. But…but…but…that would run against the current Democratic ideology that every one must go to college! Cant’t have the government funding a “vo-tech” program! Everyone needs to have a desk job right away that befits a four year degree in some kind of “Useless Studies”….

    Okay, it is early and my sarcasm bag wasn’t truly full yet.

    Long past time for this kind of program and hopefully it will lead to a lot more of them in the various “hands-on” career fields that directly benefit the economy, the populace, and the individual. There isn’t exactly a crowd out there beating down the doors to work in what used to be referred to as the “trades”. The work force there isn’t getting younger and it needs to before those older workers with the experience at trouble shooting, etc, are lost to retirement. I have been working at a company with an older aircraft (DC-8) and it has taken years to sort out some minor but recurrent issues that the previous owner kept throwing “boxes” at. Because our maintenance force isn’t “new” guys, they kept at these problems, especially the avionics bugs, until they were truly solved. Most issues were wiring and ground problems that would never have been solved unless someone chose to “ring out” the system stem to stern. The new computer based planes are pretty, efficient, and certainly well able to perform. They are easy to work on now… but when the wiring gets a little older and some hidden corrosion sets in… throwing boxes at the squawk will get expensive…

  2. A college education is for Education, not for a job. We must have an educated citizenry to function; obviously we are not doing too well in that department. The airlines see the value of a college education as well as the technical training and make a few exceptions for experience but still favor the degree. One can self-educate, of course, but the value of college will remain.
    For my airplane I want a well trained A&P who can carry on an intelligent conversation. Your self-declared sarcasm missed the mark, was pointless and not even funny. I talked to an A&P friend just this week who has a college degree as well as a degree from Parks. An educated man who is a value to society.

    • “A college education is for Education, not for a job.” Excuse me? I fail to see how attending a trade school and getting trained for a good-paying career in the trades is somehow depriving society of anything. When I got a degree in Chemical Engineering, it was for a job, not to elevate myself in social circles. Somehow we have developed the attitude in this country that if you don’t get a degree from a four-year institution, you are somehow not a contributing member of society. There are tens of thousands of young people who cannot afford to go to college, and are not really interested in all the ancillary classes that are required to earn a degree. We are doing them and society a disservice by browbeating them into believing that a degree is something magical when they would be much better served in attending a vocational school that teaches them something they are interested in doing and can provide them with a good career. A well run vocational school can provide highly technical training in servicing modern electronic systems that are common in everything from automobiles to aircraft; something that many electrical engineers who graduate from university cannot do.

      I think you are confusing education with culture. The two absolutely do not equate. I’m glad that you can have “intelligent” conversations with you mechanic. Personally, I don’t care if my A&P can quote Shakespeare or has Mozart playing on the shop boombox so long as he can diagnose a problem in my Cardinal and knows how to fix it. In the decade I have owned the airplane, I don’t remember many times when I have had deep philosophical conversations with my mechanic. But, I admire his knowledge of aircraft systems and have learned a great deal from him on how to properly operate the plane. His lack of a college degree makes him no less of a valued member of society.

    • Hmmm…is it the wall climbing or neo-communism class that provides the so-called “education”? I know it’s the never-ending, crushing debt that provides the real “education” that one has been sold a bottle of worthless snake oil. Meanwhile, the lowly, unedjikyted HVAC tech is banking bucks all year long.

  3. I too remember back in the 60’s and 70’s the high schools pushing 4 year credentials, but the average family, at least where I came from, didn’t have the money to afford but one or two of their children to advanced education. I for one went into the military and even though I didn’t get my first choice of vocation, I still had the GI Bill for my aviation desires. I enjoyed the training like most of the others <90% veterans. We went there to learn a trade or advance themselves beyond the military experience. Once a person get started in a civil job you find out quickly if you need more education ie, college, trade schools. Even some astronauts have gone to technical schools before going to space.

    • I was in HS in the early 60’s. At that time, there were two parallel tracks for students … vocational and higher education. Either way, if you applied yourself and had a brain that worked, you’d do OK. Even then, the college bound types looked down at the ones in wood, metal and auto shop courses. How we got to the point where not only an undergraduate degree but a MBA is required for many jobs is ridiculous. At best, all most degrees say about a person is that they played someone else’s “game,” applied themselves and came out with a piece of paper saying they did it. And, high schools these days are pumping out card carrying unionized idiots thanks to liberal school district policies, State policies and students being raised by parents who have no clue (that’s not 100% but a large percentage). Now add their addiction to those little black things they look down at for all their waking hours and we’re in deep doo doo as a Society. Teaching today’s kids how to develop a life plan, options to make it happen and even how to manage finances are largely missing anymore. What a shame.

      This Grant Program could help a small subset of grads find something they like, get the necessary credentials and go for it. At least they’re trying.

  4. As an A&P, private pilot, and aircraft owner. I am all for vocational schooling for aviation. However, Covid-19 has decimated, debilitated, and virtually wiped the slate clean of any mechanic and pilot shortages for the foreseeable future.

    We can argue back and forth about the virtues of higher education, hands on vocational training, and the need for younger blood in aviation. However, there is already a massive shortage of new aircraft sales regarding every segment of aviation, huge furloughs starting October 1st, 2020 for every major international, national, and regional airlines, with Wichita and Seattle laying off thousands of trained, experienced labor as the supply chain from Boeing and Airbus dries up. Flight training hours going from boom to bust in less than a year as we transition from too little trained aviation professionals to a glut of them at virtually all levels.

    Aviation is far from dealing with the collective aftermath and collateral damage of Covid-19. I would think any extra aviation monies ,current and future efforts needs to go to the support of those who have lost their jobs, to support their families rather than investing the promotion of aviation careers. I am not talking about handouts but dealing with the reality of how to keep our collective aviation workforce intact while aviation crawls slowly back

    I happen to be one of those furloughed. To keep my airplane, continue to fly with some regularity even for minimum currency requirements has me now looking outside of aviation at this time and for the foreseeable future. I love aviation and have been an ardent promoter. I don’t want to look elsewhere for a new career. But the harsh reality is a lot of us trained folks have no place to work and the future is looking bleak not rosy. I am open to any worthwhile ideas. But the clock is ticking and it is not going in favor of laid off aviation professionals, including myself.

    • Jim H quote: “However, Covid-19 has decimated, debilitated, and virtually wiped the slate clean of any mechanic and pilot shortages for the foreseeable future.”
      Really?…, you really think that ???

      There’s a lot of Aviation other then the airlines. Believe it or not, there’s companies that offer charter service with small airplanes and helicopters. The CFR part 135 charter and schedule carriers are booming and hiring. The mechanic shortage is huge right now. I personally have a dozen old aircraft in waiting for rebuild. The Aviation Industry is looking for mechanics to clean, inspect, repair, paint and reassemble the aging aircraft fleet. Many businesses are loving the freedom that comes with the less then 12,500lbs. aircraft. This pandemic is the best thing that’s happened to Light Aircraft since the early 70’s. The light aircraft manufacturing business will pickup once we have a shortage of rebuild-able old aircraft. Most business people have figured out it’s cheaper to invest $200,000 in to a 40-50 year old Bonanza or Cherokee Six then $500,000 in to a new 4 seater. Just because the Aviation journalist don’t like reporting other then airline, drone and VSTOL news doesn’t mean things aren’t happening at an exponential rate in the transportation world. The Freight Dawg industry is hiring/training off the street because the furloughed airline people won’t load/unload/load aircraft.

      What an odd twisted conversation this FAA grant article has started. Many of us mechanics working on the “little planes” (as them educated people like to say) where not qualified to work for the airlines and “big plane” factories. We didn’t have a degree. Most of us did On-The-Job training and an A&P weekender class and test. Now we’re making more money then ever with ‘Aviation’ work coming out our ears. This redneck beer drinking dirty underworld we little peoples work in is doin’ alright for many of us… Sure wish I be smarter and get some of that unemployment right now. 😉

      • Klaus…”Many of us mechanics working on the “little planes” (as them educated people like to say) where not qualified to work for the airlines and “big plane” factories. We didn’t have a degree. Most of us did On-The-Job training and an A&P weekender class and test.”

        Your quote above is me. I also ran a successful FBO while personally wrenching including training mission aviation pilot/mechanics with a flight school before 2008, through 2008, and survived beyond 2008. Plus I own one those 50+ year old Bonanzas, finished four years in the aircraft refurbishment business in Mena AR ending mid-2019 as well ( working on King Air, Citation, Lear, Challengers mainly), and was working in general aviation marketing until April 3rd, 2020. If you have 12 old airplanes ready for rebuild, a checkbook with a willing check-writer and a balance to pay for twelve $200,000 rebuilds you should be very busy. If they are your airplanes and you are waiting for a shop to rebuild them, have a check-book balance that can handle twelve $200K refurbishments, I can get you fixed up really fast.

        Yes, there are areas still doing business. But they are not hiring. Right now many of those successful shops are having plenty of applicants, taking their time, and actually holding off on hiring waiting to see how all this shakes out. They have developed a business, with a reliable workforce that has not changed much since 2008. The idea that all of these local shops that are doing a bang up business and hiring is not accurate. They are doing business, and carefully screening every application, and not immediately hiring. Secondly, not all of these shops are located in areas many families want to live. Ask me how I know about those facts having lived in Mena, AR attempting to recruit A&P’s.

        Just as you are suggesting I am essentially broad brushing the only aviation career path is via the airlines ( which I did not say), or via Boeing or Airbus ( which I did not say), you have painted a picture that Mom and Pop shops run by self-taught A&P’s are running over with business, ready and willing to hire for a family supporting wage. Not happening. My marketing contacts takes me to the decision makers of GA manufacturing and support. When the lock downs started in Late Feb, the hiring sign was put away. Once all the 2020 aviation venues like Sun-N-Fun and Oshkosh went away, so did the hiring sign.

        A&P’s who do not have experience installing glass panels and auto-pilots do not get hired by an avionics shop because they have an A&P. Those shops overflowing with that kind of work are not looking for a Tri-Pacer mechanic. They are looking for an avionics tech with experience in installing specific avionics that shop specializes in. A&P’s like me who maintained a variety of modern, vintage, and classic GA airplanes do not get hired to perform phase checks on an Embraer 145. Especially, when there are a bunch of out of work regional airline mechanics.

        At the airport my airplane is based at, has one of the three flight schools owned by the maintenance facility in operation there plus the remaining two at two well known metro airports. They have plenty of students today to finish up. But they are very worried about where the next batch of students will come from with all of the furloughs starting to happen right now, and most certainly after October 1st, 2020.”

        “The Aviation Industry is looking for mechanics to clean, inspect, repair, paint and reassemble the aging aircraft fleet.” Yes the refurb business is looking for any warm bodies who will clean, inspect, repair, paint, and reassemble aging aircraft. But very few will pay a working family wage. Most A&P’s will not work under those conditions and substandard wages. Those shops who have good reputations, having a solid customer base in good times and bad, have a core group of mechanics they protect being very selective of who and when they hire. They are keenly aware of the economic conditions that can change an aviation based business in a very short time.

        I am not whining because I didn’t get my way. But I see the GA aviation industry different than you do. I am happy that you or others are making a success within a pandemic. But suggesting that this pandemic is the best thing to happen to GA/Light Aviation for degree-less Mom and Pop old school, vocational taught shops…doesn’t fly with me. To suggest this pandemic has caused shops all over the country to burst at the seems paying a working wage desperately looking for qualified A&P’s is not something I can agree with either.

        Please let me know which of the Part 135 operators are buying used Bonanzas and Cherokee Sixes putting them into charter operations. I might have a really nice Bo they might want to sink $200K into.

  5. Timely grant program. But the biggest problem, as with most things in aviation, is the low pay. My own A&P had a pretty good helper. But that guy left to go work for a marina. That company is paying the kid even more, and sending him to factory engine training classes on their dime.

    This month’s AOPA Pilot magazine has an article about this very topic:
    aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2020/september/pilot/savvy-maintenance-mechanic-shortage

    The crux of the problem is other industries that require similar mechanical and trouble-shooting skills are able to offer more money and benefits.

  6. In the beginning there were New-Starts in Aviation; Then a greater demand for airframes, engines, propellers, avionics, ground services, commercial/corporate flight attendants, and fixers. all looked honky dory. But now, this Wonderful World of Aviation is so-so but alive. Maybe it’s just going through an extended descent looking for an opening in the undercast. I believe that there’s plenty of hope and enthusiasm – eventually it all leads to positive rate! I agree with the FAA.

    Ain’t no use to sit and whine
    When the fish ain’t on your line;
    Bait your hook and keep a-tryin’
    Keep a-goin’!

    Frank L. Stanton